[IRLGuideDogs] Australian Magpie

  • From: "Tim Culhane" <tim.culhane@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <irlguidedogs@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 08:20:03 +0100

Hi Valerie,

Looked onwikipedia  and found  the following on Australian Magpies:

The Australian Magpie, Gymnorhina tibicen is a medium-sized black and white
bird native to Australia and southern New Guinea. It is closely related to
the butcherbirds and currawongs of the Artamidae family. At one stage the
Australian Magpie was considered to be three separate species, though zones
of hybridization between forms reinforced the idea of it as one species with
several subspecies. Nine subspecies are now recognized.

The Australian Magpie is omnivorous, with the bulk of its varied diet made
up of invertebrates. It is common and widespread. Familiar birds around
Australia and New Guinea, magpies were introduced into New Zealand in the
1860s and are proving to be a pest by displacing native birds. Introductions
also occurred in the Solomon Islands and Fiji, but these have not proved to
be invasive.

More relevent  to  your  description,  later in the article   wefind  the

Magpies live in urban areas as often as in the bush, and tend not to be
afraid of people. Magpies are a familiar sight to most Australians, and
their melodic song is widely enjoyed. However, during nesting, if magpies
feel threatened by an inadvertent intrusion into their territory, they will
often swoop at the intruder and audibly "snap" their beaks in an attempt to
drive them away. Magpies generally swoop from behind, and without warning,
so attacks can be somewhat terrifying, particularly to children. For this
reason, local authorities sometimes post warning signs during "swooping
season", particularly in urban parks. Magpie attacks can cause injuries,
typically wounds to the head and eyes. Being unexpectedly swooped while
cycling is not uncommon, and can result in loss of control of the bicycle,
which may cause injury.

To avoid swooping attacks, the best course of action is to avoid the
territory of nesting magpies during the nesting season (between August and
October). Magpies are a protected native species in Australia, so it is
illegal to kill or harm them. However, this protection is removed in some
Australian States if a magpie attacks a human, allowing for the bird to be
destroyed if considered particularly aggressive. (For an example, see
section 54 of the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act [23])

If it is necessary to walk near the nest, some people opt to wear a bicycle
helmet or upturned empty ice-cream container as head protection. Magpies
prefer to swoop at the back of the head; therefore, keeping the magpie in
sight at all times can discourage the bird. Using a basic disguise to fool
the magpie as to where a person is looking (such as painting eyes on a hat,
or wearing sunglasses on the back of the head) can also prove effective, as
can holding an object above one's head. In some cases, magpies may become
extremely aggressive and attack people's faces; it may become very difficult
to deter these birds from swooping. Once attacked, shouting aggressively and
waving one's arms at the bird should deter a second attack. If a bird
presents a serious nuisance the local authorities may arrange for that bird
to be legally destroyed, or more commonly, to be caught and relocated to an
unpopulated area.

It is claimed by some that swooping can be prevented by hand-feeding
magpies. The idea is that humans thereby appear less of a threat to the
nesting birds. As always when feeding wildlife, feeding should be irregular
so as to discourage dependence.

By the way,  the Murray magpie  is also a native Australian bird,  and
neither the Australian or Murray Magpies  are in any way related to  the
european bird of the same name.



Tim Culhane,
Critical Path Ireland,
42-47 Lower Mount Street,
Dublin 2.
Direct line: 353-1-2415107
phone: 353-1-2415000


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