KEEP AN EYE ON THE SKY

TAKE COVER! SEPTEM­BER IS PEAK SEA­SON FOR FEATHERED DIVE BOMBERS

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - EYE | PETS - WORDS: DR KYRA CRAFT Dr Kyra Craft BVSc (Hons), Wet Noses Mo­bile Vet head vet­eri­nar­ian, wet­noses.com.au

As I threw the ball for my dog in the park yes­ter­day, she was end­lessly tor­mented by a very cheeky mag­pie. Spring is in the air, so be­ware ... it’s mag­pie swoop­ing sea­son.

Mag­pies are well-known for swoop­ing hu­mans and pets dur­ing their breed­ing sea­son be­tween July and De­cem­ber, with peak swoop­ing month in Septem­ber.

A study has shown that only about 9 per cent of mag­pies swoop at peo­ple – with pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists be­ing the main tar­get. It has also been sug­gested that mag­pies can re­mem­ber a par­tic­u­lar per­son from sea­son to sea­son – and tar­get them in­di­vid­u­ally. You wouldn’t want to be that per­son!

Why are they swoop­ing? Mag­gies are de­fend­ing their pre­cious nest and young, of course. Their “de­fence zone” is an area within about 100 – 150m of a nest.

The swoop­ers tend to be male mag­pies who will be­come more ag­gres­sive as the chicks be­come older.

A mag­pie’s de­fen­sive be­hav­iour can range from a non-con­tact swoop with or with­out beak snap­ping, through to peck­ing, dive-bomb­ing and some­times front-on at­tacks from the ground.

A few at­tacks are more se­ri­ous, lead­ing to blood­ied ears and cheeks or, worse still, an eye in­jury. It can be a very har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

There are sev­eral things you can do to try and dis­cour­age mag­pies from nest­ing in your yard: do not feed them, en­sure no scraps of food or rubbish are left ly­ing around and re­move un­nec­es­sary sources of wa­ter from the back­yard (if mag­pies are caus­ing a nui­sance).

If you do have an over­pro­tec­tive mag­gie nearby, do not re­move nests or eggs and never touch a young bird.

Per­haps chose a dif­fer­ent walk­ing route over the breed­ing months.

I’m sure you’ve all seen cy­clists with ca­ble ties stick­ing out of their hel­mets? No, this isn’t a fash­ion trend, it’s a mag­piere­pelling sys­tem. Even stick­ing eyes or a face on your hel­met may help de­ter them.

Re­mem­ber that the Aus­tralian mag­pie is a pro­tected species, play­ing an im­por­tant role in bio­di­ver­sity and pest man­age­ment.

They are birds that are full of char­ac­ter and charisma and they are fan­tas­tic par­ents.

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