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Guide to: Surviving Swooping Season

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    Australia, with its diverse wildlife, is a paradise for nature enthusiasts. However, come spring, a peculiar phenomenon takes centre stage – swooping season. This annual event sees certain birds taking to the skies with a mission: to protect their nests and territories.

    When Is Magpie Swooping Season, and How Long Does it Last?

    Swooping season typically spans from September to December, coinciding with Australia’s spring and early summer months. During this period, many bird species become fiercely protective of their nests and young, resorting to swooping as a means of warding off potential threats. Despite the time period, magpie swooping season typically lasts for about 8 weeks.

    The Culprits: Birds of Prey

    Magpies most commonly take the brunt of the blame during ‘magpie season’. But there are other common birds to be aware of that are also renowned for swooping. The most notorious culprits being:

    1. Magpies

    • Description: Black and white plumage, long tail, and distinctively melodious song.
    • Swooping Characteristics: Magpies are known for their aggressive swooping, targeting pedestrians, cyclists, and even unsuspecting dogs.

    2. Noisy Miner

    • Description: Predominantly grey with a distinctive black crown and face, white patch behind the eye, and a distinctive yellow-orange patch behind the wing.
    • Swooping Characteristics: Noisy Miners are highly territorial birds. If an intruder does not heed their vocal warnings, Noisy Miners may resort to chasing the intruder away from their territory.

    3. Australian Magpie-larks

    • Description: Black and white plumage, similar in appearance to magpies but smaller.
    • Swooping Characteristics: Like magpies, they can be territorial and swoop during nesting season.

    Why Do They Swoop?

    Swooping is an instinctive behaviour driven by the birds’ natural protective instincts. During the breeding season, these birds perceive humans, cyclists, and even pets, as potential threats to their nests and offspring. Their swooping serves as a warning signal, urging intruders to keep their distance.

    How to Safely Navigate Swooping Season

    While swooping can be a startling experience, there are several measures you can take to minimize the risk of an avian encounter:

    1. Awareness is Key

    • Stay informed about local swooping hotspots. Communities and councils often share information about areas where swooping birds are active.

    2. Avoidance Tactics

    • If possible, choose alternative routes that avoid known swooping areas. Parks and nature reserves may provide safer alternatives.

    3. Protective Gear

    • Consider wearing, or dressing your child, in a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, or even attaching cable ties to your bike helmet to deter swooping birds. The helmet can double as an arts and crafts task for your kids!

    4. Travel in Groups

    • Birds are less likely to swoop larger groups, so if possible, walk or cycle with others.

    5. Avoid Eye Contact

    • Birds may interpret direct eye contact as a threat. Instead, keep your head down and use sunglasses or hats to shield your eyes.

    6. Umbrellas or Flags

    • Carrying an open umbrella or attaching a tall flag to your bicycle or pram can create a larger, less appealing target

    Swooping season presents a challenging time for families to safely visit playgrounds. By understanding the birds involved, the reasons behind their behaviour, and taking appropriate precautions, you can navigate this season safely and continue to enjoy the benefits that playgrounds and the outdoors provides.

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