Swooping Birds

Swooping birds can be scary and even dangerous. Native birds like magpies fly down close to your head and face.

Native birds swoop from their nests. In Warrnambool native birds nest in parks, gardens, backyards, bushland, in schoolyards and along bike tracks.

Any inquiries about swooping birds should be directed to the responsible authority which is the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

Why birds swoop

Like most animals, magpies and other birds swoop to protect their nests, eggs or babies. Swooping birds usually swoop within 30 to 50 metres of their nest. They swoop during their breeding time in winter and spring. There is more chance of an attack if birds are teased or feel threatened.

Common swooping birds

Australian magpies are the most common swooping birds in Warrnmbool. The Australian magpie has black and white feathers and breeds from August to October.

What is swooping?

Birds swoop to scare you away from their nest. A swooping bird:

  • Clacks its beak.
  • Flies down towards you.
  • Flaps its wings above your head.
  • May attack your face, eyes and head with its beak.

Swooping birds can cause injuries. Cyclists may fall off their bikes or ride off a bike path.

What to do in an area with swooping birds

  • Avoid the swoop area. Walk or ride a different way.
  • Cyclists should always wear a helmet. Get off your bike and walk through the swoop area.
  • Put up warning signs for other people.
  • Travel in a group. Most swooping birds only swoop individuals.
  • Wear a hat with 'eyes' painted on the back or wear sunglasses backwards. This may stop magpies swooping.

What to do during an attack

  • Be confident and face a swooping bird. Usually it attacks you from behind.
  • Hold a stick or umbrella over your head.

What not to do during an attack

  • Do not panic and run. Running encourages a swooping bird to continue its attack.
  • Do not shout, throw stones or hurt the birds. They will swoop more.
  • Do not destroy their nests. This is illegal. The birds may nest again and then their breeding season is longer.
  • Do not feed or make friends with native birds.

Protection of native birds

All native birds are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975. There are serious penalties for taking, harassing or injuring native wildlife. It is illegal to kill birds, destroy their nests or eggs without a permit or authority.