Anti-Magpie Swooping Devices

imarty 28 September 2008 90

I’ve seen many bike riders using cable ties on their bike helmet as a deterrent to swooping magpies of late and wish to seek opinions as to their effectiveness.

I was swooped 3 times yesterday just walking near my place where we feed the buggers but haven’t been swooped on the bike this year. As my 2 yo and I enjoy our Saturday arvo rides I don’t feel safe continuing our weekend bike rides with the chance of magpies swooping us.

Do the cable ties work?


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Overheard Overheard 7:13 pm 15 Oct 08

Having boasted before of getting through spring unscathed, I learnt last Sunday that there’s a bird (plover?) that lives near the roundabout at the bottom of Anzac Parade that’s obviously watched one too many WWII films. I swear, it thinks it a Zero or a… ok, I know f-all to the power of less about war stuff, but when this feathered beast started heading towards me it was like I was on the set of ‘Midway’ or ‘Tora!Tora!Tora!’.

Scary stuff. If you’re going for a perambulate in the area, be forewarned (and a backpack held high and forward does the trick).

Danman Danman 6:44 pm 15 Oct 08

@gwilym – I suspect it heavily relies on the fact that maggies are a native species.

In other news, after a few weeks of pecking, the maggie in my hood seems to be on annual leave until next season….

jenny green jenny green 5:47 pm 15 Oct 08

johnboy said :

blood_nut said :

ditto – i’d rather run the risk of taking a hit from a magpie than look like an idiot.

I’ve been in Canberra for over three decades and not once has a magpie hit me. maybe that’s enough evidence not to bother about it and run your luck.

They must be terrified of your masculinity overdrive…

Johnboy, I ditto blood_nut on this one and I am female… I certainly don’t think it was a particularly masculine comment. Do you sport cable-ties by any chance??? I really think a lot of Canberra cyclists enjoy making themselves look as silly as possible and the cable-ties are just another way to draw attention to themsleves.

Gwilym Gwilym 5:14 pm 15 Oct 08

Hi Guys,

Great discussion (apologies I haven’t read all the responses).

I’d like to ask a question that I feel is important:

Why are magpies protected?

Any thoughts?

Cheers,
Gwilym.

imarty imarty 10:55 pm 30 Sep 08

Thanks to everyone who replied. Still not sure about venturing out with the young fella anytime soon but from what I’ve garnered from this thread, is something higher and further back on the bike that may take their attention away from my son’s and my head (he wears sunnies too) like a flag.
Rest assured I’ll report back when we next ride, the weekend after next as we’re off to the coast for the weekend.

Aeek Aeek 9:15 pm 30 Sep 08

Riding at least 6 days a week, I’ve only been swooped once this year.
Not a fan of zip ties, I’d rather the magpie hit my helmet.
Why encourage them to come below the helmet?

starry starry 4:44 pm 30 Sep 08

Magpies are great in the vineyard, they keep all the little bugs away but wont eat the grapes, so i’m told by hubby.

GB GB 4:31 pm 30 Sep 08

Thanks Dr Evil – its great to have some comment informed from the other end; and also with knowlege of the beasties. BTW when I feed them, its scarab grubs, which they seem to love. But maybe their mates up the road get pissed off that no-one feeds them scarab grubs.

dr.evil said :

The Farrer Magpie was shot – it was very agressive and because it was near young children the risks were too high to let it be. You may also remember one reported to have taken 2 year old’s eye out in Kambah. We relocated that one to Tidbinbilla (over 50kms away) but it was back the next day.

Well that’s reassuring. Perhaps I wasn’t insistent enough when I rang – I didn’t get any indication that moving it was an option. Maybe I should read more. Or maybe our one is just below the action threshold. Or maybe because it doesn’t attack solo pedestrians much, the ranger thought it was ok.

The Canberra Magpie is a subspecies that is found to be more agressive than others

Is there any indication whether this has anything to do with human factors? Our wide streets? Or is it just our bad luck?

To the person who suggested trying to “train” them not to attack by threatening them, I’m pretty sure the research shows this has exactly the opposite effect – they will come to believe that “people like you” are a threat. This is why I have been suggesting removal as the solution (when everything else fails). But, I don’t think driving a magpie 50km away is a particularly good use of a ranger’s time. Also, though we don’t know this yet, there may well be a genetic component to the crazy behaviour, in which case removing them from the gene pool will achieve the right end, unless we think conserving the sub-group of crazy magpies is important. In that case, I guess we could try ritalin.

