Magpies and Other Swooping Birds

For most of the year magpies are not aggressive, but for 4 to 6 weeks from August to November they will often defend their territory and their nests vigorously.

These intelligent native birds are just trying to raise their families in a challenging environment – and like all animals, they have a natural instinct to protect their young.

Magpies only swoop within about 100 m of their nests, so it’s best for people to stay away from known magpie nesting areas.

Also, magpies usually go back to the same spot every year, so if there was a swooping danger zone on your route last year, it is likely to be there again this year. 

The experience of a magpie attack can be quite alarming, but it is usually only a warning.  Only very occasionally will a bird strike the intruder on the head with its beak or claws. 

The best course of action is to avoid the swooping areas until later in the year. 

If avoidance is not possible there are ways to reduce the frequency of attacks including:

  • Travel in groups, as swooping birds usually only target individuals 
  • Carrying an open umbrella, or a stick or small branch, above your head - but do not swing it at the magpie, as this will only provoke it to attack. 
  • Keeping an eye on the magpie while walking carefully away. Magpies are less likely to swoop if you look at them, but avoid starting straight into their eyes.
  • Drawing or sewing a pair of eyes onto the back of a hat and wear it when walking through the area. You can also try wearing your sunglasses on the back of your head.
  • Wearing a bicycle or skateboard helmet. Any sort of hat, even a hat made from an ice cream container or cardboard box, will help protect you.
  • If you are riding a bicycle, get off and wheel it quickly through the area. Your bicycle helmet will protect your head, and you can attach a tall red safety flag to your bicycle or hold a stick or branch as a deterrent.
  • If you know of an area that has swooping magpies, put a sign up to warn passers-by.

Click here to find more tips and ideas to avoid getting swooped