Swooping Mudlark

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Pee Wee
Pee Wee's picture
Swooping Mudlark

Hi, I have a garden with lots of natives, fruit trees, and a huge pecan tree which attracts a huge variety of birds and I have found this forum a wealth of information.  We do feed the birds seed and the magpies some meat so they visit most days to see if anything is on offer and we know all the regulars individually.

My question is about a particular mudlark.  About a year ago she was very sick with magpie pox.  Probably the wrong thing to do but for a few weeks she just sat on our verandah, all fluffed up with terrible feet and I fed her 3 times a day until she recovered, minus a few toes, then she went back to foraging for her own food but still hangs around and I still feed her but not as often.

My problem is she now swoops me all the time.  She is not protecting a nest and really has no fear of me at all, she seems to think it is funny.  She swoops me, then pops down on the ground a couple of feet away, doing the pee wee call at me asking for food.  I am the only person she swoops, no one else gets attacked.

A couple of weeks ago, her latest drama was she had fluffly string tangled in her foot.  I gave it a couple of days to see if she could get it off, it was only getting more tangled so I caught her cut off the string and thought the shock might make her disappear for a while, but half an hour later she was back hanging around (swooping me, ha).

I have just been putting up with the swooping but I'm wondering if there is anything I can do to discourage this.  I've tried waving my arms around and yelling at her but all it does is make the neighbours laugh and has no effect on her at all.  Would love to hear if anyone has any ideas.


BabyBirdwatcher's picture

Hi Pee Wee,

Firstly welcome to the site. I would have to recommend that you stop feeding it and if any problems come up in the future either calling a vet or someone along those lines. As for trying to stop your bird swooping I don't really have any idas.

Araminta's picture

Hi Pee Wee, welcome from me too.

I can only recommend exactly what BabyBirdwatcher says, stop feeding, sound hard, but is the best you can do for the bird. She is controlling you, the bird should stand on her own feet, even if there are a few toes missingwink Feeding birds has created competition amongst them, her swooping sounds to me like some agressive behaviour. She might be claining her food before any other bird can get it. I would avoid going outside too often, she is capable of finding her own food. 


Pee Wee
Pee Wee's picture

Thanks for the welcome.  Yes, I read you shouldn't feed the birds but I've been doing it for years.  I'll put a cup of seed out in the mornings for the pink and grays/magpies and mudlarks and also chuck the magpies little pieces of steak but ignore them if they start hanging around too much.  Some days they don't come so I think they are all independent enough.  I don't feed this mudlark everyday but she's always around foraging for wild food, sometimes she pays no attention to me and sometimes she walks up to see if  I have anything, I don't feed her and I'll just go about my day.  Sometimes she just swoops me on the head.  I guess like humans, some birds are just jerks.  Lol

Woko's picture

Welcome to the forum from me, too, Pee Wee. Birds are certainly wonderful to observe in the backyard & many Australians artificially feed them.

However, I'd like to reinforce the non-feeding of the Mudlark &, for that matter, all other birds in your garden. It may take some time for the Mudlark to learn that it's behaviour won't be rewarded with food so it's important for you to be persistently in non-feeding mode. It won't starve because your garden has lots of native vegetation &, besides, Mudlarks have adapted well to human environments. 

In any case, given that you have a lot of native vegetation there should be no need to artificially feed birds, especially since what you're feeding them almost certainly isn't their natural diet. What we think might be good for birds isn't necessarily so. It reminds me of the many Eastern Grey Kangaroos which died of constipation in Gariwerd in western Victoria because tourists fed them bread. They weren't birds but I hope you understand the principle. But I'm probably teaching you to suck eggs since you've clearly done some reading on this issue.

The other point about artificial feeding of birds is that the practice takes birds away from their natural roles in the environment. E.g., many birds are critical pollinators of our native vegetation. If birds are collecting their food from backyarders they're not pollinating which means there's less viable seed available to regenerate bushland.

Lastly, could I encourage you to reflect on for whom you are feeding the birds? Is it for your entertainment or is it for the birds' well-being? And what contributes best to birds' wel- being? As you've already experienced human intervention in birds' lives can have unforseen consequences.

