Environment SA News

It’s Magpie Breeding Season

Magpies singing at night and building nests means three things: spring is near, breeding is happening and magpie swooping season will surely follow.

It’s Magpie Breeding Season
Magpies swoop to ward off threats to their young

Department for Environment and Water (DEW) Principal Ecologist, Dr Karl Hillyard said magpies usually breed between August and October with females typically laying between three and five eggs in early to mid-August and will sit on them for three weeks until they hatch.

“Some male magpies defend their nests from the time the eggs are laid until the young birds are ready to fly, and they will attack anything they consider to be a threat, from another bird to a dog or a human,” Dr Hillyard said.

“Magpies have excellent recall for faces and very long memories, so if you’ve been swooped before, or even if you just look like someone they swooped last year, you’re likely to get the same treatment again.

“They only defend their nests within about a 100 m radius, so the best way to avoid a visit from the black and white bombers is to take a detour around known nest sites if you can.

“They aren’t malicious – it’s just the natural instinct of some magpies to defend their young. It can be hard to remember that when you’re being swooped, though.

“Local council’s often install signs in areas where swooping is regularly taking place, so keep a look out for them and try to avoid those places for a few weeks if you can.

Dr Hillyard added that magpies weren’t the only birds that swooped during spring, but they did have the worst reputation.

The best way to avoid being swooped is to change your route, but if that’s not possible, here’s some tactics to avoid being swooped:

  • Travel in groups as swooping birds usually only target individuals.
  • Carry an open umbrella above your head.
  • Wear sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat.
  • If you ride a bike, walk it through magpie territory or have a flag on the back of the bike that is higher than your head.
  • Do not act aggressively. If you wave your arms about or shout, the magpies will see you as a threat to the nest – and not just this year, but potentially for years to come.
  • Walk, don’t run.
  • Avoid making eye contact with the birds.
  • If you know of an area that has swooping magpies, put a sign up to warn passers-by.

“It is also best not to feed swooping magpies as this may only encourage swooping behaviour.

For more information visit DEW’s Good Living blog.