Swooping Magpies: A Nasty Australian Bad Thing

Following the snakes awaking post on Monday, you’d think the best thing to do would be to keep your eyes on the ground checking for danger.

Well, it’s not as simple as that!

Because at the same time as those snakes are surfacing from their winter slumber, nests are being built in trees. Nests for magpies and those magpies are fiercely territorial. Yes it’s……

Magpie Attack Season!

Magpie

Now, I’m no ornithologist, (had to look that one up) as those of you who have read my post Oh No! Trouble with the Neighbours will surely already know. So I can’t tell you whether our Australian magpies are any more aggressive than anybody else’s magpies. But I can tell you ours are aggressive.

Here they tend to attack cyclists and children who come within 100 metres of the tree they have built their nest in. Although the nesting season lasts from June to December, the swooping behaviour from each individual occupied tree lasts about six weeks while the chicks are in the nest.

Although I have never seen or been affected by a swooping magpie, it’s a big enough problem here for Quest News to publish a map highlighting magpie attack hotspots. It’s interactive, click on those warnings for details……


View Magpie attack hotspots 2010 – By Quest Newspapers in a larger map

I love nature and wildlife but let’s face it, magpies are nasty. As I understand it, they are the bullies of the bird world. They terrorise other birds, destroying their nests, killing their young and taking over their territory, all without the slightest tinge of guilt. Yes, very nasty.

Yet magpies are a protected native species in Australia, so it is illegal to kill or harm them. Many people now believe it is time for that to change.

Just a few days ago in a place called Walloon no more than about 30 km from me, a young 12-year-old lad called Ivan Sthrowski-Wooda died in hospital three weeks after being hit by a car. He had run into the road trying to escape from an attacking magpie. That is so very, very sad.

So magpie attacks are a serious problem.

At the moment the only advice offered appears to be to stay away, wear a hat and don’t fight back as the magpie will only get worse.

I’d say the best advice is to tell your children not to panic, stay on the pavement and get away from the area as quickly as possible.

But surely the time has come to remove these pests from built up areas or perhaps even destroy them. It’s time for us to be as merciless with the magpies as they are to the rest of the bird world.

Anyway, back to that hat theory. What sort of hat should you wear? To find out, you really need to watch this, the result may surprise you…

You may also want to read my post Swooping Magpies: How Stupid Are They?

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{ 50 comments… add one }
  • DarkWolf1135 September 7, 2016, 2:17 pm | Link

    Magpies are overly nice, but they do get to be annoying in nesting season. Actually, I have been searching high and low for somewhere that could answer my question. I hand feed the two pairs that nest in our place and we didn’t have any trouble last year. (One of the pairs, I actually saved the female from being stuck in a fence when she was a juvenile.) Now, suddenly, one of the females has decided being hand fed quality food isn’t enough – she wants to attack me. She doesn’t care about my parents, just me and my sister, and we feed them. I can’t for the life of my figure out why its only that one bird and only targeting me and my sis, and it’s driving me crazy!

    • BobinOz September 8, 2016, 9:11 pm | Link

      That is very weird, who knows what the explanation might be? I think you may have to adjust your thinking, particularly ‘magpies are overly nice’. I don’t think they are, and as the saying goes, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

      These birds have started to do that, I’d stop feeding them if I were you. And don’t let it drive you crazy, a magpie shouldn’t be able to do that to you. Don’t you have any cockatoos round your way? 🙂 They really are quite friendly.

  • kate hayes September 4, 2015, 2:18 pm | Link

    I’m being shall I say victimized to the extent where I can’t leave my house without an attack. We love in a cul d sac and have a walkway to get to the main road. Both my son and I were swooped by 3 magpies at once and ran for our lives!! I’ve got a huge phobia of birds which I’m sure the MN Maggies are aware of and it’s now got to the stage where 3 of them were waiting on my roof as I walked back from dropping my son off. Being attacked by 3 magpies at once was horrific and tge nearest thing to me was my car which I hid in for 10 mins.
    Since then I can’t step outside my front door as they swoop. No mail for me to get as I get swooped can’t play in the street with my kids , I get swooped.
    I thought my back yard was my refuge until today, sat there with a magazine minding my own business and out of nowhere one swoops me. I’m petrified to go out. I tried feeding them to get them on side hot swooped. I literally have to run to the car to avoid them.
    It’s ridiculous and I can’t enjoy where I live.

