If you’ve spent much time out and about lately, you’d know that magpie swooping season is well underway.
Though there’s nothing quite like the fear of hearing magpie wings flapping a little too close for comfort, experts say there’s nothing to worry about.
According to a spokesperson from National Parks Wildlife Service (NPWS), magpies are usually friendly and welcome neighbours, helping to control pests in the garden.
However, magpie breeding season, which is when swooping most frequently occurs, is when the native birds become increasingly protective of their young.
“Magpies generally only swoop for a few weeks each year when people enter the territory where they are nesting,” the spokesperson said.
“While it can be frightening, magpies are usually just giving us a warning and generally only defend within 100 metres of their nest.”
When it comes to avoiding getting swooped, the spokesperson said it comes down to you.
“Swooping is an instinctive behaviour the bird cannot change,” the spokesperson said.
“Only you can change the bird-human equation. This means changing your habits for the short breeding period.”
Some of the main pieces of advice involve avoiding areas where you know swooping is common – otherwise you might become a frequent target.
“Australian magpies are very intelligent and have great memories,” the spokesperson said.
“They have been known to target the same people entering their nesting area, ignoring others completely.”
But, if you must walk in the path of a magpie, it’s most important to be aware. According to the spokesperson, there are a few helpful tools that you may have at home already.
“Most usually swoop from behind. They are less likely to target you if they think they’re being watched,” the spokesperson said.
“Try drawing eyes on the back of a helmet or hat. Sunglasses can also protect your eyes. You can hold a long stick or umbrella above your head but do not swing it at the magpie, as this will only provoke an attack.”
National Parks Wildlife Service has a few other valuable pieces of advice if you’d like to avoid being swooped:
Keep calm: Walk away quickly but do not run. If you are really concerned, place your folded arms above your head to protect your head and eyes.
Get off your bicycle or horse: Bicycles can irritate magpies and you can fall from a bike if being distracted by a swooping bird. Calmly walk your bike out of the nesting territory.
Never provoke: A harassed birds tend to target people. Do not throw anything at a bird or nest, and never climb a tree to try to remove eggs or chicks.
Teach children: Educating kids about the birds and what they can do to avoid being swooped will help them keep calm if they are targeted. It is important children learn to protect their face.
Temporary sign: Make a temporary sign to warn other people.
Cassidy Pearce is a news and entertainment journalist with The Western Weekender. A graduate of the University of Technology Sydney, she has previously worked with Good Morning Macarthur and joined the Weekender in 2022.