The Fauna Fetchers' magpies, Wendy and Jerry.
The Fauna Fetchers' magpies, Wendy and Jerry.

COVID-19 may be making magpies swoop more

IT'S magpie swooping season again, but it seems even their lives may be impacted by coronavirus restrictions.

Bridget Thomson said the notoriously protective birds are very intelligent birds and can remember up to 60 different faces - but all that goes out the window when those faces are covered with a mask.

Fauna Fetcher Bridget Thomson with Jerry and Wendy the magpies.
Fauna Fetcher Bridget Thomson with Jerry and Wendy the magpies.

Bridget and her twin sister Sophie are the Fauna Fetchers, and it's their mission to share with the world the wonder of our native wildlife, including magpies.

Magpies just like many other birds and animals! Make different sounds for a whole bunch of different reasons. 🎵 🎵 🎵...

Posted by The Wildlife Twins on Friday, 12 June 2020

They said swooping is a big issue at the moment as it is breeding season for the birds, but there are things you can do to ensure you don't end up on the wrong end of a snapping beak.

The Fetchers said while it seems like there are magpies everywhere waiting to swoop you, only about 8-10 per cent of magpies actually swoop people, and it's mainly the males that do it.

"The females are too busy," Sophie said. "They do all the work - building nests, having the babies and getting the food - the males just sit around keeping watch."

The twins said magpies have flourished in habitats created by humans and that brings them into conflict with humans during the breeding season.

"Magpies are terrestrial - ground dwellers - so they like clear grassy paddocks, paths and parks, and that's where we like to walk," Bridget said.

Magpies swoop to protect their family, and when doing so, Sophie says "they're like the mafia, they are fierce".

While magpies have great memories for faces, they also have great memories for negative interactions with humans.

So if someone who has similar features to you has antagonised a bird, you're in trouble.

But, the twins say you can turn that negative into a positive.

They said before the breeding season, you can make friends with the magpies living in your area, but do it wearing something distinctive so they remember you.

How do you make friends with a magpie? Make interactions with them positive and you can try feeding it.

Fauna Fetcher Sophie Thomson 'playing' with magpies Jerry and Wendy.
Fauna Fetcher Sophie Thomson 'playing' with magpies Jerry and Wendy.

Sophie suggests if you are going to feed a magpie, make sure it is good quality food, and feed it away from your house so they don't get too friendly.

"Make sure it is a good quality mince or Wombaroo mix, which is food for insectivores," Sophie said. "But only give them a little bit, so they don't become reliant."

And the great thing is, Bridget said, the birds pass on the knowledge of that positive interaction with their family members.

Another tactic is to avoid the area birds nest in while they are breeding, which usually only lasts a month.

Websites such as Magpie Alert and apps like Magpie Attack (on iPhone) can tell you where swooping magpies live. You can also share your own negative interactions with magpies to the site to alert others.

And if you can't avoid the area, there's always bike helmets with cable ties attached.