Ex­pert con­demns mag­pie killing


The Advocate (Perth) - - NEWS - Lisa Thomas

A MAG­PIE behaviour ex­pert has con­demned the killing of a bird that at­tacked a one-year-old boy at Whiteman Park on Sun­day, caus­ing him se­ri­ous dam­age to one eye.

UWA As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Amanda Ri­d­ley said it was nat­u­ral behaviour for a mag­pie to swoop dur­ing spring and de­stroy­ing the bird would not solve any­thing.

Depart­ment of Bio­di­ver­sity, Con­ser­va­tion and At­trac­tions con­firmed it had used a firearm to put a bird down, which they believed was re­spon­si­ble for swoop­ing Ja­cob Gale.

Dr Ri­d­ley said although the in­ci­dent was un­for­tu­nate, it was “very nor­mal” for mag­pies in breed­ing sea­son to swoop as part of nest de­fence behaviour.

“This would have been nat­u­ral in­stinct for the mag­pie; it would have de­tected a per­ceived threat close to its breed­ing area that it may have per­ceived as rep­re­sent­ing a dan­ger to its young,” she said. “Some males in breed­ing con­di­tion have high testos­terone this time of year, be­cause this is the time of year is when mat­ing oc­curs, so they may be more re­spon­sive and ag­gres­sive to per­ceived threats.”

She was con­cerned the in­ci­dent would set a prece­dent and more mag­pies would be put down.

“Eu­thana­sia will prob­a­bly re­sult in an­other mag­pie mov­ing into the ter­ri­tory that will also swoop,” she said.

“I do not think killing it solves the prob­lem. Warning signs in ar­eas where mag­pies nest that tell peo­ple to avoid those ar­eas dur­ing the breed­ing sea­son is a bet­ter con­trol mea­sure.

“In these cases, where they pose a con­sis­tent threat to hu­man life and their behaviour is anoma­lous, re­moval from the area is jus­ti­fied. Re­moval should al­ways be pre­ferred over eu­thana­sia,.”

Depart­ment of Bio­di­ver­sity Con­ver­sa­tion and At­trac­tions se­nior wildlife of­fi­cer Rick Daw­son said killing the bird was the only op­tion as re­lo­cat­ing it may have re­sulted in it con­tin­u­ing to swoop and cause in­jury at a new lo­ca­tion.

He said the de­ci­sion was for “com­mu­nity safety”.

“This bird struck the eyes of two small chil­dren in two days,” he said. “The behaviour ex­hib­ited by this bird can­not be mod­i­fied.”

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