Back on the original topic, my anecdotal evidence for the zip-tie thingo is as follows:

– you feel like a goose. OTOH everyone looks like a goose in a bike hat, so no problem there.
– people comment on them and you’ve forgotten they are there so you wonder why people say strange stuff to you
– they stop your hat getting scratched when you chuck it on the ground.
– ‘normal’ magpies that usually just swoop from behind, close enough to spook you so you fall off your bike, are deterred enough. Either they just don’t swoop, or they pull up short, so they are just that bit further away, so you can avoid losing your balance. Roughly, these seem to be the same proportion of magpies as the ones you can confuse by painting eyes on the back of your helmet.
– magpies that attack from the front or side, or repeatedly attack, or swoop up and under your helmet, do not seem to be affected. They are happy to slam into your head (or into a car) so a few cable ties doesn’t even slow them down.

Why does it work for some? Who knows. Magpies are social, and have enough intelligence to make that work. And enough intelligence to construct elaborate fantasies of being oppressed based on the distant past. But they don’t have enough intelligence to realise that someone on a bike is pretty unlikely to ride up a tree. So, it could be that for the non-psycho ones, either:

1) with the cable ties, they don’t recognise you as part of the oppressor class; or
2) they really don’t like having to pull up short.

For the psycho ones, well, they’re psycho. They use up an unreasonable amount of energy fighting unwinnable wars with people who, but for that, would be their friends; when they could be home feeding the kids.

Sounds eerily familiar.

dr.evil dr.evil 1:23 pm 30 Sep 08

Took me a while to read it all and would like to add a few things…

The Farrer Magpie was shot – it was very agressive and because it was near young children the risks were too high to let it be. You may also remember one reported to have taken 2 year old’s eye out in Kambah. We relocated that one to Tidbinbilla (over 50kms away) but it was back the next day.

Most of Magpie ‘Season’ was spent on the phone listening to people vent their frustrations then offer advice. All phone calls were noted and filed. So there is a list of Magpies sorted by location, behaviour and year.

The Canberra Magpie is a subspecies that is found to be more agressive than others Gymnosomething tibicens tibicens. The most agressive one I ever saw was in Lort Place Chisholm – but that had something to do with the people living there (it involved rocks and baseball bats).

The same magpies are in Queanbeyan but they don’t seem to be a problem. Noting that Queanbeyan residents have no Magpie hotline to voice complaint.

Magpies are partners for life. They also remember the characteristics of who they have felt threatened by. Usually kids on bikes throwing stuff at swooping magpies leads to that magpie being more agressive to kids, people on bikes and anyone who might a similar look.

I know what is like to be swooped. There is a hole in my ear from a mis-timed swoop. I hate the idea of being swooped (I really don’t anything with feathers) but get over it.

8 weeks is all it should last. Just be safe – especially with kids on bikes. Take an alternate route. Get off the bike and walk. The damage from falling, being hit by other traffic is going to be much worse than being hit by a magpie.

That is enough for now.

Wear what ever you think works. That includes you – you zip tie wearing freaks.

Overheard Overheard 1:06 pm 30 Sep 08

tylersmayhem said :

can think of about 27,000 things that would be preferable to your spending your valuable time creating and maintaining such a list, tyler.

We are on the topic of swooping maggies aren’t we? Now to clarify, I wasn’t suggesting an official page on RA, or a dedicated website either. I was suggesting that everyone who’s written in with their “near death experience” magpie attacks might consider actually pointing out where it happened. So your assumption Overheard, that I was suggesting some grand plan of a maintained list is exactly that…an assumption.

Au contraire, mon ami. You’ve started off on the wrong foot by assuming what I meant. Your inference does not equal my intent and meaning. Go back and read what I actually wrote and then react exactly to that and nothing else. Anything else you’ve put in there i.e. “grand plan” is all your own doing and I can’t own it.

Danman Danman 12:39 pm 30 Sep 08

From my own personal experience they seem to be genetically coded to target fat dudes puffing up hills on bicycles – maybe they do a risk assessment/target generation mental process beforehand and ascertain im an easy hit.

