WITH magpie breeding season beginning across the Northern Rivers, people are reminded to take care as magpies become protective their nests and young.
National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) manager Sue Walker said magpies swoop for a few weeks each year when people enter the territory where they are nesting.
"They swoop because they are protective of their nest and young - any perceived threat can cause some magpies to become aggressive,” Ms Walker said.
"While it can be very frightening, these magpies are usually just warning and generally only defend within 100m of their nest site.
"Magpies are a protected species and it is an offence to harm them.”
There are a few simple steps people should take to avoid swooping magpies:
1. Try to avoid the area. Do not go back after being swooped. Australian magpies are very intelligent and have a great memory. They will target the same people if you persist on entering their nesting area.
2. Be aware of where the bird is. Most will usually swoop from behind. They are much less likely to target you if they think they are being watched. Try drawing eyes on the back of a helmet or hat. You can also hold a long stick in the air to deter swooping.
3. Keep calm and do not panic. Walk away quickly but do not run. If you are really concerned, place your folded arms above your head to protect your head and eyes.
4. If you are on your bicycle or horse, dismount. Bicycles can irritate the birds and the major cause of accidents following an encounter with a swooping bird, is falling from a bicycle. Calmly walk your bike/horse out of the nesting territory.
5. Never harass or provoke nesting birds. A harassed bird will distrust you and as they have a great memory this will ultimately make you a bigger target in future. Do not throw anything at a bird or nest, and never climb a tree and try to remove eggs or chicks.
6. Teach children what to do. Educating kids about the birds and what they can do to avoid being swooped will help them keep calm if they are targeted. Its important children learn to protect their face.