Vet Talk with Dr Kyra

Swooping Season Is Here!

As I threw the ball for my dog in the park yesterday, she was endlessly tormented by a very cheeky magpie. Spring is in the air, so beware…It’s magpie swooping season. Magpies are well-known for swooping humans and pets during their breeding season between July and December, with peak the swooping month in September.

A study has shown that only about 9% of magpies swoop at people – with pedestrians and cyclists being the main target. It has also been suggested that magpies can remember a particular person from season to season – and target them individually. You wouldn’t want to be that person!

Why are they swooping? Maggies are defending their precious nest and young of course! This ‘defence zone’ is an area within about 100 – 150m of a nest. The “swoopers” tend to be male maggies who will become more aggressive as the chicks become older.

A magpie’s defensive behaviour can range from a non-contact swoop with or without beak snapping, through to pecking, dive-bombing and sometimes front-on attacks from the ground. A few attacks are more serious, leading to bloodied ears/cheeks or worse still, an eye injury. All-in-all a very harrowing experience!

There are several things you can do to try and discourage magpies from nesting in your yard: do not feed them, 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). If you do have an overprotective maggie nearby, do not remove nests or eggs and never touch a young bird. Perhaps chose a different walking route over the breeding months.

I’m sure you’ve all seen cyclists with cable ties sticking out of their helmets? No this isn’t a fashion trend, it’s a magpie-repelling system! Even sticking eyes or a face on your helmet may help deter them.None the less, the Australian Magpie is a protected species, playing an important role in biodiversity and pest management. They are birds that are full of character and charisma and as it turns out, fantastic parents!

Dr Kyra Craft BVSc (Hons) – Head Veterinarian – Wet Noses Mobile Vet

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