It's officially Spring, which means the return of 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?
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.
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:
- NSW: The National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974
- Victoria: Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988
- Queensland: Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006
- South Australia: National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972
- Western Australia: Wildlife Conservation Act 1950
- Tasmania: Nature Conservation Act 2002
- ACT: Nature Conservation Act 2014
- Northern Territory: Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act
Magpie season is currently in full swing (or should that be swoop?) with dozens of parks and playgrounds descending into avian war zones. But just because something is scary doesn't mean you should believe everything you hear. Here are five bogus magpie myths that the nation needs to debunk.
This story has been updated since its original publication.