News / Calgary

'We are stuck inside': Calgary resident under siege by magpies issues desperate plea for help

If you live in Calgary and you’re having problems with magpies, you can at least take solace in the fact that it’s almost certainly not as bad as the situation facing one resident who described the birds’ aggressive behaviour in a desperate plea to 311 on Thursday.

“There are magpies attacking my dogs in my front and back yard every time I let them out,” reads the service request to the city, sent from a mobile device and geotagged from the Erin Woods area. ”My dogs are paralysed with fear and stuck inside. I can't see a nest or a reason for this. We are stuck inside our house because of these magpies. Please help.”

The city referred the request to the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation, a non-profit organization that treats injured animals and helps humans who are experiencing conflicts with other creatures.

“We get quite a few calls about magpies,” said Holly Duvall, the institute’s executive director.

Only a “very small portion” of those calls relate to the common birds being aggressive toward people, Duvall added, and that’s almost always the result of a nearby nest with recently hatched young.

“We call it a defence zone,” she said. “That’s usually an area within 100 to maybe 200 metres. So if there’s young in that area, especially while they’re in the nest, the parents will be very protective of them.”

The nests can often be well hidden from view, Duvall noted.

She said adult magpies usually start to “relax” as the chicks get older and should become much less defensive once the young learn to fly and leave the nest, a process that takes six weeks, at most.

The City of Calgary recommends on its website contacting a local pest control company if you’re having problems with magpies.

Bill Martin of Martin’s Pest Control said he sometimes relocates magpie nests away from people’s homes, which sometimes works, but not always.

The birds will sometimes stubbornly return to an area or rebuild destroyed nests, he noted.

The highly defensive behaviour will usually go away naturally within a matter of days, Martin said, but if you’re actually feeling trapped in your house by magpies, he suggested using an umbrella as a shield as you make your way out.

Metro called numerous people in the area of the 311 service request but was unable to reach the besieged resident. Several other people in the neighbourhood said they've had problems with magpies squawking, however.

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