14 August 2021


Magpie nesting season is here again. During this period the natural behaviour of the male magpie is to protect their young from what they see as threats. Male magpies demonstrate defensive behaviour only when they have eggs or chicks in the nest and this usually lasts from 4 – 6 weeks. Most magpies are giving us a warning and rarely cause harm. Research suggests only 10% of male magpies actually swoop. The recent tragic accident in Brisbane that was triggered by a swooping magpie is heartbreaking.

Strategies to avoid being swooped include:

  • During breeding season, avoid the area where the magpies are nesting
  • If you see a warning sign, walk a slightly different route
  • Avoid approaching or trying to look into the nest and avoid making eye contact
  • Wear a hat and glasses or use an umbrella while in the area
  • Respect their warning signals and move further away
  • Don’t behave aggressively towards magpies by waving sticks or throwing stones as this only reinforces their perception of humans as threats
  • Cyclists should dismount and walk their bike away (most cyclist injuries result from trying to avoid the magpies)
  • Stay calm

If you need help with magpies most local councils have magpie policies in place. In some areas your local council, NPWS and WIRES collaborate to put warning signs up in problem areas. There is also an independent website Magpie Alert where locations of magpie attacks are recorded. This is a national data base submitted by the readers.

The majority of Australian Magpies are not dangerous and outside of nesting season they are friendly visitors to our garden and help in pest control, eating a variety of insects and pests. When they are being protective parents we need to show them respect, be cautious and find a way to live in harmony.