The Illawarra is set to rival a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds in coming weeks as magpie swooping season reaches fever pitch. The region's pesky 'pie population is out in force, swooping unsuspecting cyclists, walkers and training groups. Magpie hot spots include streets in Balgownie, Woonona, Thirroul, the Princes Highway in Corrimal (near the fire station), Mount Brown, Gwynneville, Figtree (particularly Figtree Oval), Mangerton and the North Wollongong bike track. But WIRES black and white bird co-ordinator Kerrie Jones says magpies like anywhere with trees and a grassy field. "They eat insects, so anything that has a nice big patch of ground where they can dig up worms is perfect," she said. Residents are already arming themselves with sticks, hats, umbrellas and bike helmets as they prepare to do battle with the enemy - angry male magpies keen to protect the females' eggs. September marks prime nesting season for magpies, causing the birds to attack anyone who strays into their domain. WIRES fields dozens of calls annually about vicious magpies with regular requests for them to be moved on. "People do find it very distressing but unfortunately, relocating magpies is not an option," Ms Jones said. "Magpies are very intelligent birds with a complex territorial system. They operate in large family groups, so if one bird is removed, another one will simply move in to replace it. "If we did try and relocate them, we would be putting them in danger as they would be in another bird's territory." Ms Jones believes education is key and said WIRES was focused on teaching people how to manage a swooping attack. For victims, a random swooping attack can be scary. Paramedics have been called out to treat a range of injuries including cuts to the head, pecks to the ears and even broken bones for cyclists who have fallen off their bike after a surprise magpie dive-bomb. But survivors of a magpie swoop quickly learn their lesson, investing in a range of ways to scare off the angry birds. An ice-cream container as a hat or helmet is a good way to fend off swooping, while sunglasses worn on the back of the head can also provide a shield. Cyclists have led the pack with anti-swooping strategies, attaching cable ties to their helmets, creating an odd but effective method of warding off swoopers. Unfortunately, not all magpies are deterred by crafty cable ties or ice-cream container headwear. If a cyclist is swooped, paramedics advise them to continue riding or walk their bike until they are out of the bird's territory as most magpies only swoop within 50 metres of their nest. Ms Jones said the best response was to keep calm as panicking could provoke irritated magpies even further. Wollongong City Council advises anyone having difficulties with magpies in their area to contact the council and it will investigate.