Beware – it’s now swooping season!

29 October 2019

Spring has sprung! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and the birds are twittering in the trees!! ..... in between savaging people who get too close to their babies!

If you've lived in Australia for more than a year, you'll likely be familiar with the relentless activity of our native birds defending their young during spring. Magpies get the most press as they will mark out their territory and attack anyone or anything that comes into it. They are, quite literally, out of control on "protective parenting hormones" and we should respect that this behaviour is their way of being very diligent parents!

Magpies are a native bird and all native birds, their eggs, young and their nests are protected by the Nature Conservation Act 2014 and the Animal Welfare Act 1992. It is illegal to interfere with them in any way. Magpies will swoop and attack pedestrians, cyclists, pets and any other intruders on their territory during this time which lasts anywhere from late August to the end of October. We frequently see injuries to ears, faces and potentially eyes from these attacks. Individual birds will differ in how aggressively and how closely they protect their nests, some birds having a very broad territory and no tolerance for anyone or anything coming into it, while others will only attack if you get very close to their particular tree.

Where a swooping magpie territory has been identified, ACT Government or ANU will post signs giving a warning. In this case, if possible, find an alternative route to avoid the magpie's territory or, if you are walking or running, carry an umbrella or branch overhead to protect yourself from attacks. If you are cycling, you can put cable ties across your helmet to stop the birds getting to your head and face but be prepared for them to still "have a go". Whether walking, running or cycling, if you slow down on approach to the magpie's territory, dismount from your bike and walk quietly, you present yourself as less of an imminent threat and some birds will be less likely to attack. But if you can't avoid the area, you may just have to "run the gauntlet" until the season passes.

Our beautiful ducks on campus are also on high alert protecting their babies. As cute as they are, getting close to take photos will only cause the birds distress and will provoke them to attack. The parent birds can give a nasty bite so give these new families plenty of space and be aware of them on or near the roads when riding or driving. As the weather warms up, you may also see increased snake and insect activity so exercise caution and give these creatures plenty of space to enjoy the campus like us. They're not likely to be aggressive unless you present yourself as a threat to them. Our tip is to basically leave them alone and they'll leave you alone.

In general, all of our wildlife is more active at this time of year so watch out for them on or near the roads as they move about for food and are herding their young families about.

But in all of this, remember what a privilege it is to live so closely with our beautiful and unique wildlife, enjoy their presence and their fascinating behaviours - from a safe and respectful distance.

Article originally published in 'Wellness E-bulletin' courtesy ANU Human Resources Division.