Spring has arrived which means the season for swooping birds is also here.
Between July and November birds swoop as a warning to intruders in their territory. ‘Intruders’ can be people, animals, and even objects. when they are defending their eggs and young chicks. They often become more aggressive as the chicks get older, but swooping usually stops once the young have left the nest.
The bird will only defend its nest within a ‘defence zone’. For pedestrians, this is usually an area within 110 metres and for cyclists it is 150 metres. Defensive behaviour can include pecking, dive-bombing and sometimes front-on attacks from the ground. The risk of eye injury means all bird attacks need to be taken seriously.
Do not harm the bird or the nest in any way.
Here are some tips on how to reduce the risk of a swooping bird:
- The best thing to do to reduce the risk from a swooping bird is to protect your head and move quickly past the area, without running.
- If a bird swoops while you are cycling, it will probably stop swooping if you get off your bike and walk.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses or shelter under an umbrella to protect your face from swooping magpies (painting or sticking large ‘eyes’ on the back of your hat can also deter birds, but this won’t work for cyclists).
- Avoid ‘defence zones’ by taking alternative routes during the breeding season.
- If you must enter a ‘defence zone’, birds will be less likely to swoop if you maintain eye contact, or if people walk in a close group.
- Waving sticks or umbrellas in the air or attaching a brightly coloured flag on a long pole to your bicycle can stop birds from swooping.
See the Victorian Government's swooping bird information and map.