When Magpies Attack – What To Do

When Magpies Attack

We often get asked about Magpies and while its never fun to be on the receiving end of a Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen’s  defensive behaviour, it is understandable when you learn a little more about them. 

The Australian magpie

The Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)

Why do Magpies swoop?

They’re are very territorial birds. They’ll protect their territory from other birds throughout the year. They become very protective during their breeding season because they are protecting their eggs and young.

How long does the swooping last for?

The breeding season lasts from July to November throughout Australia. Their defensive behaviour lasts for 6 to 8 weeks, from when eggs are laid, to when the young leave the nest.

How can we stay safe around swooping Magpies?

If you know where it is, stay up to 150 metres away from the nest. This is known as their ‘defence zone.’ If you must enter the ‘defence zone’, a magpie is less likely to swoop if they are being watched, keep an eye on them as you enter the area. The best protection against a magpie is to remember they are trying to protect their young, so don’t interfere with the bird or its nest. Another thing to remember is that a magpie will often nest in the same spot each year,  if you have seen a magpie in an area in previous years, chances are it will be there again during this breeding seasons, so find an alternative route where possible.

The Australian magpie

The Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)

  If you can’t avoid the nesting zone:

  • Wear a hat (preferable a wide-brimmed hat) and sunglasses.
  • Hold a bag above your head, or use an umbrella.
  • Walk in groups rather than alone.
  • Don’t run.
  • Don’t fight back, this will only make the Magpie more defensive.

If you’re on a bike:

  • Either get off and walk, or concentrate on your riding and ignore the Magpie.
  • Your helmet (and sunglasses) will protect you.
  • Don’t fight back!
  • “Spike up” your helmet with a few cable ties or draw large eyes on the back of your helmet to confuse them.
  • Putting large eyes on the back of your hat or helmet can sometimes help

Is there anything else that can be done?

‘Befriending’ a local magpie has shown to help avoid being swooped. Studies have shown that magpies are very intelligent and remember faces so once they know you and judge you to be a nice person, they will leave you alone.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection website has further information and guidelines. These are the people to call about relocating a Magpie. They also have Magpie warning posters that can be printed, laminated and placed around the Magpies territory so people know to protect themselves when entering the area.



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