Pee Wee
Pee Wee's picture

Hi Woko, I appreciate your comments, and yes, you are right I do feed the birds for my entertainment not because I think they would starve.  I do think people need to keep in mind where people live in regards to human intervention though, in some cities human interevention is a fact of life and I wonder if the impact of feeding can also have a few positives.

I live in a shall we say 'poorer' suburb close to the city.  Unfortunately people drop rubbish everywhere, so it is common to see the birds scavaging through McDonald wrappers and the scraps of the multitude of food outlets that people drop on the ground even when there is a bin close by.

Although I probably shouldn't feed the birds when I did this it created a personal interest in them.  Since then I have stopped using insecticides, use organic fertilisers, I have gone back to using rat traps instead of poisen and looked up what is better option for birds to feed on (instead of pies and Red Rooster dropped on the ground).  Interaction may be bad, but we do all live together and perhaps in some areas it is the lesser of two evils if people can actually feel involved with the wild life rather than just seeing them as animals that poop on their car or wake them up to early in the morning. 

I now have a multitude of honey eaters, willywag tails that live and breed in my yard and the parrots and cockatoos come when the fruit and nut trees are bearing (none of which I feed).  It is sad because most of the large blocks that I live on are now being cleared and tiny cheap units are replacing them with barely enough room for a few potplants.  I have recently purchased a property in the country, I suppose in the future my beautiful big trees and bushes will also make way for high density housing.  :-(

I do appreciate your advice though, just sayn'...

Woko's picture

No worries, Pee Wee. All part of the ongoing debate.

It's certainly sad to see developers riding rough shod over everything except their bank accounts. But good on you for avoiding insecticides & using organic fertilisers. Rat traps are good, too, although there are raptors in my area in SA to keep mice & rats under control.

The question of human intervention & whether that inevitably leads to changes in conditions for birds is an interesting one. There are a number of species which have adapted to human rubbish, junk & trash resulting in an increase in their numbers. However, this so often leads to reductions in numbers of other species. E.g., I understand Silver Gull numbers have increased as a result of their using human food waste (not to mention artificial feeding!) but they have been know to overwhelm breeding colonies of Banded Stilts at Lake Eyre resulting in very poor reproduction rates for the latter species. So it may well behove us to aim at treading more lightly on Earth as well as do a little ecological restoration so that we don't destroy the biodiversity on which we all depend.

fishinduff's picture

These wonderful little birds can be vicious. My daughter and grand daughter can't even go out the back door without being attacked because the darlings are nesting in the backyard

Woko's picture

The "vicious" behaviour of which you write is probably, as you imply, nest-protection behaviour. Perhaps the Mudlarks will modify their behaviour once they determine that your daughter & grand daughter are not a threat to them. I recommend they tread lightly as they exit their back door & retreat just as lightly as soon as the Mudlarks appear in protection mode. If your daughter & grand daughter do this a number of times at short intervals the Mudlarks may come to accept their presence. They may then be able to observe the raising of the young Mudlarks at a safe distance for all concerned.

How lucky your daughter & grand daughter are to have Mudlarks in their backyard, fishinduff. This demonstrates that there is at the very least some aspect of the environment there to support the breeding of this species. I'll be interested to know the result of the above strategy if they decide to try it.


Gday Pee Wee, welcome.

What about flicking that dive bombing bird a chillie, or a grub /worm boiled with chillies, that might show him who bass lol.

I'm with the others and accept feeding is no good, and its basically for ones own enjoyment.  I inherited a family of Butcher birds once.  It was excellent watching them dive from a huge dead tree near bye and gluid down to the clothes line. How they adjust in flight and pull up is amazing to me.  The previous owner fed them and I maintained it for a while, but they got more and more demanding so I stoped cold turkey on them. I did find however I got more enjoyment talking to them as I mowed the lawn, or did some gardening.  They would sit on low limbs of trees and drop down usually in front of me, I''d stop mowing to give them the chance to get what they had spied, then they would hop away or take off.  They still used me for their needs, and were not dive bombing, but I had a relationship with them that was more balnced for both if us. Didn't always see them, but that made it more special when I did.   

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