Magpies swoop in early
SWOOPING magpies are targeting jittery walkers early this year with the arrival of unseasonably warm weather.
A protected species common to the suburbs and farmland, the Australian magpie can be very aggressive during breeding season.
However, a Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers co-ordinator, Cheryl Cochran, said only a sm- all percentage of magpies swoop on people. “They're very territorial and live within a limited range,” she said.
“With a lot more insects around than usual, a lot more birds have been breeding earlier which means there's a possibility, if they are nesting this early, they may nest again later in the year.”
Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc (WIRES) Northern Rivers bird co-ordinator Melanie Barsony agrees breeding time has arrived.
“Pretty much everything breeds in spring,” she said. “We get a lot of birds breeding when it starts to warm up, which it has been over the past few weeks.”
Magpie breeding season usually began between August and October, Ms Barsony said.
“We're pretty busy right up until March and April, then it slows down for winter, but it's been such a mild winter everything has sped up,” she said.
Targeting parks, gardens, bike tracks and school yards, Ms Barsony said nesting magpies swooped only to protect their young.
“Try to be tolerant,” she urged. “It only happens a few weeks in the year, and for the rest of the year they're cleaning bugs and grubs off the garden or singing us beautiful songs.”
Ms Barsony said new research linked the aggressive behaviour of magpies to kids trying to hurt their young or tree loppers.
“Last year we had a family that called us and couldn't understand why their neighbouring magpies kept swooping their son,” she said.
“And after calling us they confronted their son and found he had been throwing lemons at the magpies. For two years they kept swooping only him and recognising him out of the whole family.”
Renowned as intelligent birds, Ms Barsony said they were protective of their family and - because magpies lived up to 30 years - residents should be nice to them.Safety tips • If cycling, attach large cable ties to your helmet - magpies still swoop but keep their distance. • Leave pieces of lean meat, cheese or dog biscuits for the local magpies to make friends with them. • Wear a hat or use an umbrella if you must pass a nest. • Children should walk bikes past nests.