Is It Legal To Kill Aggressive Magpies?

Spring is finally upon us, but so is the dreaded Magpie season. Those ruthless swooping demons are extremely aggressive during this time of year as they defend their nests with gusto around gardens, schoolyards and parks. So is it legal to kill one of these angry birds before it pecks an eye out?

Magpie picture from Shutterstock

Magpies like building their nests in areas with short grass and tall trees, which means you'll frequently see them at parks where kids become easy pickings. Magpies will swoop down like death from above and, if they're extra feisty, will peck and scratch their victims.

If you're unlucky enough to live in a magpie-infested area, the thought of sending a few of these pesky birds to an early grave might have crossed your mind at one stage or another: one well-aimed stone or air rifle pellet could put an end to the terror for years to come.

Generally speaking, killing native animals is illegal in Australia unless you have a licence or relevant authorisation to do so. This applies to magpies as well.

However, in states that don't consider magpies a protected animal, culling initiated by the appropriate government authorities is totally fine. For example, in ACT the magpie is not protected and the state's Parks and Conservation deparment has begun a magpie cull after several incidents of the birds stealing food from residents.

In New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, culling the birds is not permitted and even removing a magpie nest is considered illegal.

While exceptions are occasionally made by local councils when a bird proves dangerously aggressive, you're not allowed to take the law into your own hands. In some states, the penalty for killing native birds without a permit can exceed $10,000 per bird.

It also important to remember that magpies, despite their tenancy to attack humans, are not inherently evil and are only trying to protect their territory. They may be a huge nuisance (and the stuff of nightmares for children who do get attacked), but they have an important place in the Australian environment as they act as an agent for pest control by preying on small insects like mosquito.

The good news is that magpie season only lasts for about six to eight weeks. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has provided some tips to avoid magpie attacks:

  • Avoid the nest area and take a slight detour. (Most birds will only swoop within a 50 metre range of their nest).
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat. (Magpies do not like to be watched. Try sticking “eyes” on the back of your hat).
  • Wear glasses to protect your eyes.
  • Travel in a group (swooping birds generally target individuals).
  • Walk quickly away from the area. Do not run.
  • Carry an open umbrella above your head.

You can find out more about how magpies are protected in your state or territory at the following links:

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


    Are the government authorities liable if someone is severely injured or killed during an accident caused by a magpie? Riding a bicycle through magpie infested area, I'm always fearful that an attack may cause me to lose balance and fall off in front of a car and be injured.

      Aren't you wearing a helmet? I ride past swooping magpies every day, I hear 'click click' of their claws on my helmet and I ride on, I know the area they do it, like you said you do too, I don't get surprised so why do you? Ignore them. Why are you terrified of 300grams of feathers? It's not a winged wolverine mate.

        Why would you be scared of a bullet? It's only a few grams of lead.

        The weight ain't the issue, it is the fact that they are flying at you at full tilt armed with a rather long, pointed beaks which could hit you in the eye.


        Magpies don't give a crap about being watched. When I was in High School there were Magpies which would fly at you, turn around and come in for a second run all while you were looking at them and waving your arms around trying to scare them.

        Don't be a d-bag and kill animals because they are protecting the young. Magpies are friendly, what, 85% of the year?

          I've been swooped dozens of times by various birds (mainly Magpies but I think the others might have been plovers) while riding around Melbourne over the year. Pretty much every time it's been from behind. So I'd say the chances of getting pecked in the eye are pretty slim. As for the actual impact it's not enough to throw me off course but it can come as a bit of a surprise since they tend to come from behind. Initial split second thoughts have sometimes left me wondering why the F* someone threw a small rock or something at my head before seeing a bird fly away. Occasionally I've caught a glimpse of them hovering above me before the swoop. Some threatening birds will just hover for a bit before flying away without a swoop.

      I'd recommend taking a detour. The government authorities aren't liable if someone goes swimming in the Daintree and gets 'et.

      * Avoid the nest area and take a slight detour. (Most birds will only swoop within a 50 metre range of their nest).

      When I worked on a farm up north, I was staying at a place maybe a 20min walk across some paddocks. During magpie season, there was one particular gum tree playing host to a nest that was the bane of my trek, adding an extra 5-10min walk as I circled the perimeter of the swooping territory. I ended up actually marking the perimeter with gouges into the earth. So reliable was this 'pie's understanding of their territory that the boundary was reliable within centimeters. You step over the line? She calls at you. You step back? She stops.

      Each magpie might be different about the range, but they all have a distinct warning call that they make when you stray into the perimeter of their guarded territory. They will actively communicate with you about this perimeter.

        I live in a dead-end street, so there is only one way in or out, so no detour...

          Tough break. On the plus side, dead-end street should be lower traffic and minimal chance of getting knocked into it until you're out and free. I'd say either sprint and stay focused, or walk the bike with your helmet on and try the other tips, like googly-eyes glued on. (Might even get some flattering comments/comments that you can spin into flattery.)

          Last edited 07/09/15 6:37 pm

            Just Blu-tak them on, if you're the fashion conscious type.

            People use Zip Ties sticking out to act as another Deterrent, seems to work from what I've seen.


            At the end of the day killing them is admitting they are smarter than you.

              We just feed all the ones in our street, and they leave us alone.
              The zip ties also work.

            An entertaining, if staged video on the effectiveness of eyes on helmets..


            Get Mum

              The problem is those don't look like eyes they look like circles on the back of the helmet, Magpies are smart enough to know that, Googly eyes move, and more realistic ones work.

                You're right, and I think the authors of that video tacitly acknowledged that it was done more for entertainment purposes than science, the desired result being that the magpie attacked her.
                Hilarious mayhem ensued..

      I assume you have air gaps in your helmet? Get big long cable ties and tie them around your helmet so the tails poke up in the air.

      Yes and the Government are also responsible if you're struck by lightning. Remember to sue their pants off... #sarcasm

      Kill all the megpai & crows or get eyesight from those who believe

    Carry a tennis racquet... cause you just got back from a tennis game... O:)

    Yeah man, they're in no way capable of knocking you off your bike. Just don't swerve to avoid them and carry on.

    At one point in my life I was getting around by bicycle a lot and was told by a neighbour that they've been watching me nonchalantly get swooped by magpies for several weeks straight... I had my earphones in every single time and never even noticed.

    Funny thing about crows, they can tell if you are pointing a stick or a rifle at them.

    Culling them for stealing food seems a bit over the top

    It also important to remember that magpies, despite their tenancy to attack humans

    Are you serious!?!?
    Hire an editor, lifehacker.

      A small team writing lots of articles, errors are going to get through sometimes especially if its something a spell checker wont pick up. Knot the end of the world.

    I've had one get me in the face & draw blood while I was riding my bike so it was lucky I was wearing glasses.
    I had another swoop too low & get caught in my spokes, I was going pretty fast at the time so it got shredded.

    Listen to this song to get advice on Magpies

    Might want to check the legality of using an air rifle in an urban area. It's probably a more serious crime than killing a bird.

    Seriously? You're suggesting people kill them? How about leave the native birds alone, and understand that they don't have all that many places to live any more
    Am seriously stunned that you would even suggest such a thing, absolutely disgusting. When the fuck did we turn into america where we shoot anything that is even the slightest problem?
    Leave the poor birds alone

      Umm, pretty sure the article is NOT advocating killing them.

    I was asked to shoot a magpie once when I was working at an equestrian centre in rural NSW.
    It's attacks spooked the horses in a corridor between two fences, with no other possible route. The last straw for the owner was when a young rider was thrown.

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