Swooping birds

Between July and December some of Brisbane’s native bird species may become defensive and swoop people who venture too close to their nesting site.

A small percentage of birds strike or swoop as a warning to ward off intruders from their territory. Territories may include your backyard, street, local park or school. This is normal defensive behaviour as the bird is trying to protect their eggs or newly hatched young in their nest. It usually lasts about six weeks.

The most well-known bird for displaying swooping behaviour is the Australian magpie, however other species of native birds have also been known to swoop including the masked lapwing (plover), butcherbird, magpie-lark (pee-wee), little friarbird, torresian crow and noisy miner. All of these native birds are protected species under State Wildlife Legislation (Nature Conservation Act 1992).

Tips to protect yourself

Follow these tips to stay safe:

  • avoid areas where these birds are nesting during the breeding season
  • if you are swooped, leave the area as quickly as possible but do not run
  • wear a hat or carry an umbrella
  • wear glasses to protect your eyes
  • do not interfere with the birds or their nest as this may increase swooping behaviour
  • watch the birds while walking away quickly - it is less likely to swoop if it knows you're watching
  • never harass or provoke birds as this makes them more defensive and may lead to a worse attack next time
  • do not touch a young bird.

Bike riding tips

If you are riding your bike you can:

  • stick eyespots, a plastic face or attach cable ties to your helmet
  • dismount and walk (it is believed the birds respond mainly to movement).

Swooping bird management

Brisbane City Council has adopted working towards a natural balance as the guiding management principle in the management of swooping birds. Council:

  • provides information about swooping birds through brochures and at community events to increase understanding and awareness
  • undertake swooping bird assessments and implement appropriate responses on Council land (e.g. installing signage to warn people of swooping birds and installing covered bins to reduce access to artifical food sources).

More information

For more information phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

Last updated:

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