How to keep your pets safe during swooping season
With the longer days and the warmer weather, many of us are getting out in the evenings with our furry friends to take a stroll.
And there's nothing better; the fresh air, the happy wagging of the tail, the feeling good about exercising.
You hear the distinctive squawk and the flapping of wings right behind you.
Yes, it's magpie swooping season. And there's nothing we can do to change it – it's nature. But there are things we can do to protect ourselves and our pets.
So, why do magpies swoop us?
Magpies are relatively harmless and peaceful creatures for around 46 weeks of the year. But come springtime when their young are in the nest, and you're in for roughly a 6 week swooping period.
Like any protective parent, they are protecting their young. FYI – it's usually the daddy magpie that's on swooping duties.
They don't want you going anywhere near their nest, and their swooping is a sure-fire way to keep you moving along. And don't think magpies see everything as a threat. They don't.
Magpies swoop if:
They've been harassed in the past (aggressive behaviour, things thrown at them etc.)
You're way too close to their territory (stay away from their nests and young)
You try to pick up a fledgeling (a young one who has left the nest)
Your clothing colour attracts them, or you're travelling at a speed they don't like
On an interesting note, it's believed that magpies remember an 'enemy' and will swoop you year after year if you revisit their territory. So, try not to make an enemy of a magpie!
How can you protect yourself and your pet from swooping magpies?
If your neighbourhood has an issue with swooping magpies, your council will often have a warning sign up. For us, we can:
Use an alternative route (very wise!)
Walk through the territory – don't ride a bike, and don't run
Protect your head and your eyes with sunnies, an umbrella, hat or helmet
Keep eye contact as they're less likely to swoop if you're looking at them
Attach a flag or streamers on a stick and have it sticking up from your bike, helmet or backpack
Our pets, on the other hand, can't take the same precautionary measures (such as wearing a hat, sunnies or holding an open umbrella), so it's up to us to protect them. You should:
Avoid walking your dog through magpie territory, but make sure you have them on a lead if you need to take that route
Stop your pet from attacking a magpie as this will result in the magpie becoming aggressive and a worse threat going forward
Avoid leaving dog or cat food out in your yard as this attracts them (and don't feed them yourself!)
If you've got swooping magpies near your house (i.e. nesting in trees), try leaving your pets inside, in a kennel or your garage when you go out
Here's a quick tip on how to spot a young magpie family (to avoid them!)
If you're unsure on whether a magpie family is a threat or not, here's a quick tip on how to tell a young family (and don't approach them!).
The dad will have a white back while the mum and chicks have grey backs. The young chicks will be the ones complaining to get food.
Do you have any magpie swooping stories?
If you've got any magpie swooping stories, or you've got another tip to share, I'd love for you to pop it in the comments below.
A friend of mine has what she calls the 'iso magpie family' around her house. There's a group of around 30 magpies. She thinks they all moved in together for lockdown and with multiple neighbours feeding them, she's too scared to go outside (disclaimer – she already has a massive bird phobia so this is making her worse!).