    • BobinOz September 4, 2015, 5:46 pm | Link

      You should not have to put up with this Kate. You should phone your local council and request a relocation of these birds. It may be a good idea to get a supporting letter from your doctor in view of your phobia.

      You should be able to live your life more freely, the council has an obligation to enable you to do that. Good luck, Bob

  • Chris in NSW March 10, 2015, 9:55 pm | Link

    BTW They were named Magpies by the early English settlers because they were black and white and a similar size to the Magpies back in England. They are very different birds though.

    • BobinOz March 11, 2015, 9:04 pm | Link

      Yes, they are very different birds, European magpies don’t swoop or attack at all.

  • Chris in NSW March 10, 2015, 9:47 pm | Link

    Agreed education is essential. When I was in infants school (a while back!) we were taught about magpies, I still remember it. But it was a car that struck the child – we don’t call for cars to be moved or destroyed. Still, if if magpies are particularly aggressive I think there are legal provisions for them to be moved or destroyed. I have rarely heard of suggestions that action be taken on Magpies in NSW, maybe the Qld Magpies are more aggro than those in NSW?
    BTW your photo is not an Australian Magpie. I think it might be a Eurasian Magpie. The Australian Magpie is not related to the Eurasian Magpie, which is a Corvid. Did you know that Aussie Magpies have one of the most complex songs of all birds, and also one of the most complex social structures?
    This is the Wikipedia link:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_magpie
    Cheers

    • BobinOz March 11, 2015, 9:03 pm | Link

      Education is essential indeed, that’s kind of what I’m trying to do here. Especially for the kids, and I know it was a car that actually caused the death, but what we need to do is educate our children not to run in blind panic, but maybe to cover their eyes and their heads whilst moving steadily out of the danger area.

      I made a video about it, managed to get a magpie to swoop at my head, you can read that post and watch the video from the link at the very bottom of the above article, it’s the link called swooping magpies, how stupid are they?

      And yes, I knew my magpie picture wasn’t an Australian one, I think it’s a plain simple European magpie. I think it’s one I got from stock photos I have on my hard drive, copyright free.

  • Chris February 28, 2015, 10:50 pm | Link

    Magpies are a bit of an Aussie icon. They are smart, interesting, curious, often forward and lovely singers. Some do swoop, but most Aussies that I know of still don’t want to harm them. Instead, many feed them so they hang around and deliver their gorgeous choral singing in the mornings and evenings. On hot days I have seen people put out water for them at different workplaces. We like our “Maggies”!
    There has been research into their swooping behaviour and it seems there are a percentage of individuals that are bullies by nature (just like with people). In breeding season these individuals pick on other bird species, animals and people, even when they pose no threat. Mostly the swooping is bluff, but sometimes they do connect. They vary too, with the maggies in some areas being chilled and docile, while in other areas there are more aggressive birds.

    Research has also shown that magpies can recognise individual humans by our faces, and for some reason single out certain people that they will attack every time, regardless of what they are wearing, while they ignore other people. They are interesting birds, if a little scary at times!

    I grew up with Magpies around, and found as a child that if you stand your ground and try to face them (they always try to swoop from behind), they tend to back off or not swoop as closely. Holding up a stick helps too, they realise you might be able to fight back. The other thing I always do is walk steadily out of their territory, never run.

    We regularly have magpies visit our backyard. It’s amazing how they slowly patrol the lawn, stand still for a moment, then thrust their beak into the ground and pull out a worm. I have had lone magpies sing to me in the backyard trying to get food from me, some realise that humans like their song! Other times they will come to our back glass door and watch what we are doing inside, just being curious.

    Cheers
    Chris in NSW

    • BobinOz March 1, 2015, 11:20 pm | Link

      All well and good Chris, I know many people are fans of magpies, but what we can’t have happening are the kind of attacks which saw this poor young kid lose his life. Personally I don’t care much for this bird simply because it does attack people for absolutely no good reason whatsoever.

