Science At Home: Magpie Tracking


Do you have a vicious magpie near your house or your school yard?

You may well get nervous when you see a magpie at this time of year, but there’s no reason to fret just yet.

According to this study, less than 10% of all magpie breeding pairs show any aggression to people – and of these pairs, it’s usually only the males who swoop. So there’s less than 5% chance that the magpie you see will swoop you!  The odds are in your favour.

If you do happen to encounter one of those 5% who swoop, your best bet is to avoid the area.  Magpies are intensely territorial, and they won’t trespass into areas that don’t ‘belong’ to them.  You might also want to walk your bike through that area – the speed of moving bicycles can aggravate them.

Sunglasses are a great way to protect the most vulnerable part of your face.  If you’re cycling and it’s getting dark, you might also want to invest in a pair of goggles.  If you’re thinking about studying science at uni soon, you definitely won’t regret buying a pair of safety goggles a little early!  You can get them from university co-op stores or online.

There’s a useful online tool where you can check for magpie attacks, as well as log any that have happened to you. You could also get some tips from CSIRO’s very scientific tests investigating what annoys the magpie living outside their laboratories.

You could also take a deeper interest and observe the magpies in your area – take a look at whether it has a mate, where it nests, and even take the time to enjoy its song.  Magpies can stay tied to their territory for life – sometimes up to 20 years!  So you’re probably meeting the same magpie day in, day out (indeed, year in, year out!).  See how many different magpies you can spot in your neighbourhood!

If you enjoy learning about and observing animals, you should take a look at our Animal Behaviour courses.