Defensive and nesting birds

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

Defensive and nesting 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 2 years. Swooping only begins once the eggs are hatched and ends once the chicks have left the nest, which is about 6 to 8 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 grey butcherbird or pied butcherbird, and listen to their call on the birdlife website.

Rainbow bee-eater

Rainbow bee-eaters nest in holes they dig into the sand, often in the side of dunes along our coastline. Please stay off the dunes to protect their nests.

These parents dig a long tunnel though the dunes leading to a nesting chamber, which is often lined with grasses to incubate their eggs and feed their young. Rainbow bee-eaters usually arrive on the sunshine coast around early to mid-September and stay for the breeding season.

To report nesting birds in your neighbourhood, please contact council with the location and species of the birds. Learn more about our native butcherbird and listen to their call on the birdlife website.

Australian brush-turkey

Australian brush-turkeys incubate their eggs in large mounds of organic matter, which are built and maintained only by the males. Heat is generated by the rotting vegetation in the centre of the mound, between 33-38 degrees celsius. The male brush-turkey constantly checks the temperature of his nest using his bill and adds or removes vegetation accordingly. When the temperature is right, the male will mate with different females and let them lay their eggs in the mound. As many as 50 eggs from various females can be in the mound. Once hatched, the chicks dig themselves out of the mound and are left to fend for themselves.

Learn more about our native brush turkeys on the birdlife website.

Black swan

Black swans lay their eggs in an untidy nest, which they build using reeds and grasses, either on a small island or floated in deeper water. Black swans pair up for life and both adults raise the chicks (cygnets) together. Parents will only raise one brood per season, which can include up to 10 cygnets. Cygnets are covered in grey plumage and are able to swim and feed themselves as soon as they hatch.

Learn more about our native black swans on the birdlife website.

Australian white ibis

Australian white ibis nest in large colonies and typically build a shallow nest with sticks and grasses in a tree near a body of water. Both the male and the female build their nest together, where the pair will raise up to two broods of 2-3 chicks in one year. Ibis young are born naked and helpless and take about 48 days to fledge.

Learn more about our native Australian white ibis on the birdlife website.


Ospreys build their nest on cliffs or dead trees using large sticks and driftwood. Ospreys may reuse the same nest over the years. Council has created artificial osprey poles and platforms for ospreys to build their nest, where their original nest was destroyed either naturally or through a development process. The female lays about two or three eggs and does most of the incubating whilst the male brings her food. Both parents will feed the chicks at the nest before they fledge, about 7-11 weeks after hatching.

Learn more about our native ospreys on the birdlife website.

Purple swamphen

Purple swamphens live in small groups around freshwater swamps, streams and marshes and lay their eggs on the ground, in a cup-shaped nest made of trampled grass and reeds, sometimes using nearby vegetation as a shelter for their nest. Both parents incubate the eggs and raise their chicks together. Hatchlings are ready to leave the nest at about 2 days old and are looked after by their parents for about 10 weeks after that. Young from a previous brood can also occasionally help the parents to incubate the eggs and raise the chicks.

Learn more about our native purple swamphens on the birdlife website.

How we manage with defensive and nesting birds

We look into any reports of birds acting defensively, or nesting 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 or nesting bird

To report a defensive, or nesting 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.