Magpies target their victims

Associate Professor Darryl Jones grew up in the bush, where he spent far too much time chasing frogs and watching birds. Wildlife has always fascinated him, especially the behaviour of birds. Lately he has become extremely interested in understanding why some species are able to successfully invade cities and suburbs. Associate Professor Darryl Jones is the Deputy Director of the Environmental Future Research Institute at Griffith University.


Being swooped by a magpie is almost a way of life in Australia. Every spring throughout the country the familiar sometimes terrifying clack of a beak near your ear lets you know that it’s September. We now know that this dramatic behaviour is all about male Magpies attempting to keep threats away from their precious chicks. Normally this would be cats and snakes but magpies have added people.

Cyclists, posties and most often pedestrians to the keep away list. And surprisingly most Magpies specialise in one of these three categories of intruder. Now what is extraordinary is that almost all the Magpies that swoop people, on foot, are targeting the same individuals. And that they do so because they can recognize people by their facial features just as people do. Maybe it’s time to rethink the idea of the bird brain!

Know More: Environmental Future Research Institute