Swoop season in full swing

Experts say swooping is just normal bird behaviour.

By Mitchell Clarke

An interactive map tracking magpie movements has recorded about 40 “swooping magpie attacks” across Pakenham, Officer and Berwick since late August.

With the notorious swoop season in full swing, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) have received reports of birds such as magpies and masked lapwings swooping at locations across Melbourne.

Swooping occurs every year during breeding season and is largely a defensive manoeuvre to protect nests.

Native birds swoop humans – and their dogs – to defend their young for the six to eight weeks between when they hatch and when they leave the nest.

According to Magpie Alert, a woman was reportedly swooped about six times over a kilometre stretch in Clyde North on 15 October, while a day earlier, another person was forced to take refuge under a tree with low branches to avoid an aggressive bird.

In Pakenham, a cyclist claims he felt a “few clacks” while riding near McGregor Road on 5 October, and a man in Berwick reported being injured after receiving a “couple of hard goes at the back of the head”.

It comes as a Gippsland man needed to be flown to hospital after a magpie attack left him with injuries to both eyes.

DELWP senior wildlife management officer Rebecca Dixon said that while being swooped by a territorial bird is “no fun”, it’s just normal bird behaviour.

“The best way to avoid being swooped is to avoid the area all together, though this isn’t always possible,” she said.

“If you do end up in an area where there is a swooping bird, try to protect your head and eyes and move quickly through the area without running.”

But experts warn to not “wing it” and prepare for a possible attack, if venturing out.

According to DELWP, some of the best preventative measures include covering your head with a hat, helmet or umbrella and drawing a pair of ‘eyes’ on the back of the hat or helmet.

Alternatively, know your local hotspots and avoid those areas and never feed or harass the birds.

Magpies and other native birds are protected in Victoria under the Wildlife Act 1975, therefore it is an offence to kill, take, control or harm wildlife.

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