Magpie Swooping Season

Lithgow Council

Spring has sprung, and the magpie breeding season is in full swing across the Lithgow LGA.

General Manager Craig Butler said that “for most of the year magpies are not aggressive, but for 4 to 6 weeks during nesting season they will often defend their territory vigorously”.

“They swoop because they are fiercely protective of their nest and young – any perceived threat causes some male magpies to become aggressive,” said Mr Butler.

“People walking past may be seen as ‘invaders’ of the territory, prompting the magpies to fly low and fast over the person, clacking their bills as they pass overhead”.

The experience of a magpie attack can be quite alarming, but it is usually only a warning. Only occasionally will a bird actually strike the intruder on the head with its beak or claws. If this unusual behavior persists, there are ways of reducing the risk of physical injury to humans.

Some tips to note if you do encounter a swooping magpie are:

  • Walk quickly and carefully away from the area and avoid walking there when magpies are swooping.
  • Make a temporary sign to warn other people.
  • Try to keep an eye on the magpie while walking carefully away. Magpies are less likely to swoop if you look at them. Alternatively, you can draw or sew 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.
  • Wear 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.
  • Carry 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.
  • If you are riding a bicycle, get off it 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.

Magpies are protected throughout NSW, and it is against the law to kill the birds, collect their eggs, or harm their young. If you feel a magpie is a serious menace, it should be reported to Council or the Bathurst National Parks and Wildlife Service office on 02 6332 7640.

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