Australian Magpie

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The Australian Magpie is a native bird well known across the Australian landscape for its beautiful caroling song and distinctive black and white feathers. The plumage pattern varies across its range. Its nape, upper tail and shoulder are white in males, grey in females. Their life expectancy is typically up to 25 years. It has adapted well to human habitation and their appetite for insect pests makes them popular with gardeners and suburban farmers. 

Read more at Birds in your Backyard.

Have you ever been swooped by a magpie in Spring?

A number of Australian native bird species are territorial. Some species, such as magpies and butcherbirds establish and protect their territory during breeding season (late August to early October). They may act aggressively to deter other birds or animals, domestic pets and people, whom they perceive as threats to their nests and chicks. This usually only lasts for 4 to 6 weeks until the chicks fledge (leave the nest). While most birds only swoop or call loudly, occasionally they may actually come into contact with people in an attempt to deter the perceived threat.

To prevent being swooped

  • Walk quickly and carefully away from the area where magpies are swooping
  • Avoid the swooping area by taking an alternative route
  • Do not deliberately provoke or harass the birds as this may make them more aggressive
  • Try to keep an eye on the magpie while walking carefully away. Magpies are less likely to swoop if you look at them
  • Wear a large, wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. You can place sunglasses or plastic eyes on the back of hats which may reduce the likelihood of swooping
  • Carry an open umbrella, or a stick or small branch, above your head but do not swing it at the magpie, as this will only provoke it
  • If you are riding a bicycle, get off it and wheel it through the area. Your bicycle helmet will protect your head. You can attach a tall red safety flag to the bicycle as a deterrent
  • Make a temporary sign to warn other people

Magpies, like all native species, are protected throughout NSW under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, and it is against the law to kill the birds, collect their eggs, or harm their young.

If you feel a magpie is a serious menace, it should be reported to Council or your nearest National Parks and Wildlife Service office.