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Published: 2008-01-25 00:00:00

Stroppy magpies have been given short shrift in the latest pest control operation involving shooting them with shotguns.

Forty-six birds had been shot up till the end of last year, compared to 33 the previous year.

The work around Taupo – jointly funded by Environment Waikato, Taupo District Council and roading company Fulton Hogan – is aimed at reducing attacks on cyclists and pedestrians, but only during the spring-early summer breeding season when they are prone to this behaviour.

Magpies become very territorial during this period, showing aggression towards anything they perceive as posing a threat to their area. The Taupo town and neighbouring areas host outdoor recreational activities such as bike races and mountain biking, which invariably involve routes close to or under prime nesting spots for magpies. Posties too have complained about magpies attacking them on their rounds.

Contractor Epro Ltd compiled information on aggressive magpie localities from previous years, plus a list of current complaints, before carrying out surveillance to identify the more aggressive birds at nesting sites.

Then in September, working in liaison with NZ Police, Epro last year began shooting birds two weeks earlier than in 2006, resulting in a higher kill and fewer problems later on.

“We believe this proactive approach reduced the number of attacks within the district,” said Mike Reid from Epro.

“We found that on the whole there were fewer magpie complaints this year (2007) and lots of positive feedback from the Taupo cycling community.”

Environment Waikato’s biosecurity operations manager Peter Russell said he was pleased the magpie problem had been further reduced around Taupo by the change in tactics and welcomed Epro’s proactive response.

“The birds can be a particular nuisance in the area and it’s not something we want to see getting out of hand in a popular tourist spot.”