Magpie swooping season has arrived

Sneaking up: A magpie closes in on bike rider Ben Burley near Westport Public School. Photo: Matt Attard
Sneaking up: A magpie closes in on bike rider Ben Burley near Westport Public School. Photo: Matt Attard

Mid North Coast residents have been warned to be cautious around magpie nesting areas as swooping season launches into full flight.

The black and white bombers are on the lookout for predators as they protect their newborns and with the onset of spring, have ramped up their parental instincts to target potential threats to the nest.

One highly protective bird in Widderson Street, Port Macquarie has gone as far as drawing blood on its unsuspecting targets while bushland areas across the Hastings home to the territorial birds are now no-go zones until well into November.

One victim, school student Tameka Connors of Hastings Secondary College's Westport campus, was lucky to avoid serious injury on her way to school earlier last week. She was left bleeding and with a gash to her head after the magpie attacked.

Her mother, Clare Williamson, said it happened at the back entrance to the school.

“She kind of has to go that way to get to school unfortunately,” she said.

“The kids just have to look out for it and be careful. I’ve told her to take an umbrella to protect herself.

“She isn’t the first kid to get attacked, so maybe they can be relocated but I don’t know if that can happen.”

Wearing sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat is a good deterrent, according to FAWNA President Meredith Ryan.

“Kids should be wearing headwear for the sun anyway,” she said.

In he goes: The magpie swoops in for a peck. Photo: Matt Attard

In he goes: The magpie swoops in for a peck. Photo: Matt Attard

“The main thing we need to stress is that they’re protecting their young and whether it’s right or wrong the magpies perceive people as threats.”

Walk, do not run, and avoid making eye contact with the birds, Mrs Ryan explained.

Find detours around known nesting sites as magpies will only swoop within 50 metres of their nest.

Do not act aggressively - if you wave or shout you will be seen as a threat to the nest, Mrs Ryan said.

Watch out!: The magpie takes off to prepare for another swoop. Photo: Matt Attard

Watch out!: The magpie takes off to prepare for another swoop. Photo: Matt Attard

“There have been a lot of people being swooped, and unfortunately I’ve seen people on social media encouraging kids to retaliate and attack the magpie,” she said.

“That’s sad to see, especially because if the magpie sees a person in a particular school uniform attacking it, they will associate everyone wearing that uniform and will paint them with the same brush.”

Forget fake eyes and helmets with spikes – making an effort to be friends with swooping magpies is effective according to Gisela Kaplan, Emeritus Professor in animal behaviour at the University of New England and author of Bird Minds.

"We know that magpies remember and recognise human faces and they will remember them for years," Dr Kaplan told ABC Radio in Melbourne.

Dr Kaplan said that once a magpie knows you and perceives you as non-threatening, you have earned a friend for life.

"They will form very long friendships, like dogs," she said.

“On the other hand, if you are mean to a magpie it will bear a grudge for a long time.”

Got him: The magpie swoops and hits its target. Photo: Matt Attard

Got him: The magpie swoops and hits its target. Photo: Matt Attard

This story Bombs away: swooping season begins | video first appeared on Wingham Chronicle.