Dealing with swooping birds
Native birds, including Australian Magpies and plovers (Masked Lapwings), are highly protective of their eggs, nest and young and will often ‘swoop’ unsuspecting passers-by if they feel threatened. Only a small percentage of birds attack during spring as a ‘warning’ to ward off intruders to their territory, which may include your local park, backyard or schoolyard.
Protection and avoidanceAll native birds are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 and there are serious penalties for taking, harassing or injuring native wildlife. It is illegal to kill birds, or to interfere with their nests containing eggs or young without a permit or authority. There are ways to minimise attacks.
Top 10 tips to protect yourself from swooping birds
- Know your local swooping hotspots. Keep informed about parks, schoolyards and bike trails in your local area by reading your local newspapers, viewing Victoria’s Magpie Map or contacting your local council.
- Avoid the area. The best way to protect yourself from a swooping bird, is to avoid venturing into their territory.
- Move quickly. If you must pass through the area – move quickly – do not run.
- Cover your head. Wear a hat or carry a stick or umbrella above your head. Cyclists should wear a helmet, dismount and walk through the area.
- Eyes at the back of your head. Birds may be less likely to swoop if they think you are watching them. Draw a pair of ‘eyes’ and attach to the back of hats and helmets. A printable set of ‘eyes’ is available for you to download.
- Do not harass wildlife. Don’t interfere with or throw stones at birds. This gives them added reason to see humans as a threat and may increase swooping behaviour.
- Do not destroy nests. This may prompt birds to rebuild their nests, prolonging the swooping behaviour.
- Don’t feed swooping birds.
- Travel in a group. If possible, try to travel in a group in areas where there are swooping birds.
- Notify others. Put up warning signs for others who may not be aware that there are swooping birds in the area, or ask your council to do so.
Mark a bird-swooping area on Victoria’s Magpie Map by notifying us of bird swooping locations with our online form ; OR
Tweet @depi_vic with the location details and include #swoopvic
What can be done about swooping birds?The best strategy is to avoid areas where aggressive birds are swooping at people during breeding season, based on local knowledge. However, don't be concerned simply because there are magpies present.
If it can be shown that all avoidance strategies have failed and the bird continues to attack and is likely to cause injury, the bird may be relocated or destroyed by a licensed wildlife controller. All native birds are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 and there are serious penalties for taking, harassing or injuring native wildlife. It is illegal to kill birds, or to interfere with their nests containing eggs or young without a permit or authority.
For more information about licensed controllers, contact DEPI Customer Service Centre on 136186.