Living with Magpies

Living with Magpies

Magpies do inhabit and nest within the Wollongong Campus.  There have been previous spring season reports of magpies swooping near the Eastern entrance on the ring road in the vicinity of Kids Uni and building 39. Pedestrians and cyclists are advised to avoid nesting areas by taking alternative routes.  Motorists should also take extra care when driving in nesting area as cyclists and pedestrians may react erratically if they are being swooped.

For most of the year magpies are not aggressive, but for four to six weeks during nesting they will often defend their territory vigorously.  The male magpie may swoop on anyone who gets too near the nest. Usual warnings include beating their wings, clacking their beaks and occasionally pecking. The magpie will swoop within a “defence zone” – the area around the nest tree. This is about 100 metres in radius.  

If a magpie swoops at you, the advice from the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage is to:
• Walk quickly and carefully away from the area, and avoid walking there when magpies are swooping.
• Magpies are less likely to swoop if you look at them. Try to keep an eye on the magpie, at the same time walking carefully away. Alternatively, you can draw or sew a pair of eyes onto the back of a hat, and wear it when walking through the area. You can also try wearing your sunglasses on the back of your head.
• Wear a bicycle or skateboard helmet. Any sort of hat, even a hat made from an ice cream container or cardboard box, will help protect you.
• Carry an open umbrella, or a stick or small branch, above your head but do not swing it at the magpie, as this will only provoke it to attack.
• If you are riding a bicycle when the magpie swoops, get off the bicycle and wheel it quickly through the area. Your bicycle helmet should help protect your head, and you can attach a tall red safety flag to your bicycle or hold a stick or branch as a deterrent.
• Never throw sticks or stones at magpies in self-defence as this usually makes them more aggressive and ensures an even worse attack next time.



  • Take heed of any warning signs placed around campus
  • Report the incident via Safety Net (UOW Staff).
  • Report the incident to UOW Security (UOW students).

Remember, these birds will only swoop when there are chicks in the nest and they feel threatened.

For advice on what to do if you find an injured magpie or other injured wildlife on campus download the "Dealing with animal related issues Factsheet" - Dealing with animal related issues factsheet (pdf).


Last reviewed: 25 May, 2015