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 (Vanellus miles).

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!).

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 3-4 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
  • Create signs to help spread the word of a breeding site and swooping area
  • 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
  • Help educate the rest of your family, neighbourhood, school, staff and friends!


  • Swooping only occurs during a small timeframe within the year (maximum 6 weeks)
  • Yelling and throwing sticks or stones will not only harm the birds but may provoke more vicious attacks in the future
  • Always leave the 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!
  • Research has shown that aggressive Magpies have become defensive due to hostile behaviour displayed by humans, and have resulted in more protective parenting behaviours that include swooping

Additional resources:

Queensland Government Magpie Territory Poster (PDF, 104 kb)
Queensland Government Relocating Problem Magpies (PDF, 111 kb)
Queensland Government Swooping Magpies (PDF, 213 kb)
Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Plover Territory (PDF, 151 kb)