Whitehorse City Council

Swooping Birds

Being swooped by a magpie or other type of bird can be a frightening and sometimes injurious experience. Sweeping birds usually attack with their beaks and aim for the scalp, face or eyes, which can be a frightening experience for children and adults alike.

In Whitehorse, native birds may swoop in parks and gardens, along bike tracks and in school yards, or anywhere the birds are nesting.
Australian magpies are widespread and common in Victoria, especially in suburbs and farmland. Magpies breed from August to October. Magpies are very protective of their young and may swoop on intruders if they feel threatened.

For a list of more common swooping birds, view the swooping birds information at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website.

Why Do Birds Swoop?

Like most animals, magpies and other swooping birds instinctively protect their territory, particularly during breeding time. They are protecting their nests, eggs or young from potential intruders. Most birds will swoop within 30-50 metres of their nest.

Their territory may include your backyard, the park across the road or the local schoolyard. If they perceive you to be a potential threat, they may swoop. The likelihood of an attack is increased if they are teased or feel threatened in any way. 

Protection and Avoidance

  • 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 in an area
  • Wear a hat with 'eyes' painted on the back or wear sunglasses backwards. This may stop magpies swooping
  • Be confident and face a swooping bird. Usually it attacks you from behind
  • Hold a stick or umbrella over your head
  • 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

Victoria's Swooping Bird Map

The 2017 Victorian Swooping Bird Map shows locations where people were swooped during the spring breeding season.

Go to www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/managing-wildlife/swooping-birds to add a new swoop site.

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.