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Magpies

Magpies

The Australian magpie is a native bird and is protected under Queensland Government legislation. The magpie plays an important role in natural pest management as it preys on small insects, such as mosquitoes.

  • Breeding
  • Swooping
  • Magpie translocation
  • Resources
  • Magpie Incidents Map
  • Breeding

Magpies are well known for attacks on humans during the breeding season, which peaks from August to October, however nesting can take place anytime from July to December.

Magpies only swoop when they have chicks in their nests. This is a natural behaviour, typically performed by the male magpie to ward off perceived intruders.

Only a small proportion of magpies ever attack people. Magpies will usually only defend area of around 100 m radius; concentrating their activity on the zone around the nest tree. Magpies swoop to scare the intruder away from the nest, not to cause injury.

  • Swooping

Where magpie swooping is occurring, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection advises the following techniques to avoid or reduce the impact of a magpie attack:

  • Never deliberately provoke or harass a magpie. Throwing sticks or stones at magpies usually makes a magpie more defensive.
  • Avoid areas where magpies are known to swoop. (Remember, magpie aggression lasts only a few weeks and magpies usually only defend a small area of about 100 m in radius around their nest.)
  • Find the bird and keep watching it when entering a magpie territory. If swooped on, don’t crouch in fear or stop. Move on quickly but don’t run.
  • Bike riders – dismount and walk through nesting magpie territory, wear a helmet, and fit an orange traffic flag.
  • Bike riders – turn your helmet into an echidna! Attach a dozen 30 cm ‘quick ties’ to the slots in your bike helmet so that they stick out like spines. These can keep attacking magpies away.
  • Wear a hat or carry an umbrella to protect yourself. A magpie will attack initially from behind. When a magpie is tricked into believing the target is alert, an attack is stopped or not even started.
  • Learning to live with magpies can be rewarding. You can observe local magpies, study their behaviour and listen to their songs. We share the same living space. Learning to live together is an important step towards building a better living environment.
  • Magpie translocation

We are sometimes asked to remove (translocate) swooping male magpies. Translocating the male bird leaves the female and her chicks on their own.

Studies by Griffith University have shown that when this occurs, an unattached male will often take on the role of male carer by defending the nest site and helping the female to feed the chicks.

This behaviour suggests that translocation is not a very effective solution to magpie swooping.  If no male appears, the female will struggle to feed her hungry chicks, and they may die Рa situation that raises serious ethical questions.

Translocation is a last resort action used to remove very aggressive individuals – specifically those that have caused injury.

  • Resources
  • Magpie Incidents Map

Council will use this map to display all reports of swooping magpies in Emerald and the Central Highlands region.
To report a swooping you can either:

  • Drop a “pin” on your phone “Maps” app and send it to magpie.alerts@gmail.com
  • Email magpie.alerts@gmail.com with a street address.
  • Call our customer service team on 1300 242 686.

Be sure to include as many details in your email as possible; such as time of day, type of bird, any injuries, whether you were walking or cycling, etc.

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