Magpies remember people for years, expert says


With magpie swooping season starting, a Brisbane academic has warned magpies will attack the same victims again and again.

Griffith University behaviour ecologist Darryl Jones said magpies recognise people and can remember them for years.

The best way to avoid being swooped by protective magpies is to stay away from nest trees. Photo: WikiCommons

“Most magpies live in quite small territories which they never leave,” Prof Jones said.

“In the suburbs, that means they only see about 20-30 people every day and they know them all.”

Why they decide that some of these people are a threat is unknown.

“Remember that magpies that attack people are almost always specialists on either pedestrians, cyclists or posties, and won’t attack other types,” Professor Jones said.

Magpies only attack people close to their nest trees so the simplest way to avoid them is to just stay away.

“But of course, most people don’t know when this is going to happen so when attacks do occur, it’s important to protect the head using an umbrella, a stick or a hat,” Prof Jones.

Magpies attack people as they are trying to protect their chicks in the nest from what they regard as a threat. It only happens after the eggs hatch and before the chicks leave the nest.

“But only about 10 % of all magpies do swoop,” Prof Jones said.

Professor Jones said ‘swooping season’ will normally end in the middle of October when the chicks leave the nest.

“However, in some seasons they can have another lot of eggs so it can be a lot longer.”


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