Spring is here and that typically means magpie daddies and other swooping birds are defending their young. So it might pay to be a little more vigilant when heading to and from training or you could come under attack, even when you’re minding your own business.
You only have to log on to social sites such as Magpie Alert! that tracks aggressive magpies (almost always males) in each state to see just how many attacks are actually taking place. Posted by the people who have been stealth-swooped, it appears most aggressive birds aren’t causing any real physical injury (just minor bruising to the self-confidence), although you still see the odd posts like this one…
Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of a protective magpie, let alone when you’re clocking 60 kilometres an hour on a bike. Even if the bird doesn’t make contact, the mere sound of whooshing as the bird dive bombs way too close to the head (despite it being encased in a helmet) is enough to make even the best cyclist come a cropper.
Luckily, the swooping season is quite short – usually from August to October – as breeding couples build their nests of sticks high up in suburban gum trees. It takes about 20 days for the eggs hatch, with the baby maggies spending roughly four weeks holed up in the nest before they fledge. It’s all happy families … until someone loses an eye!
Unfortunately, magpies do like to go for the eyes the most, with eye injuries prominent in injury statistics. But experts believe if you haven’t been attacked in the past, you may not ever be attacked.
Behavioural ecologist Daryll Jones from Griffith University in South East Queensland said his research team found that magpies really do recognise individuals. ‘Of the magpies who attack pedestrians, people walking around, … most of them attack the same people every day,’ he says.
So, if you play at the same sportsground on a regular basis or pass through an area to and from training, and the local magpies seem to like using you for target practice, here are some things you can do to avoid becoming an injury statistic.
- Take note of any magpie nesting sites and stay clear of them where possible.
- Get off your bike and quickly walk out of the area if you are under attack (more than 50 per cent of attacks involve cyclists).
- Wear glasses and a hat/helmet to protect your eyes and head.
- Don’t pick a fight with a magpie. They will play dirty to protect their nests.
- Carry an umbrella or a stick and hold it high, but don’t wave it or the maggie will think you want to fight.
- Remain calm. Shrieking and flapping will only appear aggressive to a magpie.
- Face them where possible as they prefer to launch an attack from behind.
- Do not return to the area after an attack or you will likely be attacked again. Aussie magpies have great memories and will attack the same people. It’s also too bad if you look like someone they attacked before … sorry.
When they don’t have that killer look in their eyes, magpies are quite beautiful birds with sensational singing voices, and they are protected in NSW. This means you can’t kill them, touch their eggs or harm their little ones. If you seriously can’t live with an overprotective daddy magpie in your area, you can always report it to your local council or call the National Parks and Wildlife Service on 13000 PARKS (1300 072 757).
Have you been attacked by a magpie in the past, or are you a current target for a local maggie? We want to hear your tales in the comments section below.