Magpies swoop when nesting
How to deal with this natural, seasonal behaviour.
Magpies are protected throughout NSW under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. This makes it against the law to kill the birds, collect their eggs, or harm their young.
Parkes Shire Council has no powers to authorise or carry out the destruction of magpies and cannot discharge a firearm in the town limits.
For most of the year magpies are not aggressive, but for four to six weeks during nesting they will often defend their territory vigorously. People walking past may be seen as 'invaders' of the territory, prompting the magpies to fly low and fast over the person, clacking their beaks 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 behaviour persists, there are ways of reducing the risk of physical injury to humans.
If a magpie swoops at you:
- Walk quickly and carefully away from the area, and avoid walking there when magpies are swooping.
- 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.
- Make a temporary sign to warn other people.
Residents can track and record swooping magpies in the local area using Magpie Alert.
If you feel a magpie is a risk to public safety that cannot be adequately mitigated by these measure you should report the matter to the nearest National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) office who may issue a license for the destruction of the bird.
The NPWS is under no obligation to arrange for the destruction of a bird in a public place, cannot obligate police to destroy the bird and is not responsible for meeting the cost of a pest controller or licensed bird trapper.
For further information on dealing with Magpies during the breeding season visit the NSW Environment and Heritage website.