Swooping birds

For most of the year birds are a wonderful feature of life in the bush capital. Their distinctive chortling sounds can help lift our spirits whilst their ability to consume vast quantities of insects, particularly damaging lawn scarab grubs, make them a welcome visitor to our gardens.

From July through to November each year, birds including magpies build their nests and raise their young in a limited area known as a territory. When there are eggs or young in the nest the male birds defend their territory from intruders. Some birds do this by swooping. Swooping occurs for around  six weeks.

  • Only a few birds see people as a threat. Most will not swoop you.
  • Birds see cats, dogs and other magpies as intruders, it's not just people they swoop.
  • Harassment by humans causes some birds to start swooping. Please do not chase birds or throw things at them.
  • Picking up a fledgling bird (young bird that has just left the nest) could be seen by the parent bird as threatening its young and it may trigger swooping behaviour.
  • Sometimes the colour of people's clothes, a noise they make or the speed they are travelling at, triggers a bird to swoop.

Living with swooping birds

If there is a swooping bird in your neighbourhood, take these simple measures to protect yourself and others:

  • walk through the bird's territory quickly, don't run;
  • take a different route next time;
  • protect your head with an umbrella, hat or helmet;
  • wear glasses to protect your eyes;
  • watch the birds while walking away quickly from the area—magpies are less likely to swoop if you look at them;
  • protect your pet and do not leave them alone or off-lead in an area with a swooping bird;
  • don't let your pet attack birds as this may trigger swooping;
  • attach a flag or streamers on a stick to your bike or backpack; and
  • walk your bike through the bird's territory, don't ride.

Living with magpies (PDF 1MB)

For more information

Phone Access Canberra on 13 22 81 for more detailed advice or to report a swooping bird.