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
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