      For that reason, I think these particular magpies are stupid rather than smart. From what I have read, European magpies do not swoop like this, is only the Aussie ones. It’s not an endearing trait.

      We definitely need to educate our children on how to react in these situations if we are to avoid another tragedy like the one I mentioned in the above post.

  • Kym May 4, 2014, 12:30 pm | Link

    I still like them. **ducking for cover**
    Worse than magpies for swooping – plovers. they scream while they do it and have little spurs on the end of their wings to get you with.
    Worse than magpies for thuggish behaviour to other birds – Noisy Miners. They will harass and kill and they do it in gangs.
    And neither of those bird types can sing worth a damn.
    cheers
    Kym

    • BobinOz May 5, 2014, 6:44 pm | Link

      It’s like living in an Alfred Hitchcock movie down here, isn’t it? 🙂

      Being good at singing doesn’t give magpies a licence to terrorise cyclists and schoolchildren, not in my book.

      “I hereby sentence you to 2 years in prison for an act of extreme and unprovoked violence.”

      “But your honour, I can sing!”

      “Oh, okay, I didn’t know. Off you go then…”

  • Leon May 2, 2014, 8:30 am | Link

    I find magpies really annoying, they are slowly destroying our thatched roof, along with the dreaded grey squirrel (wow spelt that right first time :D), luckily they don’t dive bomb us down here… though the seagulls… they do. They nest on our roof, make a lot of noise during the night and dive bomb us in the garden making it hard to enjoy the summer. Worst of all is that they are protected meaning you can not harm them.

    Back to magpies. Quite interestingly, during Media Studies, I read an article in one of the newspapers we are studying, The Sun… it makes me cringe when I say I enjoyed an article from there (Rupert Murdoch… definitely a bad Australia thing). Anyway, it was talking about how they are always perceived poorly within the media and it’s the fact that they are not very shy which is why we hate them so much. There are allegedly other birds who do the same thing, but they just hide themselves more… I can’t quite remember how the article went unfortunately.

    I always find their interest in shiny things hilarious (probably the reason the magpie in the video dive-bombed the guy when wearing a helmet… he should’ve tried a matte coloured helmet without gloss to see if that made a difference at all)

    Wow, long comment much haha
    Just one unrelated-ish question, have you ever considered setting up a small and simple forum extending on your blog, I think it would be a good idea as I am sure there are loads of readers who want to set up long discussion about the topics covered on your blog 😉

    Leon

    • BobinOz May 2, 2014, 9:16 pm | Link

      As you can tell from my article, I’m not a big fan of magpies either, especially the ones we have down here that do swoop on you.

      As for the forum, people tend to talk to each other in these comments and I’m sort of happy to leave it that way. Good idea though, cheers, Bob

  • Robyn December 28, 2013, 9:05 pm | Link

    I live north of Brisbane in an area with quite a few magpie pairs during nesting season. I cycle over a wide area and in 8 years have been swooped about 4 times. Magpies nest in a small park I pass each day when I walk my dog. We had one season when magpies regularly swooped children who rode their bikes past – not walkers, and not adults on bikes. I’ve stopped one group of primary-school age kids who were trying to reach magpies with sticks. In other years these magpies have not swooped at all, despite the number of people who use the park. It seems that, in our area at least, magpies are more likely to swoop if they have been disturbed/harassed by people. Swooping seems most intense for just a short period during nesting season. High-intensity swooping might occur for just a day or two. Once baby magpies have begun to fly, swooping stops. Teach kids not to throw things or try to hit magpies, try holding up an umbrella, or a stick/pole with crepe paper ribbons attached to the top (tried it, it works, they will sit in a tree and watch but not swoop). Magpies can sing, listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYEYc8Ge3nw They are also very good mimics:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-9dYCPRUuQ

    • BobinOz December 30, 2013, 5:11 pm | Link

      I am all for educating children. Mostly I think kids should be taught not to panic if a magpie swoops, don’t run into the road and to protect their eyes.

