Outrage after 'aggressive' magpie shot dead by council over cyclist's complaint

Just days into spring, magpie swooping season is well and truly in flight.

It’s already become such an issue for one northwest Sydney suburb that its council was reportedly forced to shoot a problematic bird dead – an incident that has sparked outrage.

The bird was killed following a complaint by a cyclist who said she was attacked a few weeks ago while riding near Old Windsor Rd in Bella Vista, according to News.com.au.

It is understood the cyclist reported the incidents to the Hills District Council, which later notified her the magpie had been “removed”.

Swooping birds are becoming problematic for cyclists as the breeding season gets underway. Source: AAP, file

“I have just received an email advising that the magpie has now been removed, so hopefully that area will now be safe :),” the woman wrote on a private private Facebook group, according to News.com.au.

It is not known if the cyclist was aware by “removing” the bird, the magpie would be killed.

The post was quickly shared to other community pages, sparking fury by animal lovers.

“I am so angry right now that I won’t even comment,” one person wrote on Facebook.

Others questioned why cyclists couldn’t simply alter their route for a few weeks while the birds were nesting.

“People are outraged as our local council shoots one of Australia's iconic birds. Right here in the Hills Shire,” the Animal Justice Party Sydney North West Regional Group wrote upon sharing news of the shooting.

A problem magpie was reportedly killed following a complaint by a cyclist who reported being attacked near Old Windsor Rd, Bella Vista. Pictured is a screenshot of a Facebook post made by the cyclist who complained. Source: Facebook

“Terrible human beings to do this,” another person commented.

A third added: “That is horrific!!! (sic) How is that legal?”

“Rather than avoid that area for 3 weeks out of an entire year... she has been the catalyst in destroying a whole family of native birds,” one woman said.

“This parent bird was a food source for new chicks.

“And I am outraged and upset beyond words, to comment on the knee-jerk reaction of the council employee.

“The wrong people are employed in responsible positions in our Australian local councils and government.

“I truly fear for the future of our unique and precious animal life.”

The same magpie was believed to have been responsible for frequent bird attacks along the cycleway over the years, leading to a significant number of residents complaining about the bird before it was shot, News.com.au reported.

Council gets licence to shoot ‘aggressive’ magpie

It is believed the council was granted two different approvals by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to legally harm the bird under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, according to reports.

The licences were granted because the magpie was deemed highly aggressive and destructive, and was in a busy area posing public risk, News.com.au reported.

The council’s decision to shoot the bird was reportedly made after it failed to trap the bird.

Cyclists in the Facebook group had previously complained about bird attacks in the area, saying the route was difficult to avoid if on a bicycle.

The Hills Shire Council said it had received 40 complaints over the past three years and there had been confirmed injuries, several which ended in hospitalisations, from this particular magpie.

“A particularly aggressive magpie has been impacting pedestrians and cyclists along the path and on Old Windsor Road adjacent to Francesco Crescent Reserve, Bella Vista over a number of years,” a council spokesperson said in a statement to Yahoo News Australia.

“Community complaints have also been made about this bird to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and online magpie swooping sites.

“The magpie was known to attack people outside of ‘swooping season’ and its attacks are not linked to the protection of a nest.”

‘Course of action not taken lightly’

After the seriousness of the attacks were assessed by the council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the bird was determined to be a significant risk to public safety.

The council said it had attempted to relocate the magpie on a number of occasions before arriving at this decision with the approval of the NPWS.

“National Parks and Wildlife Service assessed the bird and advised that its behaviour was different to regular protective swooping and that this bird was very aggressive and uncharacteristically territorial – with behaviour that included swooping underneath helmets and deterrents to attack people’s faces,” the spokesperson said.

“[The] council does not usually take action to remove or destroy magpies – the usual procedure is to signpost known risk areas as birds are generally only aggressive for four to six weeks per year.”

Considering the number of complaints, confirmed injuries, the ongoing risk and after exhausting all practical alternatives, the “council was issued a permit from the National Parks and Wildlife Service to engage a pest controller who humanely euthanised the bird to prevent further serious injuries”.

“This course of action was not taken lightly,” the spokesperson said.

The bird was euthanised on August 28 with the guidance of NSW Police.

A year ago, a Perth council applied to the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) for a dangerous fauna licence to remove a magpie after two children suffered eye injuries from the swooping bird.

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