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Tips for the Spring Swooping Season
Wednesday, September 3rd, 2003

Spring has arrived and with it the need for extra caution in the great outdoors, as some of Australia's bird species take drastic action.

Spring heralds the start of the breeding season for species including magpies, mynas, butcherbirds and masked lapwings. Some birds take extreme measures to protect their nests, eggs and young during September and October by swooping passers-by when they feel threatened.

Already in the past week, two Victorians have suffered serious eye injuries from a swooping magpie. Both were transferred to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital for treatment.

Dr Kristen Wells, an Emergency eye doctor at the Hospital, says serious damage is not unheard of.

"Injuries range from superficial scratches and bruises to penetrating injuries affecting the delicate internal structures of the eye and in the most serious cases can result in the loss of vision," said Dr Wells.

Swooping season can leave many of our previously safe and peaceful parks, reserves and gardens as danger zones for children, pedestrians and cyclists using pathways and grounds near where birds are nesting. This aggressive behaviour almost always ends after the breeding season.

"Believe it or not one solution is to have eyes in the back of your head," said Ron Waters, Manager, Flora & Fauna Compliance & Utilisation, for the Department of Sustainability & Environment (DSE).

DSE has produced a "Swoop!" kit, which includes a brochure detailing why birds swoop, key species and ways to avoid them, a sign to alert people to potential danger and a sticker with a pair of eyes, to be attached to the back of hats and bike helmets, which may help to deter some birds from swooping.

"Research shows that birds are less likely to swoop if they are being watched and most birds will attack from behind. So tricking them into thinking you have your eye on them can make a difference.

"It's important to be aware and to take precautions. It's also wise to share this information throughout communities by identifying problem birds and erecting signs in known trouble spots," Mr Waters said.

Native birds are protected under the Wildlife Act and it is an offence to harass or destroy native birds or their eggs, however we must understand their behaviour and find practical solutions for avoiding injury during the swooping season."

Information about the campaign and available resources will be sent to local government, all schools in Victoria, Bicycle Victoria, committees of management, RSPCA, Australia Post, Parks Victoria, licensed wildlife controllers, and bird watchers' clubs.

To order swoop! resources - brochure, poster, sticker and sign - call the DSE Customer Service Centre on 136 186 for an order form or visit the website at www.dse.vic.gov.au/plntanml/swoop/

Note that a small cost is involved for most of these products.


   
   
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