Last month in Brisbane, Australia, a swooping magpie led to the tragic death of 5-month-old baby Mia. Now, the city council has come forward with plans to promptly remove aggressive birds from pedestrian-heavy areas.
Harmful encounters with magpies are far from unheard of: in Australia, the birds are known for swooping in on unassuming pedestrians during their breeding season. According to the Australian Academy of Science, magpie-swooping is a behavior found between July and November, as males vigilantly lookout for potential threats to their young. “If a threat is spotted, the male may swoop in a defensive warning display,” explained the Academy.
Magpies are known to swoop on “cyclists, joggers, walkers, pets, birds of prey, and even other magpies,” occasionally resulting in injury. As Professor Darryl Jones of Griffith University told the Academy: “There are important reasons for accepting that magpies actually are aggressive…and they most certainly can be extremely dangerous. Thousands of people are injured every year.”
In the mid-August accident that killed baby Mia, a magpie in Brisbane’s Holland Park swooped on her and her mother. According to 7News, Mia’s mother, who was carrying her at the time of the attack, tripped while attempting to avoid the bird. Mia was in critical condition when she was transported to Queensland Children’s Hospital, where she passed away soon after.
Later, it was revealed that the aggressive magpie had been the subject of five complaints in the weeks leading up to Mia’s death. It has since been removed from the park.
The horrifying accident has led the Brisbane City Council to reevaluate its approach toward the birds moving forward. As The Australian reported, Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner released a statement on the pending changes.
“What happened to baby Mia was a tragic accident that has been extremely traumatic for her family and affected so many people in our community,” he said.
“What the report makes clear is that council needs stronger procedures to ensure experts are called in earlier and these birds are relocated. In urban areas, like in parks and along footpaths, we have to always put people first.”
Easily visible signs will reportedly be implemented in areas where magpie attacks have taken place. Additionally, the council promised to respond to reports of aggressive magpies in a more urgent manner.
“The changes I have made will now make it crystal clear that whenever there is a dangerous swooping incident or evidence of a bird’s aggressive behavior…escalating, it will be a requirement that the state-licensed experts are called in,” said Schrinner, according to The Australian.
While magpies can occasionally cause grievous harm to individuals, the majority of them do not pose a threat. As the Australian Academy of Science explained, “only one in 20 magpie males will engage in swooping antics,” and “80 [percent] of humans living in magpie territory will never get swooped.”