  • Dan August 29, 2013, 4:52 pm | Link

    I say move them on. The actual attack may not be too harmful (although i was bleeding from the head after an attack last year), its the fact that people tend to panic when they swoop and that’s when accidents happen. They are too dangerous and moving them on from parks and bike paths is a must for Brisbane.

    • BobinOz August 30, 2013, 1:09 am | Link

      I agree, 100%.

      Maybe there should be a three complaints rule; if a magpie attacks people and that results in three complaints to the council, they should send out the re-locators.

  • Valter Russo August 14, 2013, 1:58 pm | Link

    Hi bob

    last week me and my girlfriend saw on Nat Geo Wild the australia’s most dangerous creatures, and as we plan to move to brisbane area , we watched with some curiosity the brisbane ones.
    my shock when i saw it was a bird… that bird!
    that mobster of animal life blinded a little girl back some year’s ago…
    my girlfrend went all dramatic, but i counter with some links with beaches and parks of your blog and she was fine.ahahah.
    bloody bird…>: /

    Best Regards

    • BobinOz August 14, 2013, 8:27 pm | Link

      Magpies love parks, so just be careful which links you show her for that, but I’ve never seen a magpie on the beach 🙂

      I’d show your girlfriend lots of beach links if I were you.

      Cheers, Bob

  • John August 11, 2013, 3:11 pm | Link

    I had to go to emergency after a magpie attack on a bicycle. I say kill the things. My health deteriorates over the vague swooping season because I have to ‘avoid the area’ of the public road I can’t walk on. If they get too close and I have something to hit with, they will get it. At the very least, a public accessible list of all areas of dangerous magpies should be available. I don’t find them funny or loveable creatures. I grew up on a farm and as a child would find myself a long way from the house with magpies swooping. We don’t all live in a homogenous clinical inner city area followng policies of conservation.

    • BobinOz August 11, 2013, 9:51 pm | Link

      I’m with you on this one John, there is nothing funny or lovable about these things, not when they attack people. If only they could just sing and stay out of our faces, there would be no problem.

      As far as I am concerned they are the hooligans of the bird world, even the other birds can’t stand magpies.

      Hope you have recovered from that attack, stay safe, Bob.

  • Gigi December 4, 2012, 10:01 am | Link

    LOL! I have to smile when I see magpies chasing Posties! It occurs here on a regular basis! I have started feeding the magpies in my area, fingers crossed I have not been attached yet…. I think “word” gets round that you feed them, so they “don’t bite the hand that feeds them”?…. I don’t know, it is as if the birds in Australia know they are protected, which they are by the way, by law! So are the flying foxes! The birds here seem to have attitude!

    • BobinOz December 4, 2012, 3:33 pm | Link

      Poor old Posties! If it’s not a Jack Russell on the ground it’s a magpie from above. And still they selflessly deliver our letters.

      Sounds like your magpies are running some kind of protection racket over there; you give them food and they leave you alone. You know they will just end up asking for more on more food, don’t you? LOL

  • Leah October 12, 2012, 7:51 pm | Link

    I have one magpie in my neighbourhood who appears to be really persistent on giving me surprise attacks. I don’t have a car or anyone available to drive me around so I have to walk the same route to work and it’s as if the bird is just sitting there, hidden like a ninja and waiting for me. It wouldn’t bother me so much if it wasn’t for the fact that only I seem to be only one being swooped. Today I even tried avoiding the bird by walking on the other side of the road away from the park I suspect where it’s nest is and it still comes after me. After getting out of the ‘danger zone’ I paused to see if a jogger passing by would receive the same treatment….nope, she jogged straight past the bird and it didn’t even look at her. I’ve seen so many people pass that bird and none of them cop a swooping except me. Still, I would not wish any harm upon this bird or any others, it really disappoints me knowing I’ve apparently done something to offend this magpie but it’s simply acting on natural instinct. The best thing for we can do for kids is teach them how to avoid these situations and what to do if caught in one. We can’t shoot down every creature that causes us trouble, that’s something I’d never want any children of mine to grow up believing

    • BobinOz October 16, 2012, 3:37 pm | Link

      This magpie has obviously singled you out as a specific danger, do you have a history by any chance of stealing magpies babies?

