SWOOPING IN: Children are being swooped on their way to school. Photo: David Thomas.
SWOOPING IN: Children are being swooped on their way to school. Photo: David Thomas.

Family terrorised by early swooping season

SWOOPING season has started on the Southern Downs where territorial magpies are targeting children on their way to school, chasing them through Maryvale park and coming within centimetres of drawing blood.

Mornings have become a terrifying experience for mother Lucy Stevenson and her two children, aged four and five.

“I’ve lived here for five-and-a-half years, and like many people here I thought the magpies didn’t swoop me,” Mrs Stevenson.

“We were fine … until all of a sudden, we weren’t.”

Two weeks ago the Maryvale magpie began to hone in on the children, swooping them on their bikes and following them all the way to the school gates.

“Every day it gets more daring and comes a lot closer,” Mrs Stevenson said.

“(The kids) are really scared of it, they used to bike up and down the path but now they just stay at my heels the whole time.

“It’s dangerous.”

The family has tried everything, from tying zip ties on helmets, to walking beside their bikes, to wearing sunglasses and even peace offerings.

“We started throwing bread out as people suggested, but I don’t think it likes bread,” Mrs Stevenson said.

The family are desperate for a solution as Mrs Stevenson isn’t able to drive.

She has contacted the Southern Downs Regional Council, who she said informed her options were limited due to the bird being a protected species.

A magpie can be relocated if it is classified as dangerous, in scenarios when the bird is attacking near large numbers of people (for example, near schools or daycare centres) or where there are individuals who may not be able to adequetely protect themselves, according to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

In this case the EHP allows commercial bird relocators to transport the magpie at least 50 kilometres away and, where possible, at least 10 kilometres away from the nearest human settlement.

Research has shown that it is unlikely to return to its point of capture.

Mrs Stevenson said the SDRC offered relocation as an option, however she did not feel it would be effective.

Magpie expert Gisela Kaplan from the University of New South Wales says magpies are incredibly clever creatures, capable of recognising faces of both friends and foes.

Ms Kaplan advises people to remove coverings from their face and head to allow the magpies to properly see their faces, then feeding the birds a small amount of heart smart mince meat.

The magpies may refuse the meat, but by placing it on the ground and taking a few steps back, people can communicate friendly intentions, and after several consecutive days it is likely to stop swooping altogether.

The Daily News reached out to the council for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.