A MAGPIE behaviour expert has condemned the euthanasia of a bird that attacked a one-year-old boy at Whiteman Park on Sunday, causing him serious damage to one eye.
UWA Associate Professor Amanda Ridley said it was natural behaviour for a magpie to swoop during spring and euthanising the bird would not solve anything.
Department of Parks and Wildlife confirmed today it had used a firearm to euthanise a bird it believed was responsible for swooping Jacob Gale.
Dr Ridley said although the incident was unfortunate, it was “very normal” for magpies in breeding season to swoop as part of nest defence behaviour.
“This would have been natural instinct for the magpie; it would have detected a perceived threat close to its breeding area that it may have perceived as representing a danger to its young,” she said.
“Some males in breeding condition have high testosterone this time of year, because this is the time of year is when mating occurs, so they may be more responsive and aggressive to perceived threats.”
She was concerned the incident would set a precedent and further magpies would be euthanised as a result.
“Euthanising one will probably result in another magpie moving into the territory that will also swoop,” she said.
“I do not think euthanising solves the problem. Warning signs in areas where magpies nest that tell people to avoid those areas during the breeding season is a better control measure.
“In these cases, where they pose a consistent threat to human life and their behaviour is anomalous, removal from the area is justified.
“Removal should always be preferred over euthanasia, particularly in cases such as swooping where they are simply reacting to a perceived threat to their young.”
Department of Biodiversity Conversation and Attractions senior wildlife officer Rick Dawson said euthanasia was the only option as relocating as the bird may have resulted in it continuing to swoop and cause injury at a new location.
He said the decision to euthanise the bird was for “community safety”.
“The decision to euthanise dangerous fauna is a matter of community safety. This bird has struck the eyes of two small children in two days,” he said.
“The behaviour exhibited by this bird cannot be modified. Any nestlings in the nest will continue to be incubated or raised by the female, assisted by other birds in the group.”