Magpie swooping season starts, residents urged to remain cautious

SPRING may have just begun, but magpie swooping season has had an early start in Forbes.

Magpies usually nest in spring, and begin swooping to protect their nests and eggs from mid-September onwards.

Reports logged to the Magpie Alert website show that for some birds nesting began early with Forbes walkers and cyclists ducking for cover since mid August.

On August 8 and August 15 three magpies let cyclists in Forbes know that they had crossed over into his territory.

The first swooping incident was reported at 10am on August 8 on Farrand Street, near York Street, not far from the ski dam.

On August 18, a magpie swooped a cyclist on River Road not far from Mole Lane.

A second report was lodged 45 minutes later of a magpie swooping a cyclist on Hill Street, right near Camp Street Bridge.

No injuries have been recorded to date but bird experts are cautioning people to be vigilant while outdoors and running, walking, and cycling.

A WIRES spokesperson explained male magpies were known to actively defend their territory against real or perceived threats to their eggs. However they assured the behaviour was short term and only lasted until the chicks become fledglings.

"Magpies have excellent memories and are believed to be able to distinguish between people and so can identify unknown individuals whom they perceive as intruders," the spokesperson said.

"When they recognise someone as a permanent resident of their territory, such as in backyards, they are often more tolerant."

The spokesperson explained when defending their nest, a magpie will begin with a warning to the intruder that they are coming too close to the nest, by firstly carolling, then clapping their beak and swooping.

"If the intruder doesn't retreat, magpies may swoop even closer and eventually make contact if they feel the nest is under immediate threat," they said.

"Please remember that just like any other caring parent, swooping magpies are not targeting you personally they are simply protecting their young from a perceived threat and this behaviour will only last for a few weeks."

The spokesperson said if a magpie does get you in its sights, the best thing to do is to stay calm, which can be difficult when an angry bird is flapping in your face.

If you're on a bike, the spokesperson said its best to dismount immediately and walk away.

If you can take a detour, go ahead and do so, keeping in mind that magpies will only swoop in the immediate vicinity of their nest, the spokesperson urged.

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

Magpies are protected throughout Australia, and it is against the law to kill the birds, collect their eggs, or harm their young.

If a magpie is a serious menace, it should be reported to the local council.

Tips for surviving the magpie swooping season include:

  • Avoid the swoop area, try walking or riding in a different direction;
  • Cyclists should wear a helmet. It is better to dismount and walk your bike past a swoop area;
  • Travel in a group. Most birds only swoop individuals;
  • Do not panic and run. It will only encourage a swooping bird to continue its attack;
  • Wear a hat in an area where there are sweeping concerns; and
  • Holding a stick or umbrella over your head will often cause the bird to keep its distance.