      Just kidding 🙂

  • Cat October 6, 2012, 12:59 am | Link

    Dude, that’s not even a picture of an australian magpie. Yes, every year,its what they do and will keep doing. Now, we’re all part of an eco system and magpies get to be left alone. We are big smart humans who can avoid or protect ourselves against all sorts of perils including birds that we know swoop in spring. And teach our kids cars are more dangerous than birds.

    • BobinOz October 8, 2012, 3:56 pm | Link

      How can you tell? Is it the accent? 🙂

      I couldn’t agree more Cat, we must do everything we can to protect our children, they are the ones that can be vulnerable in these situations. I wrote about it at some length in my post called Swooping Magpies: How Stupid Are They?

  • Cassandra August 21, 2012, 9:38 am | Link

    I was attacked 3 times this morning . It’s the season again 🙁

    I might need to get out my icecream container hat, not that it works terribly well, but so that it doesn’t hurt so much when they swoop me ! I’m in the Central West of NSW, they can be pretty vicious here.

    • BobinOz August 21, 2012, 10:05 pm | Link

      Every year is the same, it’s like Terminator 3.

      Arnie…. “I’m back!”

  • Kym June 14, 2012, 1:39 pm | Link

    I can see where people would think it is easier to kill them and why but I think the message we should be sending our kids is to learn to live and make room for our wildlife. It’s a small concession. In my opinion anyway. They are only aggressive for 6 weeks out of 52 and the rest of the time they are doing their job in cleaning up insects and stuff. Cheers Kym

    • BobinOz June 15, 2012, 6:49 pm | Link

      I really am all for protecting wildlife, and living in harmony with them. But when an aggressive bird chases a child into the road with tragic consequences as has happened in this case, I say it’s time to take action.

      As I said before, our children are just too precious.

  • Kym June 12, 2012, 5:42 pm | Link

    Guys, just use an umbrella with two big eyes painted on it. They are only $5 from woollies. Let’s try and live with them first before we take ultimate steps. You can’t relocate magpies, they have territories and the residents will kill any newcomers. We should be sun careful anyway so an umbrella each will do no harm for a few weeks.

    • BobinOz June 14, 2012, 12:56 pm | Link

      Kids should not be expected to carry umbrellas with eyes on, I still say if a Magpie is anywhere near a school, move it. In other areas though, a brolly may well be an okay idea.

  • Veronica October 6, 2011, 12:05 pm | Link

    Hi BobinOz!

    That YouTube video of Magpie protection helmet was cool! I looked up the subject of Magpie attacks only because my 72 year old mother, a diabetic and hypertensive, who needs to go for regular walks as part of her therapy, is now too scared to step out of the house because of magpie attacks! My 22 month old niece who loves to go out and play is not being allowed outside for the same reason. The attacking magpie lives on a tree very close to the house. If reports about the attacking magpies are right, their attacking season ends sometime mid-October, right?
    And to those who say birds who attack humans should be given their rights, they won’t say the same if it was they or their loved ones who are being regularly attacked.

    • BobinOz October 7, 2011, 8:22 pm | Link

      I think you’re right, I think the swooping season is mercifully quite short. And as for those people who think these magpies should have their rights, perhaps they’d like to take that up with the mother of a poor young four-year-old boy who lost his eyesight in one eye following an attack just a couple of weeks ago.

      I love nature, I love wildlife and I am a “couldn’t hurt a fly” kind of bloke. But when magpies are nested in places that can cause problems for children (magpies are more likely to attack children), they should be removed, relocated or if necessary, shot!

      Our children are too precious.

      • Veronica October 8, 2011, 10:33 am | Link

        BobinOz

        I forgot to mention that my mother’s fear started because she had been attacked by the magpie when she stepped out of the house for her usual daily walk – pecked hard on her earlobes that it bled quite badly.

        I am a bird lover in fact and love bird watching, but like you I do not like the idea of attacking birds not being stopped.

