Wild Australian magpies are inquisitive, wise, friendly, and fun to interact with. Like most creatures, they are usually respectful to you, if you are respectful of them.

But, they do swoop!

Swooping means they attack humans, other animals, cars, etc., causing about a thousand human injuries in Australia each spring. See:


They swoop if they perceive their nestlings are in danger….

or maybe, if they are having an irritating day.

Like all corvids, they have excellent memories and hold grudges, so if you bothered a corvid in the past, you better steer clear during swooping season, or else be ready to duck down really fast!

Cheers to you from Australia’s marvelous-memoried, moody-magpies~

188 thoughts on “Swoopers~

  1. We have lots of Australian Magpies (introduced here in New Zealand in the 1800s). Our dog (springer spaniel) saw magpies swooping on our cat. The dog has never forgiven the magpies and spends all day chasing them away! Wonderful photographs as always Cindy.

    1. Talk to them, look at them and offer some bird seed. Ravens and crows are corvids too and have the same amazing memories, both for people who are nice to them, and people who are aggressive to them. I have had magpies bring me gifts which really felt like such an honor დ

  2. We have a lot of Magpies in our Domaine but they’re much smaller than their Aussie cousins. I have never managed to photo one, yours are fantastic.

    1. I have photographed magpies in London and Ireland. In Ireland they were flying up high and breaking clam shells with rocks they dropped. In London they were laboriously teasing fox kits who were stalking them in a walled garden. Precious! დ

      1. Research demonstrates that only 1 in 20 magpies attack. It is postulated that something bad was done to the attacker birds that caused them to become hyper aggressive. They will often go after children, and it is thought that children may be more likely as a group to pester magpies, throwing stones, bothering nests, etc. Magpies can remember over a hundred human faces. Here is a link if you want to read more:

  3. I had seen the North American version but never heard of swooping. On to Google: Very interesting bird; said to swoop mainly while chicks are in the nest in a range of about 50 feet and most references were to Austalia.

    1. Yes, and only approximately one in twenty Australian magpies are aggressive and attack during nesting season. It is thought by ornithologists that the aggressive birds had a prior negative experience with humans.

  4. An interesting point Cindy, my mom has a family of them in her yard and because she gives them a bit of food occasionally (when she gardens they sit beside her and grab the odd worm she digs up), must make her part of their family I suppose. And they never attack her when they have a nest of young ones in the yard πŸ˜€
    But if your someone from outside…look out. I have had blood drawn from a nasty beak gash from other nesting parents in different parts of town. And there is no warning until they are right on top of you, the snap, snap of their beaks as they are ‘swooping’ and lining you up. This can also be referred to as ‘dive bombing’ πŸ˜€
    The poor postman, and many others, have cable ties through their motorbike and bike helmets sticking up like some alien creature to stop them getting that close that they can cause an injury (Look up ‘magpie helmets Australia’ in Google then click images at the top) πŸ˜‚ 🀣

    1. I like your mom! I have seen those helmets and visors. Smart to wear them. We visited Harrier Hawk nesting sites in Argentina. We were warned they were formidable and would strafe us. They did, and they were formidable. We were forewarned and knew to expect this so it was exhilarating, but an unprovoked surprise attack by any bird would be dangerous and scary. You might find this article interesting: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/when-magpies-attack-the-swooping-dive-bombing-menace-and-how-to-avoid-them

  5. What glorious birds! The article you linked to was also very interesting: “The best antidote to swooping is friendship. Magpies have excellent memories and can recognise individual faces. So if you frequent an area enough, they may recognise you as the friendly neighbourhood human and won’t swoop.
    But beware: β€œMagpies form memories of enemies as well as of friends,” says Kaplan. Those who antagonise a magpieβ€”for example by swinging at them with an umbrellaβ€”will be perceived as threats and will be treated as such. So be kind, and magpies will be kind in return.” The article also emphasized their intelligence and playfulness (when not guarding their nests…) “They enjoy sunbathing, play-fighting, frolicking in sprinklers, and swinging on washing lines. They even appear to quardle-oodle-ardle just for the fun of it, like humming in humans.” Thank you for another delightful blog post.

  6. I have not known that birds can hold grudges. They have very good memories indeed. I now have different perspective to any birds now.

    They look intelligent but also could be dangerous too if you mess with them.

  7. Ooo – Magpies scare me. I had a friend in boarding school – just outside Mittagong, NSW – who was viciously attacked by a Magpie,, and she ended up in hospital with multiple scalp lacerations and a concussion. Very scary birds – and if they take a disliking to you, they will come after you again. An aggressive bird with a memory for faces, is a frightening thing.

    1. I am sorry for your friend. How seriously traumatic for her, especially as a child. Researchers found that only 1 in 20 magpies attack. The one’s that attack are thought to be reacting to prior negative experiences with humans. They do tend to go after children. Researchers think this may be because some children tend to pester them, throwing rocks etc. The good thing is they remember acts of kindness as well as acts of aggression. Magpie populations in Australia are declining. I have a physician friend who was attacked twice by hawks on his property and made the national news for it each time. He walked under their nest. The first time was a mistake, the second time is harder to understand. დ
      Here is a link you might find interesting about how to avoid attack: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/when-magpies-attack-the-swooping-dive-bombing-menace-and-how-to-avoid-them

    1. People who take warnings like this to heart are the ones who never need to. You would never do a mean thing to a corvid, so they may just bring you a treat! (β—βŠβ—‘)

  8. I wish I could swoop, too, when I’m having a bad day!! Love that they’ve got such good memories (of course, I’ve never bothered one, so perhaps they wouldn’t swoop me, ha!)

