Magpies become very protective of their chicks during spring and can swoop on people passing their nests.
Magpies start breeding as soon as conditions are suitable including when weather begins to warm up - generally between July and November each year.
Magpies are not usually aggressive, but for four to six weeks during nesting they often defend their territory vigorously. People walking past may be seen as 'invaders' of the territory, prompting the magpies to fly low and fast over the person, clacking their beaks as they pass overhead. In the vast majority of cases the swooping is simply bluff, however sometimes people can receive minor head injuries as a result of swooping magpies.
The protective behaviour lasts only a few weeks. For the rest of the year the magpie is peaceful and valuable as an insect eater, renowned for its pleasant warbling.
There are a few things that people can do to reduce risks:
- walk away from the area and warn others about risky locations
- don’t provoke the birds
- wear a hat or helmet to protect your head
- hold an umbrella or stick above your head to deter attacks but don’t swing it as this will only provoke the magpie
- hurry past nesting sites confidently and quickly or better still, avoid nesting sites
- if on a bike, dismount to avoid falling off, and move away quickly.
Magpies are a protected species and it is against the law to kill them, collect their eggs, or harm their young.
For more information or to warn others of swooping attacks: https://www.magpiealert.com