MAGPIE ATTACK: The Doonkuna St magpies protect their nest.
MAGPIE ATTACK: The Doonkuna St magpies protect their nest. Rhiannon Tuffield

Maggies know you so just be nice to them

IF YOU have ever tried to drive a magpie off with sticks or stones you have set it up for a lifetime of swooping, according to one bird life expert.

September is the peak of Australia's swooping season, when magpies around the country begin to attack seemingly innocent passers-by in a bid to protect their young.

Every year, thousands of people are swooped, and research has found magpies are able to use facial recognition to determine who they target.

Birdlife Australia editor Sean Dooley said while only 10% of magpies swooped on average, the cause of an attack was likely to do with the individual magpie and its past experience.

Mr Dooley said magpies could recognise other magpies and people, with pedestrians, cyclists and postmen most likely to be targeted in an attack.

"If you think they're swooping you or if they're taking it personally it's probably because they are,” Mr Dooley said.

"They're protecting their vulnerable young birds from what they perceive as threats so when you ask whether they're attacking certain types of people, it depends on the magpie, their past experience and who they perceive as a threat.”

The magpie is a native Australian bird and is protected under the State Wildlife Legislation.

It is a serious offence to harm magpies and penalties apply.

Magpies adapt well to open and cleared environments and thrive in large areas of lawn that provide foraging sites, where there are scattered trees available for nesting.

They are territorial birds, but outside the breeding season groups of up to 20 magpies may still congregate in rural areas.

Magpie nests are a bowl shape made from dry sticks, grass and bark and other non-plant materials and the nest size is usually around three to four eggs.

While Mr Dooley said it was still unclear as to why magpies targeted certain people and not others, there were ways to avoid being swooped.

"Based on research conducted by Griffith University, the only sure-fire way is if you feed magpies,” Mr Dooley said.

"It doesn't help if you just walk around with a packet of mints in your pocket, it needs to be imprinted behaviour.

"A one-off feed won't change its behaviour.”

You can contact a licensed remover of magpies by calling 0414075314.