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Seasonal Animal Advice

Read about some of the seasonal behaviour of native animals

Swooping Magpies

Thursday, July 01, 2021



 Australian magpies breed as a pair, maintaining their territory throughout the year and are supported by a family group consisting of juveniles raised from previous years. Adults can form long-lasting pair bonds and maintain the same territory for many years.

They lay their eggs mostly between August and December and during breeding season males are known to sometimes actively defend their territory against real or perceived threats to their eggs. This behaviour is short term and only lasts until the chicks become fledglings.

Magpies have excellent memories and are believed to be able to distinguish between people and so can identify unknown individuals whom they perceive as intruders. When they recognise someone as a permanent resident of their territory, such as in backyards, they are often more tolerant.

When defending their nest a magpie will begin with a warning to the intruder that they are coming too close to their nest by firstly carolling, then clapping their beak and swooping. If the intruder doesn’t retreat, magpies may swoop even closer and eventually make contact if they feel the nest is under immediate threat.


Swooping avoidance strategies include:

  • During breeding season, avoid the area where the magpies are nesting
  • Don’t behave aggressively towards them such as waving sticks or throwing stones to frighten them of as this only reinforces their perceptions of humans as threats
  • Avoid approaching or trying to look into the nest and avoid making eye contact
  • Wear a hat or use an umbrella whilst in the area
  • Respect their warning signals and move further away
  • Cyclists should dismount and walk through the area – many cyclist injuries result from falling off trying to avoid swooping magpies
It is not recommended to try to remove swooping birds from a known nesting area as their eggs will either fail to hatch or the young will die of starvation and/or exposure. If their territory is vacated it will only be claimed again by other magpies seeking a nesting site.

Please remember that just like any other caring parent, swooping magpies are not targeting you personally they are simply protecting their young from a perceived threat and this behaviour will only last for a few weeks.

Please note: WIRES does not recommend feeding any native birds as their food needs to comprise a nutritionally balanced natural diet such as insects, earthworms and spiders. If adult magpies feed their young human sourced food, the chicks are likely to be malnourished and can develop diseases such as metabolic bone disease.


References:
WIRES website - Wildlife Information - Magpies https://www.wires.org.au/wildlife-info/wildlife-education/magpies
Birds of the World - https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/home
Australian Magpie by Gisela Kaplan
Magpie Alert: Learning to live with a wild neighbour by Dr Darryl Jones
Magpie Alert website: https://www.magpiealert.com/SwoopingMagpieSafety.php

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