        I have told my mother to inform the city council if the magpie behaviour should hint at further attacks after mid-October. The city council I hope will make arrangements to have the bird relocated to a place where it cannot attack humans.

        • BobinOz October 10, 2011, 7:32 pm | Link

          Hasn’t your mother got a gun? Just kidding 🙂

  • O August 29, 2011, 4:11 pm | Link

    I am not from Australia, I have only been here for less than 2 months. I didn’t know about the magpies. I only live 5kms from the Brisbane CBD. And I was attacked by a magpie today as I was walking on the street I live on. It felt really bizarre (nothing like this has ever happened to me before) and I am still quite shaken by that experience.

    • BobinOz August 29, 2011, 11:34 pm | Link

      Well look at that. It’s magpie attacking season again already, pretty much a year has passed since I wrote this post and they are at it again.

      I’m sorry to hear you have been attacked, they can be quite persistent I believe. They say the best thing is to get out of their “zone”, but I think it’s a bit rich that a little bird can think can have a stretch of real estate all for himself.

      I hope you weren’t hurt, and I’d stay away from the area and warm any kids to stay away from there too if you can.

  • BobinOz October 11, 2010, 6:27 pm | Link

    Okay everybody. You heard what Cara said. Come on, get off the planet! We are not wanted here. Let’s give the magpies some space. Come on, off! Pests the lot of you!

    • Zoe May 14, 2011, 5:32 am | Link

      Well Cara, I do agree natural selection is what makes the world work, and you wonder why all those hundreds of years ago, the human species created fire, tools and cooked food that has helped us survive for so long. The magpies are doing their bit to survive, as are we. So don’t blame us if we want to “survive” from the harm the magpies inflict on us and our “young”. And yes we are all pests, but they are too. Zoe, aged 13.

      • BobinOz May 16, 2011, 9:00 pm | Link

        Very good points Zoe, but don’t expect Cara to take any notice. She doesn’t seem to care much for the survival of humans. Apparently, it’s OK for magpies to protect their young, but not us.

        • Katie March 31, 2015, 2:31 am | Link

          Not sure how old this thread is, didn’t check..
          You are an idiot bobinoz, it’s attitudes like yours that make my blood boil.
          You’re so ignorant!!! Such stupid narcissistic comments..
          I’m sorry I have stumbled across your page and hope to never again..

          • BobinOz March 31, 2015, 5:04 pm | Link

            Thank you for your invaluable contribution to this debate Katie, sorry to hear you won’t be coming back, I miss you already 🙂

  • Cara October 9, 2010, 1:46 pm | Link

    It’s these kinds of hypocritical statements that make me livid. Magpies, unlike HUMANS act on their natural instincts, not on a desire to act out cruel fantasies. Natural selection is what makes the world work. The only piece that doesn’t fit into the puzzle is people. We overpopulate and destroy wildlife in an attempt to create towns and cities and line our pockets with cash. And yet somehow, many of us feel we can get on our soapbox and complain about these birds, who are only protecting their young, being pests. FYI, you’re the pest. We are all the pests. The car killed the child, not the bird. Perhaps we should think about destroying vehicles, hmm? I’m rather certain that they have caused alot more problems than our fauna. Ridiculous. Oh and please do remind me to have my shotgun on hand for any people i meet that ‘can’t sing’.

  • BobinOz September 24, 2010, 12:10 am | Link

    They migjht as well be, cos they don’t appear to stop magpies swooping.

  • Steve Povey September 22, 2010, 9:41 pm | Link

    Always wondered what those cable ties were for..thought it was some new kind of fashion statement lol!

  • BobinOz September 20, 2010, 9:57 pm | Link

    They eat other birds eggs, that’s not very nice is it? Can’t sing either. So only some of them are psychopathic? Well that’s good news, otherwise life would be like a Hitchcock film.

    Sorry Barbara, I think they’re a pest.

  • barbara September 18, 2010, 5:52 am | Link

    Are you serious, magpies are terrific birds, we have some come into our yard and have never been attacked. It is only a few that will attack and usually because they have had a bad experience with us in the past.

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