HOT SPOTS: Where magpies are swooping and how to stay safe
**If you have seen a magpie swooping in the Bundaberg region let us know where in the comments below.**
IT'S that time of year again, Bundaberg. Spring has sprung and the magpies are out in force.
Over the next three months, the region's public places will not belong to residents.
As spring breeders, magpies become extremely active in the protection of their territories between September and December.
And while the evolutionary behaviour is purely natural, the flow-on effect it often has in the community can be bizarre.
A cyclist screaming as they race down the street, a flurry of black and white wings close behind; A pedestrian crossing a busy main road to avoid a wary magpie's piercing gaze; or a driver unable to get out of their car because they've parked right below a member of the native species' ever-protected nest.
These are just some of the sights Aussie humans have grown accustomed to seeing in springtime.
Birdlife Australia and Bundaberg branch foundation member Bill Moorehead said the reason behind the often terrifying attacks came down to being a good parent.
"The males become active in their protection of their territories, where they've got their nests," he said.
"They want to keep everything from where their eggs are. They're just being overprotective parents."
Mr Moorehead said despite their being nothing people could do to stop magpies from swooping, there was a way to minimise the severity of the attacks.
"The smartest thing for people to do is stay 50m-100m away from it. If you stay away you won't have a problem," he said.
"The best thing is to hunker down, hunch over and get out of their territory."
Mr Moorehead explained the faster or more aggressive a person is moving or behaving, the worse things will be for them.
"The more aggressive you are, like if you get a stick, it's more likely to want to attack you more. Also, they go after cyclists more because they are moving faster , so they see them as a bigger threat.
"You can't outrun a magpie, they'll fly faster than you'll ever ride. So get off your bike, hunker down and walk.
"And you're better off not looking at it either, or it'll attack you more."
The Bundaberg resident said he'd been bird watching for 40 years and had never been hurt by a magpie.
"I am not scared of them. I bend my head down and immediately leave the area. I don't swing my arms around," he said.
"I just think: 'Sorry buddy, this is your area, its my fault, sorry, I know you're a good parent, I'm going'.
"They've got one of the most magnificent calls in the world. It's a gorgeous call."
Mr Moorehead said he thought it was silly that some people were scared of magpies and argued the fear was directly related to lack of knowledge about the species.
"Ignorance is the problem. The more we know about our wildlife and no how fantastic it is, the less we'll be worried about it," he said.
"They just haven't learned about their breeding biology, but there's easy things to minimise the risk. They're just trying to frighten you and it's working, but in the end, it's like snakes, just leave them alone and they won't bite you."
"It's only three months of the year you have to stay out of their areas."
Ways to help avoid magpie attacks:
- Avoid areas where magpies are breeding and nesting for the duration of the breeding season. Magpies swoop to scare the intruder away from the nest, not to cause injury. Leave the area as quickly as possible and the bird should stop swooping.
- Cyclists should dismount their bikes and walk away. It is believed the birds respond mainly to movement. Protect yourself with glasses, a sturdy hat or umbrella.
- Watch the magpie while walking away quickly. It is less likely to swoop if it knows you're watching.
- Never harass or provoke magpies as this may lead to a worse attack next time.
- Do not try to kill or cause injury to the birds, remove nests or eggs.
- Never approach or pick up a young magpie. Young magpies spend a lot of time on the ground and are usually under the watchful eye of a parent.
- If you are riding your bike you can: Wave a stick or fit a flexible pole to your bicycle. Dismount and walk. Stick eye spots, a plastic face and/or zip ties on your helmet.
Mr Moorehead also strongly recommend against feeding magpies.
"If you give them mince, sausages or whatever, you're giving them confidence. It's like encouraging a dog to chase a cat," he said.
"It means they don't see us as a threat as much, so they chase us with immunity. It's probably built up their numbers a bit too."
Other than magpies, plovers, grey butcher birds and pied butcher birds also swoop in spring.
If you have seen a magpie swooping in the Bundaberg region let us know where in the comments below.