Magpies on the swoop

a swooping MagpieReaching the summit of Oakey Hill the other day, I could hear the sound of spring overhead. A tell-tale clue came from the tree tops, where a gifted song bird was on guard.

With the beat of wings and the snap of a beak, I knew that familiar sound.

Nature was stirring in all its natural glory.

The soothing serenade of the stunning magpie heralds the beginning of a wonderful time in our beautiful bush capital.

Magpies have a distinctive sound that can lift our sprits after a long winter. Their ability to consume vast quantities of damaging lawn grubs also makes them a welcome visitor to our gardens.

As a striking songbird, magpies capture a sense of spring in the air. With their sweet love song resonating, swooping season will soon be upon us.

Our residential expansion into their woodland habit gives us reason to reflect on how we can best live with magpies.

They swoop as a means of protecting their patch as they care for their offspring. Whether it is a raised stick, an thrown object or a disturbed nest the magpie sees it as a threat.

This might be because Magpies have remarkable memories. Protecting their area is a lesson they have learnt. Protecting their offspring as any parent would do.

Through our previous actions towards them, some magpies now view us humans as a risk to their fledglings. Swooping is a territorial behaviour. Magpies are simply doing what comes naturally.

We can do several things to ease this tension to create a sense of natural harmony:

  • Avoid the hotspot if possible.
  • If you do have to travel through the hotspot, consider walking rather than riding.
  • Protect your head with a hat, umbrella or helmet and wear glasses to protect your eyes.
  • Maintain direct eye contact as you calmly leave their territory.

As tempting as it is, hand-fed magpies soon become dependent, causing not only dietary complications but a fundamental shift in their natural instincts.

Their powerful recall means they can develop aggressive tendencies, associating people with food. It's best not to feed the birds.

As spring looms large on the horizon, we should consider how we can all live in natural harmony with these magnificent songbirds.

For more information on swooping birds visit:

Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service.

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.

Article also appeared in The Chronicle