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Magpie Season

Magpies

The Australian magpie (Cracticus tibicen) is a native Australian bird and is protected under the State Wildlife Legislation (Nature Conservation Act 1992). It is a serious offence to harm magpies and penalties apply for attempting to harm them.

The Australian magpie plays an important role in natural pest management, as it preys on small insects such as mosquitoes and midges. Magpies can be beneficial to agriculture and gardens because they feed on pest insects.

Long-term conservation of this species is necessary for maintaining biodiversity, which is the variety of all plants and animals that inhabit our world.CW magpie

Appearance

Magpies are a medium-sized black and white bird, with the following characteristics:

  • they are approximately 40 centimetres long
  • adult males have a white nape and rump, while females are grey in these areas and are smaller in size
  • their bill is grey-white and shorter in female birds
  • juvenile magpies have flecked greyish dark markings and dark bills
  • their lifespan is unknown, but some have lived up to 30 years.

Habitat

Magpies adapt well to open and cleared environments and thrive in large areas of lawn that provide foraging sites, where there are scattered trees available for nesting, and water. They are very territorial birds, but outside the breeding season groups of up to 20 magpies may still congregate in rural areas.

Magpie nests are a bowl shape made from dry sticks with a lining of grass and bark or any other non-plant materials that the birds can find. The clutch size is usually around three to four eggs, though this varies according to season, weather, predators and the general health of the parents. Both parents will raise their young.

Problems caused by magpies

Magpies are well-known for swooping humans and pets during their breeding season between July and December, with the peak swooping month in September. This has resulted in the magpie becoming a nuisance to some people.

Most magpies will accept the presence of people within their territories, however when attacks do occur, they usually take place within a one hundred metre radius around the tree containing the nest.

While most magpie attacks are mild, they could cause serious injury to the eyes and head. Find tips to protect yourself against swooping birds.

What Council is doing

Brisbane City Council has adopted working towards a natural balance as the guiding management principle in the management of swooping birds. Find out more

What you can do

There are several things you can do to try and discourage magpies from nesting in your yard. Ensure you:

  • do not feed magpies, ensure no scraps of food or rubbish are left lying around
  • remove unnecessary sources of water from the backyard (if magpies are causing a nuisance)
  • do not remove nests or eggs and never touch a young bird. If you are concerned for the safety of the young, phone Council's Native Animal Ambulance on 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625)
  • do not disturb the birds when there are fledglings in the nest
  • do not throw objects at the bird or destroy the nest as this will increase their defence efforts
  • expect an elevated level of swooping activity during the breeding season between June and December.

Find tips to protect yourself from swooping birds.

More information

To find out more information about magpies, phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

Magpie season NOTICE

Magpies swoop to protect eggs and young from potential predators during the nesting season. They rely largely on intimidation to deter human intruders by flying low and fast, often clacking their bill as they pass overhead. The sound of their wings whistling past, and the movement of air can be alarming, but it is usually just a bluff. Only a few magpies see people as a threat, and most will not swoop you.

There are things you can do to keep yourself safe:

  • Avoid areas where magpies are known to swoop for six to eight weeks until the chicks learn to fly and the problem ceases. They usually only defend a small area of up to 100m radius around their nest.
  • Watch magpies while you are in their territory and adopt a confident stance as this can have a strong deterrent effect. If they know they’re being watched, they are less likely to swoop.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses or hold a school bag or umbrella over your head.
  • If you are riding a bicycle or horse, it is best to dismount. For reasons best known to magpies, bicycles irritate magpies the most. One of the major causes of accidents following a magpie swoop is falling from a bicycle (or horse). ‘Spiking up’ your helmet with a few cable ties also helps to scare magpies away.
  • Magpies are less likely to swoop if you walk in a group. Team up with others if you walk through a nesting area.
  • Harassment by humans causes some magpies to start swooping. Please do not chase magpies or throw things at them and don’t fight back. Magpies have good memories so being aggressive towards a magpie will only make it more defensive next time.

Remember that the magpies are just trying to protect their young. Learning to live alongside wildlife is an important step towards building a better living environment and observing and listening to magpies can be an enjoyable experience. Taking a bird or nest from the wild is illegal without a permit and while such actions may temporarily stop attacks, it is better to leave them in peace.