As the cold of winter is replaced by the warmth of spring, many of our native birds start to nest. While most birds quietly go about the business of laying eggs and rearing their young, there are a few birds that are a little more aggressive – especially Magpies and Plovers (Masked Lapwings). During times such as these, it becomes imperative to manage these birds.
Plovers like to nest in short grass on flat ground with plenty of open space around them, which is why they are often seen on sporting ovals. Breeding season is from November to June each year, and they usually lay 3 to 4 eggs in a small depression in the ground, with eggs taking 28 days to hatch. They are very faithful to a nesting site, and once established will return to the same site year after year.
Magpies have a long breeding season from June until January. Their nests are usually high in tree forks with 2 to 5 eggs. When magpies cause problems, it is usually the male that attacks. He will fly close, peck at the face or neck or even dive-bomb into the hapless victim. Magpies seem to particularly hate people on bikes, and have an excellent memory for human faces, attacking the same people over and over again. Most plovers aggressively defend their nests from nearby intruders, and approximately 9% of all magpies take on the dreaded swooping behaviour. Most researchers believe that the aggressive males have experienced what they consider was some sort of problem with human contact, which they remember. So make sure kids do not tease or throw things at them.
If you have had a problem with plovers nesting on the ground you can let the grass grow long or plant shrubs to reduce the attractiveness of your site to plovers. Don’t try to move the eggs or hatchlings yourself; call in the experts.
If you have swooping magpies or plovers near you, you can take some simple precautions when you go through their territory. If you are on a bike, then wearing a bike helmet with plastic cable ties sticking up like an echidna is the most effective. You can also attach a pole with a flag at the top to the back of your bike. If you are walking, then wearing a hat with eyes painted on the back, or carrying an umbrella seems to deter the would-be swooper. Do not run, as this will only encourage them to further swooping.
There have been rare occasions when magpies and plovers become highly aggressive. Sometimes they need to be re-located for the protection of humans in the area. Research has shown that when a male is relocated, the female finds a new male who works very hard to impress her by nest building and finding food, instead of swooping on people. The result is the breeding success of the female increases because she has more support from her new partner! Contact Peter the Possum & Bird Man and we will put you in touch with the right people to legally assist you to manage the problem birds.