Spring has almost sprung and that can mean only one thing in the eyes of many Australians: Magpie swooping season.
Despite more than 13 million Australians living under COVID stay-home orders, authorities have sent out an early bird swooping warning with less than two weeks left of winter.
Magpies and masked lapwings are among the nation’s native birds known to swoop during breeding season to defend their nesting young six to eight weeks after hatching.
But Rebecca Dixon, a senior wildlife management officer at Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, said less than 10 per cent of swooping birds follow through.
“Swooping by a territorial bird is actually normal bird behaviour, although it’s definitely not fun for their targets,” she said on Friday.
“Birds may swoop people or animals, so be mindful of your pets too.”
Earlier in August, a baby girl died in a tragic accident after her mother tripped and fell while trying to escape a swooping magpie in a Brisbane park.
Five-month-old Mia was critically injured after her mother fell while fleeing the bird. The infant later died in hospital.
Despite that tragedy, experts says swooping birds rarely make contact. Nonetheless, cyclists, runners and walkers are reminded that their reactions can make the situation worse.
Ms Dixon said swooping targets should remain as calm as possible, even as the fear-inducing sounds of swooshing, screeching and beak-clapping draw nearer.
“Do try to protect your head and eyes and move quickly – but don’t run, as this actually upsets the birds,” she said.
“It’s very important not to do anything to threaten the swooping birds – or interfere with their nests – or to feed them, and to remember that they’re simply protecting their young.”
DELWP has an interactive map on its website showing known swooping bird hotspots across Victoria and is urging people to plan their routes accordingly, where possible.
Under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to kill, take, control or harm wildlife including magpies and other native birds in Victoria.