Defensive birds

Learn more about the habits of defensive and nesting native birds in your region.

Defensive birds

Some native birds, like magpies, can act defensively to protect their territory and their nests and young. On the Sunshine Coast, this usually occurs between July and November each year. Please be tolerant of these protected and iconic native birds if you walk or ride near nests.

Protect yourself

  • Move quickly through the area but do not run, where possible, walk in groups, or avoid the area altogether
  • If you are riding, dismount and walk your bike
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses or carry an umbrella
  • Do not interfere or act aggressively towards birds or nests as they have a very long memory, and this will just encourage further defensive behaviour in the future.

Learn about your native birds, their needs and how you can help protect each other


Magpies will often stay in one area for up to 20 years and can identify individuals by their facial features. Only 10 per cent of breeding males will swoop, looking after their young for up to two years. Swooping only begins once the eggs are hatched and ends once the chicks have left the nest, which is about six to eight weeks.

Learn more about our native magpie and listen to their call on the birdlife website.


Magpie-larks construct a bowl-shaped mud nest lined with feathers and grasses sometimes up to 20m high above the ground. They will defend this nest up to a territory of 10 hectares with both parents sharing incubation and caring duties for young.

Learn more about our native magpie-lark on the birdlife website.

Masked lapwing:

Masked lapwings are ground dwelling birds that nest on the ground by scraping away ground cover. Young are born with a full covering of down and capable of feeding themselves merely hours after hatching. Adults will ‘dive’ on intruders to defend their nest site or attempt to lure you away from the site by acting as if they have a broken wing.

Learn more about our native masked lapwing on the birdlife website.


Butcherbirds nest within 10m of the ground, constructing a bowl-shaped nest of sticks and twigs, lined with grasses. To defend their young, butcherbirds will swoop while loudly ‘cackling’. Young will remain in the breeding territory for around a year and help raise the young of the following season.

Learn more about our native butcherbird and listen to their call on the birdlife website.

How we manage with defensive birds

We look into any reports of birds acting defensively on council owned land.

We visit the site and do an assessment for each report and use our protocol to figure out the best way to work towards a solution.

We will actively monitor the bird if we think a bird’s defensive behaviour is going to get worse.

All native birds and their nests are protected by the Nature Conservation Act 2014 and the Animal Welfare Act 1992. It is illegal to interfere with them in any way, penalties vary on circumstances.

Reporting a defensive bird

To report a defensive bird in your neighbourhood, please contact council with the location and species of bird.

Go bird watching in your backyard

Injured wildlife

For details of what to do if you find a sick or injured native animal, see council's injured wildlife webpage.