Magpie shot by a Sydney council after complaints were made

By Angela Heathcote | September 3, 2019

Complaints about an aggressive magpie have resulted in the bird being shot, and people aren’t happy.

A COUNCIL in north-west Sydney has shot a magpie in response to complaints made over several years.

According to the Hills Shire Council, 40 complaints had been made about one “particularly aggressive” magpie occupying Old Windsor Road in Bella Vista. They say there have been confirmed injuries, including several hospitalisations.

The Council say the magpie was also known to attack people outside of the breeding season, adding that they don’t believe the attacks were linked to the protection of a nest.

After attempts to relocate the bird failed, the Council opted for a licence to shoot the bird, which they obtain from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

“This course of action was not taken lightly.”

The decision to shoot the bird received strong backlash from Australian bird lovers and several scientists, who say that any of the bird’s young may now struggle to survive.

Others have taken issues with the NPWS’s magpie management plan.

Bird expert Darryl Jones, who’s research has been critical to better understanding magpie behaviour and management of aggressive birds, said he’s “not very impressed.”

Darryl’s research paper from 2003 forms the basis for the magpie management plans used in Queensland, ACT and most of Victoria.

Darryl says that the magpie management plan that is used by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is outdated.

“This 2003 document seems entirely uninformed by this otherwise rather influential research project that has been extremely successful everywhere else.

“It is possible that this was developed immediately before our work appeared, but astonishing that it has never been updated. It is now 16 years old.”

He takes particular issue with points 7 and 11 of the plan, which state:

  • If removal of a bird is warranted, then the destruction of the animal is the only option that will be considered.
  • Relocation of an aggressive bird is not recommended due to the unacceptable suffering and stress on the animal. Relocation may simply translocate the problem.

“This is utterly different to what we do with translocated magpies which typically never return provided the distance is enough and typically settle down somewhere else to breed and never attack again.”

According to Darryl, magpies are “quite possibly the easiest birds to catch.” This is typically done by placing another magpie in a small cage, which is then placed inside a much larger cage.

“The resident male is so incensed that there is another magpie in his territory that he immediately tries to chase it away, blind with rage and rushes into the large trap oblivious to all the people nearby. 

“The longest this took (and we have caught hundreds this way) was about 6 minutes; the shortest was probably 5 seconds.”

“But, of course, if you don’t actually want to catch a bird, then that is even easier…”

Darryl says he’s shocked that native birds are still shot.

“Even in gun-crazy America, the community opposition to lethal control in urban areas is such that this has not been a possibility almost anywhere for decades.

“I strongly suspect that this approach is kept very quiet because there would almost certainly be a strong community response if they knew.”

A previous version of this article suggested that the bird was shot due to one complaint, when in fact it was 40 complaints over a three year period.