Magpie swooping season starts, residents urged to remain cautious

Magpie eggs take about 21 days to hatch and the young spend about four weeks in the nest before they leave, which is when parents swoop. Photo: Shutterstock.
Magpie eggs take about 21 days to hatch and the young spend about four weeks in the nest before they leave, which is when parents swoop. Photo: Shutterstock.

Have you noticed the magpie swooping season starting earlier in recent years? That may be because of warmer winter temperatures.

September to November is generally the known as the time when magpies swoop, but WIRES avian volunteer Inga Schwaiger said she has noticed it coming forward these last few years.

"The swooping has started in August, which is rather early, but that is due to climate change as well, it's getting warmer so magpies are starting to breed, but that can also result in their young dying from the cold," she said.

Magpie eggs take about 21 days to hatch and the young spend about four weeks in the nest, which is when parents swoop as they are most vulnerable to predators.

Ms Schwaiger understands just how scary it must be for those who have been swooped by a magpie, especially for those with a fear of birds, so offered a few pieces of advice and tips.

The avian expert urged people to walk a different route where there is a known magpie nest, adding that it is only about one in 10 males that swoop.

"Magpies will swoop up to 50 metres away from their nest, but it's only the male who will protect the young," Ms Schwaiger said.

"If you're riding a bicycle the area extends to about 100 metres."

Other things people can do to avoid being swooped is to ride with eyes painted on the back of a helmet or walk with an umbrella or stick above their heads, but do not wave it around as this can cause the magpie to feel threatened.

"They're basically warning us to not get any closer," Ms Schwaiger added.

Magpies can live up to about 20 years and in the same area, where they often get to know people and remember their faces.

"They're extremely clever birds and also remember people they don't like," the avian expert said.

Residents are urged not to feed them and instead place a bird bath in the garden and change the water regularly to minimise the chance of disease.

"Best thing is to just ignore them and walk if possible a little bit further away (from the nests). It lasts for about four to six weeks and then it is all over," the WIRES volunteer explained.

Magpies are a native, protected species in Australia and Ms Schwaiger encouraged those wanting more information or advice to visit the WIRES website at www.wires.org.au or call 1300 094 737.

"Once you understand the behaviour you don't have anything to be scared about," she said.