When I was growing up Magpies were a feared and dreaded creature. You would be walking along the road, enjoying a beautiful day when suddenly, something would grab at your hair and dash off again. From then on you’d be walking in fear that the next swoop would cause injury. Nothing would stop them, you were at their complete mercy and there didn’t seem to be anything you could do to stop Magpies swooping you.
I did learn over time that they wouldn’t swoop if you were looking at them, so would often turn around and look at them as I was walking away. This worked pretty well but it was a hassle constantly looking back and I was always worried I wasn’t doing it enough times so the stress wasn’t really diminished on my part.
When my husband and I moved to Byford there were a lot of magpies in the area but none nearby would swoop us. However if I walked even 1 km down the road I’d get swooped. We started to see patterns in how we were living with our local birds, plus, I was lucky enough to stumble on a hint that stopped all stranger magpies from swooping on me. It’s now been years since I’ve been swooped and magpies have gone from being a bird I was afraid of to one of my favourite birds.
Let Them See You About.
As we have dozens of trees on our block we have a lot of native and introduced birds that fly over or hang out in our trees and we like to feed them.
The Galahs, pidgens and doves that hang around like to eat bird feed we get from our local stockfeeders. It’s not unusual to see a dozen or more eating at one time.
The magpies will eat the bird feed but they prefer cat food. We discovered this by accident, they simply started eating the cat biscuits we’d put out for our cat to eat. These would sit on a little table next to our kitchen window and they’d fly in under the patio and help themselves to our cats biscuits. The magpies will fly in under the patio to feed. They are not scared of us looking at them in the kitchen and will often fly down while we’re sitting outside.
The local magpies see us out and about all the time. We’re always working in the garden or walking the dog down by the creek. Over the years they have been watching us go about our daily business and seem totally unfussed by us.
Never Chase or Harass Them.
One of the main reasons we believe our local magpies do not swoop us is because we don’t do anything to alarm or scare them. We don’t chase them, yell at them or throw things at them. Not even in a funny ‘lets run through the group’ way. If I’m out in the garden and see a magpie close by I’ll always deliberately not look at it and walk a little slower, not making any sudden movements or loud noises. They’ll often watch me go by but will stand their ground unless I get too close, say a metre or less.
They’re not always this nice. We have seen them swooping dogs or kids they don’t like, even ones that live on our street. We’re not absolutely certain but think it may be because they have antagonised the magpies previously.
Thanks to this gentle approach to our local magpies they have no worries about hanging out in our garden (they are certainly not afraid of the cat who they will often make wait till they are finished before he can have his biscuits). The last couple of years they have started nesting in our trees even though there are hundreds of trees in the area not on private land. They aren’t bothered by the going ons in our back yard and we have an often used trampoline and grass area. The mums will also bring their babies into our yard where we watch them hopping about and learning to fly.
And Lastly. How To Stop Strange Magpies Swooping.
This is all well and good but what if you’re somewhere and you don’t know the magpies? And they don’t know you? A magpie swooping is a scary thing and you just want to protect yourself, not scare or hurt them.
The best thing I’ve discovered for keeping swooping magpies away is to carry a stick. Not a big stick, and certainly not for swinging at the magpies. You simply hold a stick so it sticks out past your head and walk along on your merry way. Magpies won’t swoop.
It doesn’t even have to be a big stick. I once saw a woman with a 10cm long stick held up at head height and she was walking along quite unmolested by a particularly unsettled magpie.
On Feeding Magpies.
It’s not recommended to feed magpies. And we don’t. But we don’t go out of our way to keep them away from the cat food. Outside is the best place for our cat food and that’s where we keep it. Feeding native birds is a very contentious issue in Australia and about a third to more than half of all households in this country regularly feed birds at their homes. And some animal experts see no harm in feeding native birds.
To find out what you should definitely NOT feed magpies this page has great information.