Aggressive magpies to be culled after injuring residents

A Sydney council has decided to undergo a magpie cull after a series of attacks.

Lane Cove Council said residents had complained about attacks from the birds in Lane Cove North in 2020.

Magpies are a protected species and council said it followed procedures to decrease the likelihood of attacks including posting signs and telling residents about them.

Council also provided QR codes at some of the sites of attacks so residents could report them on the website Magpie Alert, which details where and when magpie attacks have occurred.

But within the past month, council – citing a number of reports from Magpie Alert – said there were a series of attacks on Johnston Crescent and Tantallon Road.

A woman with a bloodied head from a magpie attack.
A Lane Cove woman with blood from a magpie attack. Source: Lane Cove Council

On at least eight occasions residents reported being swooped by the birds, causing injuries to the back of their heads, their ears and foreheads.

“Magpie swooped and pierced the back of my head whilst I (was) walking up the street,” one report stated.

“I had blood, now bruise, headache and a very sore head. Very scared to walk this way again without protection.”

"I didn’t see it coming from behind and it scratched my head," another resident stated. "I now have three bleeding scratches. I felt like a shoe hit my head and the pain lasted three days."

"This is terrifyingly," a third said. "I get swooped almost daily. Surely enough is enough. Do we have to wait until someone loses an eye to sort this out. If this was a dog it would have been put down by now!"

Another said they needed to get a tetanus shot and antibiotics after being swooped.

Some bloodied residents also shared photos of their injuries with council.

A magpie pictured in Rosebud West, Australia
Council plans to cull magpies attacking residents in a part of Lane Cove North. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

Council said it hoped the 2021 season would see less magpie swoopings but due to the injuries it has consulted National Parks and Wildlife Service.

“Council has now received approval from NPWS for a ‘Licence to Harm’ covering both the male and female magpie in Johnston Crescent which is valid from 1/9/21 to 1/12/21,” Council said.

“Council has nominated a licensed animal control contractor, who was included in the application, to carry out the cull.

“Unfortunately relocation of the birds is not possible as the ‘NPWS Policy on Management of Native Birds that Show Aggression to People’ stipulates that ‘If removal of a bird is warranted, then destruction of the animal is the only option that will be considered’.”

A woman with blood behind her ear after a magpie attack.
Council said it cannot relocate the birds responsible for the attacks. Source: Lane Cove Council

Council said it hopes this is an “isolated case” of culling. Residents will be told before it does so.

In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, Lane Cove Council said it has had to “explore” different options due to the injuries residents have suffered.

“We’ll work to the National Parks guidelines and hope that this is an isolated case as we continue to provide a safe environment for residents and our wildlife,” the spokesperson said.

Magpie culling sparks outrage

On Facebook, the cull was met with criticism.

“That's unfair. It's only natural to protect their nest in spring,” one woman wrote.

Others called it “so wrong”, “outrageous” and “disgusting”.

“It is easy to see magpies are nesting. Wear a hat and avoid the area,” another woman wrote.

Emma Hurst from the Animal Justice Party told Yahoo News the council's actions were "inexcusable".

"This is a sickening and brutal knee-jerk reaction from Council," she said.

"It’s not clear if the Council has even given any consideration to the babies in the nest and whether they will starve to death or be hunted by other animals.

"There is absolutely no excuse for this callous action."

Ms Hurst is urging council to find a non-lethal measure for dealing with protective magpies.

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