I HAVE heard the warnings time and time again. When spring comes around, so too do the swooping magpies.
But somehow, after close to 10 years of living in Australia, I have never actually been swooped... until last Friday.
My afternoon bike ride left me in the sights of a highly protective black and white feathered parent.
Brazenly, it scoped me from its high vantage point and waited for me to get ahead before making a swoop.
Coming from behind, the magpie knew I was vulnerable as I couldn't see it.
From there I was left at the mercy of its ambush, as it pecked at my head and ears.
According to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, magpies are "friendly and welcome neighbours" for most of the year until nesting season comes around.
With nesting season under way, magpies will be protective of their nests and young for a few weeks around this time of year.
Swoops are generally a warning, showing that you have entered a space within 100m of their nest site.
Magpies are a protected species throughout NSW and it is a criminal offence to harm them.
If you feel a magpie is being a serial menace, report it the local council or nearest National Parks and Wildlife Service office.
How to avoid being swooped by magpies:
- Avoid the area. Do not go back after being swooped. Australian magpies are very intelligent and have a great memory. They will target the same people if you persist on entering their nesting area.
- Be aware of where the bird is. Most will usually swoop from behind. They are much less likely to target you if they think they are being watched. Try drawing eyes on the back of a helmet or hat. You can also hold a long stick in the air to deter swooping.
- Keep calm and do not panic. Walk away quickly but do not run. If you are really concerned, place your folded arms above your head to protect your head and eyes.
- If you are on your bicycle or horse, dismount. Bicycles can irritate the birds and the major cause of accidents following an encounter with a swooping bird, is falling from a bicycle. Calmly walk your bike/horse out of the nesting territory.
- Never harass or provoke nesting birds. A harassed bird will distrust you and as they have a great memory this will ultimately make you a bigger target in future. Do not throw anything at a bird or nest, and never climb a tree and try to remove eggs or chicks.
- Teach children what to do. Educating kids about the birds and what they can do to avoid being swooped will help them keep calm if they are targeted. It's important children learn to protect their face.