Swooping season off to a flying start

Territorial birds swoop to protect their young every year around springtime. (Supplied)

Elle Cecil

With spring just around the corner, venturing outside just got a little more dangerous, and it’s not related to the pandemic in the slightest.

As the weather warms up, native birds such as magpies and masked lapwings begin their annual breeding season, bringing with it some very territorial daddy birds.

Swooping is a method used most notoriously by the magpie to defend their offspring from the time they hatch to the time they leave the nest.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Senior Wildlife Management Officer, Rebecca Dixon, says that swooping is often just a scare tactic, but you should be prepared for the worst.

“A small number of birds will swoop at this time of year. They do this to protect their eggs and young – we are all protective of our families.” Rebecca says.

“Swooping by a territorial bird is actually normal bird behaviour, although it’s definitely not fun for their targets. Birds may swoop people or animals, so be mindful of your pets too.”

Less than ten per cent of swooping birds will actually carry out this defensive tactic and even less will make contact with their target. However, it is best to keep yourself and your pets out of harm’s way.

Though you might get a fright if a bird begins to swoop you, your reaction is important in ensuring that you escape safely.

“To reduce the impact of swooping, try to remain as calm as you can if you find yourself being swooped. Try to protect your head and eyes and move quickly – but don’t run, as this actually upsets the birds,” says Rebecca.

“It’s very important not to do anything to threaten the swooping birds – or interfere with their nests – or to feed them, and to remember that they’re simply protecting their young.”

Magpies and other native birds are protected in Victoria under the Wildlife Act 1975. Under the Act, it is an offence to kill, take, control or harm wildlife in Victoria. Penalties apply to those found in breach.

To remain aware of swooping birds in your area, or to report a swooping incident, visit www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/managing-wildlife/swooping-birds.