Magpie swooping season in Canberra. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
THERE'S a battle for territory going on in Canberra's newest suburbs. It's being fought on the streets, in front yards, and in the skies. And it could get a little scary.
Magpie swooping season has started, and it's the capital's new developments reporting the highest number of aggressive magpies so far, according to Territory and Municipal Services chief ranger Nadia Rhodes.
''The newer suburbs are really feeling the pressure,'' she said.
''A bird's come back to breed this year and has found the tree they've always been at, which [has] been in the middle of nowhere, has now been surrounded by urban development and houses, and so that magpie is feeling the need to protect their territory where they never have had to before.''
Only a few weeks into spring, TAMS has received more than 30 reports on the northside compared with about 15 on the southside.
Ms Rhodes said the swooping season had also extended in recent years, from about eight weeks in spring, to the end of August to December and even January. ''The conditions are so good and there's so much food source available that [some] birds are having two clutches of young, so they're breeding twice, and therefore that swooping behaviour, that protective behaviour happens all over again,'' she said.
Magpies swoop to protect their territory - which includes not just their nest, but also all the surrounding food sources.
And birds aren't always aggressive, or might only show territorial behaviour against specific people or animals. Ms Rhodes said it was often a case of birds remembering the traits of people or creatures who had threatened their territory in the past.
''Even, say, last year something happened to the bird's young through human behaviour, then that can induce swooping behaviour out of a bird that may have been not likely to swoop before,'' she said.
While most birds don't intend to make contact, accidents can happen, and it can be worthwhile carrying an umbrella or wearing a hat.
TAMS also erects warning signs in problem areas, and can, in extreme circumstances, trap and euthanise overly aggressive birds - although this is a rare final resort. Repeated magpie swoops should be reported to TAMS via Canberra Connect on 13 22 81.
Protect against attacks
- Keep an eye out - birds are less likely to swoop if they're being watched (fake eyes on hats also work).
- Go slow - if you're on your bike, try walking it through the bird's territory, which can sometimes ease the perceived threat.
- Protect your head - umbrellas and wide-brimmed hats work well. Cable ties on helmets won't stop a bird swooping, but does make it hard for them to get close.
- Don't touch - fledglings often fall from their nest quite hard. It doesn't hurt them and is a natural part of their development, so resist the urge to "help".