There are a couple of things synonymous with the season of Spring: blooming flowers, the sunshine returns, and in Australia, it’s the season of swooping magpies. It’s more likely than not that at some point in your life you’ve been a victim to a territorial magpie.
That is exactly what this unique and intimidating behaviour is - them ‘pies are swooping at perceived dangers in order to protect their young!
The infamous couple that are swooping on pedestrians, cyclists and postal delivery workers in Johnston Crescent/Tantallon Road neighbourhood, North Lane Cove, have created national news headlines. A residents’ action group lodged a petition with Lane Cove Council to have the birds dealt with, as they have previous form for aggressive behaviour.
Lane Cove Council’s website details the attack sites and photos of injuries the birds have inflicted. Magpies are protected species, but Council has worked with National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) and is intent on culling the diving duo - which has divided the community.
According to the LCC website, they “received approval from NPWS for a ‘Licence to Harm’ covering both the male and female magpie in Johnston Crescent which is valid from 1/9/21 to 1/12/21. Unfortunately, relocation of the birds is not possible as the ‘NPWS Policy on Management of Native Birds that Show Aggression to People’ stipulates that ‘If removal of a bird is warranted, then the destruction of the animal is the only option that will be considered.”
As we go to press, a petition has been launched on the campaign website Change.org to “Save the magpies of Lane Cove!” It is fast approaching 10,000 signatures.
Whilst Magpies are definitely intimidating when in the act of swooping, the saying goes you should never judge a book by its cover. It’s been suggested only around 10% of all birds swoop - meaning it’s a learned behavior.
It is thought that Magpies will only swoop people who resemble someone who has disturbed them in the past. Research also suggests they can remember a face for up to 5 years - so if you’ve ever wronged a Magpie, maybe just stay inside!
Magpies are highly intelligent, bold, and social birds. Despite a clear attitude problem during Spring, there have been numerous reports of Magpies making friends with humans, and returning for visits (or food) regularly - some relationships lasting years and spanning generations! Penguin Bloom, released in 2020, is a movie detailing a family that takes in an injured magpie that profoundly impacts their life - and it’s based on a true story.
If you are swooped, don’t panic and walk from the area calmly. Any sudden movements may further upset the bird.
Magpies generally swoop from behind - wear a helmet and pop some googly eyes on the back for good measure.