It was alarming to watch the news during the week and hear of native magpies being poisoned as a way to deal with the swooping and noisy birds annoying residence in Cleveland. It was reported that over 21 magpies were found dead by poisoned meat. Magpies culling’s aren’t uncommon. Back in December 2008, 20 magpies were reported dead by deliberately being poisoned in Sydney suburbs. The maximum penalty for deliberately harming native wildlife is a $22,000 fine or a two year term of imprisonment. Clearly the chance of being caught versus the annoyance of these birds is a risk some people are prepared to take.
Obviously magpies and other native birds can be a menace, particularly around mating season when they are protecting their young. Harming these animals for doing what is innate for them though is not the answer. According to bird expert Trevor Hampel, some steps you can take other than harming them are:
- Give the birds space – keep away from their nest or their young. Think about how you would react if a large monster invaded your home. They are protecting their offspring so respect their space. If there is a magpie nesting on your usual walking route, try to take an alternative route until the nesting has finished.
- Wear protective clothing – this is particularly so with swooping magpies. Wear a hat or helmet to avoid injury. Some people say that painting large eyes on the back of a helmet, hat or cap helps to deter magpies from swooping.
- Don’t feed native birds – if everyone followed this rule there wouldn’t be a problem but it is probably too late for that. If you are having a picnic, don’t be tempted to throw food scraps to the gulls of ducks or whatever is nearby. Just one chip or bread crumb thrown at one bird will often result in dozens of birds flocking to your picnic ready for a handout. In the case of Gulls, it could result in hundreds surrounding your picnic spot.
- Carry a stick – I’ve proved this to be effective with magpies swooping. Carry a stick above one’s head as you walk through a magpie nesting zone. This deters them from attacking your head. Decorating the stick with ribbons can add to the distraction level.
- Carry a flag – this one is mainly for cyclists. Mount a pole on your bike with a flag at the top. It will help motorists see you too!
Most of all – these birds do stop swooping once mating season is over, so give them some time. If it is too dangerous for your family contact DERM (Department of Environment Resource Management) on 1300 130 372 for further direction and assistance or the RSPCA on 02 6282 8300.