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Magpies have been terrorising visitors by stealing their food and attacking people - even children- in Gungahlin, Canberra, that authorities have begun culling the birds
Magpies are set to be culled in Canberra after they began terrorising visitors by stealing their food and swooping on people - even children.

According to ACT Parks and Conservation director Daniel Iglesias, between 25 and 30 magpies lived near Yerrabi Pond in Gungahlin, with some being trapped by rangers and euthanised on Thursday.

Speaking to ABC News, Mr Iglesias said the culling is needed because the number of incidents involving the swooping birds has dramatically increased.

'We have one story, where a magpie stood on a child's head, leant over the child's head, put it's beak in its mouth to get food out of its mouth,' Mr Iglesias told ABC News.

'We've had other incidents where there have been other near-misses with eyes.'


Mr Iglesias added that over a long period of time the birds had come accustomed to being fed, and had come to expect food from people in the area.

The news follows the publication of research which suggest magpies use facial recognition to repeatedly attack the same person and they may even know where an individual lives if they want to easily victimise them.

Griffith University behavioural ecologist Dr Darryl Jones says research has found that magpies can recognise individual people by their facial features.

'A really smart animal like a magpie knows faces - they look at eyes and faces,' Dr Jones told Daily Mail Australia.

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'We have one story, where a magpie stood on a child's head, leant over the child's head, put it's beak in its mouth to get food out of its mouth,' Mr Iglesias said
'People can change what they look like or they might wear a different colour the next day. They are not responding to a colour, they are responding to the face.'

It is not clear why magpies target particular people but Dr Jones says the birds can often live in the same territory for 20 years and would recognise residents in the immediate area easily.

'Magpies live in a permanent territory. Once they find an area that is good to nest, they stay there for the rest of their lives with their mate,' he said.

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It isn't clear why magpies target specific people but the birds often live in the same territory for 20 years and would recognise residents in the immediate area easily, according to behavioural ecologist Dr Darryl Jones
'In a suburban area... there could be 20-40 people in that area.

'They know everyone, they watch the kids grow up. When they decide to start treating that person as a threat, they know where they live. They can victimise someone easily.'

Dr Jones said the magpies wouldn't be able to use their facial recognition skills in a school yard or a sporting event because there is just too many people.

'I think that's when they start hitting people randomly,' he said.

The facial recognition research was carried out in 2010 on crows - which have similar traits to a magpie.

A group of students wore masks near nesting areas and swapped them regularly. They would take the baby birds carefully out the nests and then place them back.

The study found the birds would attack whoever had the mask on, regardless of who was wearing it.

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Dr Darryl Jones says a smart animal like a magpie knows faces and look for features like the eyes
'The main thing we've also discovered is the reason for swoops in first place is that (magpies) are trying to protect their chicks,' Dr Jones said.

'If you get swooped you can know you're within 80 metres of a nest. The magpie is sending a signal saying stay away. Avoiding that area is the best way to avoid attacks.'

Government departments or local councils in Australia also offer advice to avoid being attacked by a magpie, including walking away quickly and trying to keep an eye on the bird while leaving.

Wearing a bicycle helmet or any type of hat will also protect you, but Dr Jones says it won't deter the attacks.

'(Helmets with cable ties) work if they are really crazy. You'll need a forest of the cable ties so it looks really bad a terrifying,' he said.

Carrying an open umbrella or stick is also a handy tip to avoid being swooped.

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Griffith University behavioural ecologist Dr Darryl Jones says research has found that magpies can recognise individual people by their facial features