    1. Ravens and crows are the same. They remember people who have done a bad thing to them for years. Since you’ve been nice to them, they may bring you a treat for Halloween (β—βŠβ—‘)

  9. Interesting Hallowe’en post, Cindy!
    The cute little Corvids swoop.
    The ugly Covid has swooped & continues swooping. Very, very scary post! OMG!

    β¦πŸ‘»β¦β˜ οΈβ¦πŸ˜ˆβ¦πŸ‘»β¦β˜ οΈβ¦πŸ˜ˆβ¦πŸ‘»β¦β˜ οΈβ¦πŸ˜ˆβ¦πŸ‘»β¦β˜ οΈβ¦πŸ˜ˆβ¦πŸ‘»β¦β˜ οΈβ¦πŸ˜ˆ

  10. We like to watch them playing, like when they’re hopping around like little children. One of our favourite birdiesπŸ‘»Extra Spooky Pawkisses for a Happy Halloween, CindyπŸ‘»πŸΎπŸ˜½πŸ’ž

  11. Gosh, I was about to say how beautiful the swoopers are, but then I read your post and decided they were too much like some people I know so maybe I should rethink their beauty!
    I never knew the first thing about them, though…so your post educated me! Thanks, Cindy!

    1. Actually they are wonderful creatures. Their behavior is understandable. The people you know who seemed like them, are more difficult to deal with, but the origins of their difficult behavior is remarkably similar. Cheers & love to you Sheila დ

    1. The swoop would be an experience to leave off your bucket list. Although I did get strafed by nesting Harrier Hawks in Argentina, I was prepared and it was quire exhilarating! (β—βŠβ—‘)

            1. You know there is another funny thing about hawks, which I have noticed since I live around a bunch of them. When not nesting, hawks tend to like children, if they know them, and fly closer to them out of curiosity, or maybe even friendship? I am caring for my twin 24 month old grandsons at The Holler while their parents work remotely at their house. The hawks always fly super close when we go out on our daily walk about, and the twins know the hawks, they shout “hawk, hawk, eeew, eeew, eeew….” And the hawks always call back, eeew, eeew, eeew, and fly even closer. It is kind of thrilling for the boys, the hawks, and me.

    1. Yes, they do this and it is terrible to watch. Lots of other birds raid nests too. I have to remember that some humans eat veal and lamb, and I only stopped recently doing this recently. დდ

  12. I just read that crows have memories and reasoning power which add to their ability to communicate within a community. I have a feeling that this extends to all of our winged friends including magpies, robins, bluejays, woodpeckers. We really don’t have a full understanding of how advanced they are. We share this earth with amazing creatures. Another wonderful post that celebrates our world. Hugs

    1. Yes we do share this planet with amazing creatures. Birds that cache food like woodpeckers and nuthatches can remember 1000’s of hiding places. Birds are being studied for their awareness of “sense of self in relationship to the world around them.” I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to learn they are more aware than humans! So many other aspects of bird sentience are finally being studied. Bird brains are brilliant brains. დ

    1. Oui! Ce sont des oiseaux trΓ¨s intelligents avec d’excellents souvenirs et ils aiment les gens qui sont gentils avec eux. Ils peuvent mΓͺme vous apporter des cadeaux! დ

  13. Timelesslady

    I just saw some Magpies on an animal show…their brains are large in comparison to body size. I wish we had a few here in NJ. I wouldn’t want to be ‘swooped; though. Hmmm…for some reason this just gave me an idea for a blog post. Funny…

    1. They are intelligent and have excellent grammar! Remember Mark Twain, “There’s more to a bluejay than any other creature. He has got more moods, and more different kinds of feelings than other creatures; and mind you, whatever a bluejay feels, he can put into language. And no mere commonplace language, either, but rattling, out-and-out book talk – and bristling with metaphor, too – just bristling! And as for command of language – why you never see a bluejay get stuck for a word. No man ever did. They just boil out of him! And another thing: I’ve noticed a good deal, and there’s no bird, or cow, or anything that uses as good grammar as a bluejay.” πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

  14. aaa, so lovely Cindy. And bit different from the Himalayan Magpie who carried aqua on her feathers. She looks actually friendly. Like she know you are there ! Beautiful her and your eye.

    Narayan x

  15. I didn’t know anything about these birds til I saw a youtube video about the juveniles playing: https://youtu.be/yJN5_1tfqXo It makes me smile every time I see it, but I do understand about how dangerous they must be when swooping. Reminds me of how I am wary while wearing my hat in the summer in our garden (yard) in case there’s a Red Kite flying overhead that might take a fancy to it – and then to my head!

    1. Yes. My physician was swooped twice by hawks and injured badly each time. It made the national news. He walked underneath their nest on his property. I get why he did it the first time. Not so sure about the second time. Now he hates hawks. I just suggested not walking under their nest….

Leave a Reply