Between the months of July and November we may come across swooping birds. While several birds are prone to swooping behaviours, Ipswich residents and visitors are most likely to encounter swooping Magpies (Gymnorhina tibice) and Plovers/Maked Lapwing (Vanellus miles).

Other swooping birds include the Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis), grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus), Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguinae), Torresian Crow (Corvus orru), Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina) and Magpie-lark/Peewee (Grallina cyanoleuca).

Why do they show this behaviour?

Swooping is a natural behaviour for these types of birds to protect their eggs and young. Male Magpies play the protective parenting role and are more likely to swoop. Magpies nest their eggs and young in larger trees, while Plovers use large open spaced areas including school grounds, ovals and football fields.

Protecting our wildlife

Magpies and Plovers are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and harming these native birds is against the law. Many native animals including these two bird species play a vital role in our ecosystem health, including feeding on many insects (such as midges and mosquitoes!).

How is Ipswich City Council supporting community safety?

Council has developed an aggresive native bird procedure. This procedure sets a framework on how council will manage the risks to the community from aggressive native birds. It takes into account factors such as location, severity and duration of the behaviour. Council uses a range of mitigation approaches including signage, education programs and, in extreme circumstances, bird assessment and potential relocation by a suitable quailified fauna consultant.

To report a swooping bird call Ipswich City Council on (07) 3810 6666 or email council@ipswich.qld.gov.au

Keeping safe

To keep yourself safe and to protect our wildlife here are a few tips to follow:

  • Keep clear of the breeding area. Magpies and Plovers generally only swoop for 4-6 weeks of the year
  • Wear a hat
  • If you are riding your bike near a breeding area, dismount and walk. This can help stop the swooping behaviours
  • Avoid the defence zones by taking a different route while the bird is displaying aggressive behaviours
  • Hold a stick or umbrella up in the air as you walk to help deter the birds
  • Stick eye spots or stickers on the back of your bike helmet
  • Maintain eye contact with the aggressive bird if you have to enter the defence zone
  • Help educate the rest of your family, neighbourhood, school, staff and friends!

Remember

  • Magpies defend an area around called the 'defence zone'. For pedestrians, this zone is about 110m from the nest, and for cyclists about 150m.
  • Swooping only occurs during a small timeframe within the year
  • Yelling and throwing sticks or stones will not only harm the birds but may provoke more vicious attacks in the future
  • Always leave young birds alone. Young birds that are preparing to fly are called a Fledging. Fledgings are commonly found at the base of a tree and are still learning to fly, trialling their skills with their parents close by. Baby bird kidnapping is a common mistake by many!
  • Only nine per cent of magpies are aggressive towards people, and many of those showing aggression have experienced aggression from humans.

Additional resources

Queensland Government: Stay safe from swooping magpies

Department of Environment and Heritage Protection: Relocating problem magpies (PDF)

Department of Environment and Heritage Protection: Living with wildlife - Swooping Magpies (PDF)