Sometimes we are given a shocking reminder that ‘Magpie season’ is here!!
That same peaceful path you blissfully walk daily all of a sudden becomes a battle field. Every man for themselves. Humans are seen to be going into stealth mode- dodging, commando crawling and even breaking into a barrel roll without hesitation in fear of their life- doing whatever it takes to get safely from A-B!
So why do magpies feel the need to warn or attack us?
It’s to protect their nest, their precious little offspring. We all understand that powerful feeling – the need to protect those close to us in times of uncertainty or threat.
Magpies prefer to live in open areas- parks, reserves and in suburban areas amongst our homes. They nest high in the trees. We share their habitat and coexist quite peacefully for the majority of the year!!
Breeding season for the Aussie icon is around August to October.
When eggs hatch in the magpie’s nest, a very small percentage of male magpies become very aggressive towards what they see as a threat. Statistics state the number of male magpies that become aggressive in breeding season is only around 9%. Their aggression usually intensifies as their babies grow and stops when they start to leave the nest. Their aggression comes in various forms – some swoop from a distance or perch close by, some may call out an ‘alert tone’, others may launch an outright targeted attack of the face, neck or eyes.
Tips on how to avoid and protect yourself….
Avoid any areas where there are magpies swooping and never provoke an attack or try to approach the nest- they are only displaying their natural behaviour to protect their babies. If the area is not avoidable, wear protective clothing and a wide bream hat to decrease the chances of exposed areas being attacked, it’s highly advisable to wear eye protection. Faster moving objects such as cyclists and joggers are seen as a higher threat. Most magpies attack from the back and it is said that looking directly at a magpie is thought to decrease the chances of an attack however it is risky to expose your eyes to such an injury -why would you risk losing your eyesight?! Remain calm and don’t run or flap your arms around- an attacking magpie will most likely see this as aggressive behaviour, if you are not wearing eye protection shield your eyes with your hands. Eyes on the back of hats can help ward off an attack, an umbrella or cable ties on helmets for cyclists have proven to be an effective form of maggie protection. You can also mount a flag pole to your bike as a deterrent. Magpie’s are a protected species so it is illegal to try and harm a magpie. In extreme cases the appropriate authorities can relocate an aggressive magpie to a less populated area due to the risk to public safety.
If you have a concern regarding an aggressive magpie in your area please report it to your local council- they will place appropriate signage warning people to avoid the area or further action if necessary.