Get us in your inbox

A magpie swooping a helmeted man on a bike.
Photography: Qian Wang

Magpie swooping season has kicked off early: Here’s how to survive

It’s game on as swooping season starts ahead of schedule, and these birds will stop at nothing

Melissa Woodley
Written by
Melissa Woodley

August 24 Update: We've just learnt that it's possible for magpies to remember people's faces. Because magpies tend to nest in the same spot every year, people who have been swooped before are more likely to be targeted again, according to ecologist Karl Hillyard. Eek. Qian Wang (pictured above) has been getting swooped since last year. His advice: "I now have my hoodie over my head while going through the area and that does the trick, as the magpie doesn't seem to know what to go for when it can't see any flesh from behind." 


Cyclists, runners and walkers, take caution! We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but magpie swooping season has started early in parts of Australia. If your heart starts racing at the thought of being stabbed in the eye or pecked on the scalp, you’re not alone. 

Magpie swooping season starts early

Swooping season typically peaks in September, but thanks to global warming, our magpie mates have kickstarted their breeding ahead of time. Cyclists and runners (aka anything moderately-sized and fast-moving) are prime targets for the six-to-eight weeks following winter when the daring black-and-white birds build nests, incubate eggs and raise their young. They’ll stop at nothing to protect their chicks from suspecting passers-by, even if it ends in a bloody gash or swollen eye. 

In good news, only eight to ten per cent of magpies actually swoop people. Even rarer are dive bombs that cause injury rather than just scaring you off.

What to do when a magpie swoops you?

Should you ever stumble into a flappy face-off, then be sure to walk calmly and briskly through the magpie’s turf. Gear up with shades, a hat, a helmet and an umbrella shield if you have to pass through the area again. 

Dodging magpies on a bike is a sport in itself, and you’ll want to bedazzle your two-wheeler with flags and streamers or attach sticks to your helmet or backpack. Don't forget to stare the feathery acrobats down too, because they’ll think twice before swooping when you've got your eyes on 'em.

If are a victim of swooping season this year, then consider yourself inducted into the Aussie bravery hall of fame. And next time, use this interactive magpie attack tracing map so you know which areas to avoid.

You may also like
You may also like