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Chris Regan often attracts the attention of a resident male magpie while out cycling. Image: Contributed.

Feathers fly during swooping season

Duck!

It may sound like a peculiar thing to shout, especially when you’re referring to another bird, but it is important to take extra care when out and about at this time of year.

August through to October is the annual magpie breeding season in Australia.

Like any good parents, magpies are extremely protective of their young and their territories surrounding their nests.

However, some magpies take their parental role more seriously than others.

Male magpies will swoop in a defensive manner, clacking their beaks, squawking and whooshing over the heads of people who trespass too close to their nests and newly hatched chicks, as a warning to stay away.

The good news is, a single magpie will only swoop for around six to eight weeks, and cease swooping once its chicks have fledged.

However, the slightly more inconvenient news is while one magpie stops swooping, another one may begin if there is a new clutch of eggs or younger chicks in its nest.

According to www.magpiealert.com, a social website which allows swooping magpies across Australia to be reported to create community awareness and safety, cyclists have been the most common targets for swooping magpies so far in 2020.

Speedy and agile, cyclists often appear suddenly, causing most magpies to see them as large predators and making them more likely to attack.

Of the 2870 reported magpie attacks as of September 23, more than 70 percent of victims were cyclists, an increase from 68 percent in 2019.

Walkers out and about after being in lockdown for months accounted for 18 percent while runners and joggers had reported only five percent of magpie attacks to date.

Magpies in Queensland had recorded the highest number of attacks, registering more than 26 percent while their Victorian counterparts are close on their tail feathers, accounting for 25 percent.

Only 12 percent of the total number of reported attacks resulted in injury with head wounds, small cuts and grazes and falls from bicycles as a result of being startled by the birds the most common.

Each year, less than 10 percent of breeding magpies will swoop.

It’s important to remember that it isn’t personal, the magpies are just protecting their young and their territories.

The best ways to avoid swooping magpies and subsequent injuries as a result of attacks include travelling in groups where possible, wearing sunglasses and wide brimmed hats, listening for their distinctive calls and avoiding eye contact with the birds.

Feeding magpies in your local area is also a great way to make friends with them and subsequently, reduce your risk of being swooped.

If you see a nesting site, it is recommended you find a temporary travel route during the breeding season and do not provoke any attacking birds as it will increase their aggression.

If you do get swooped, remember to stay calm as panicking will make you appear more threatening towards the magpie.

Magpie attacks are encouraged to be reported at www.magpiealert.com  

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