Whatsup Whatsup 12:31 pm 30 Sep 08

A ranger was telling me about the fact that some Maggies attack certain things but not others. For example a Magpie may single out targets such as:
Pedestrians
Cyclists
Pedestrians with Dogs
Pedestrians with Prams
Cyclists wearing a particular colour helmet
School children wearing a particular colour uniform

The Maggies have a mental checklist and they choose certain attributes which threaten them leaving everything else alone. The criteria is sometimes passed on down generations, even when the adult bird is removed before the chicks hatch.

Some of course are just cranky nasty pieces of testosterone and will take on anything and everything. I guess this means they are not unlike humans.

The Brad The Brad 12:25 pm 30 Sep 08

feel free to take a swipe at them, not try to maim or kill them
I believe that only the rangers have the right to determine if a bird is to be euthanised. Not us.
If you can take a swipe, with the intentions of missing or training the bird, go for it. I just find “Lets just kill it” an extreme reaction, when there are other options.

My anti-violence to magpies probably stems from my own guilt, when as a 13 year old, some “friends” asked me if I wanted to join them in a game of tennis with a vicious magpie, I declined. I still feel guilty that I didn’t do anything to stop them at the time.

tylersmayhem tylersmayhem 12:24 pm 30 Sep 08

Thanks Mr_Shab – that all I was suggesting, and I’ve made a note of it. Cheers for that.

Note: the scoring suggestion was more of a laugh, but hey – it seems to make sense now after your description 😉

peterh peterh 12:00 pm 30 Sep 08

we had a particularly vicious magpie who refused mince, preferring to score tracks in heads with its beak. (not mine)

my wife the conservationist phoned act govt – they sent out a couple of rangers and, after being chased back to their car a couple of times, set a trap, took the bird away and euthanised it.

no more bad attack bird.

the other magpies seem to be much better behaved. (perhaps they saw what happened to the other evil magpie)

Mr_Shab Mr_Shab 11:48 am 30 Sep 08

Serves me right. After saying that only the cable-tie festooned types get swooped, guess what happened to yours truly this AM. I was pedalling peacefully away when I was broken from my reverie by some clunks on my helmet and some angry squarking.

For Tyler’s list – cycle path at Glenloch, just before the underpasses prior to crossing Lady Denman. This maggie gets a 7 (frequent attacker, but doesn’t seem to go for the face).

Danman Danman 11:38 am 30 Sep 08

So where was this Danman – for the list dude?

Cnr (Roundabout) of Mirrabei Drive & Shoalhaven Avenue – On the northern side of the intersection.

I ride to braddon and its the only bird that gives me grief so my helmet remains unadulterated with cable ties etc, and it gives me that extra push to get up the hill on the other side of the intersection.

Gungahlin Al Gungahlin Al 11:25 am 30 Sep 08

“I’d be reminding you that magpies are protected, and protected or not, a magpie won’t get the message.

In spring, their balls are bigger than their brains. They’re working on instinct, not logic. If you hurt a magpie, I suggest you are doing the same.”

The Brad: for starters, I said feel free to take a swipe at them, not try to maim or kill them. The reality is that animals can be conditioned. And if they learn that swooping and more so pecking achieves their goal, at no peril to themselves, than they learn to keep doing it. If however someone were to regularly stand up to them and take a swipe at them, they would instead be conditioned that their behaviour is more perilous than doing nothing. Pavlov’s dog…

My point about the commonness of maggies was to point out that they are one of those species that has directly benefited from artificial environment change, and have expanded in numbers way beyond natural balance levels – just like roos in some areas and Noisy Miners in most areas, and even wombats and koalas in some places. This greenie has learnt that the wider environment sometimes benefits from corrections to these imbalances.

So in the context of this discussion, my point was that if someone undertaking some conditioning of a dangerous magpie inadvertantly connected with it (quite unlikely but possible) and it was hurt or killed, then it would be (to put it simply) no great loss to nature.

“I bet you think that it’s ok to kill a cat, or a dog (or a ferret) if it attempts to bite you? It’s the same logic.”

If it tried to harm me, and there was a risk of a repeat to my children (and as a child myself having had my face ripped open by the family dog), you bet. Ferret? Surely you’re not trying to draw a link between this comment on swooping magpies and the ferret torturers?? The logic leap you make in your accusations are truly intriguing…

tylersmayhem tylersmayhem 11:02 am 30 Sep 08

can think of about 27,000 things that would be preferable to your spending your valuable time creating and maintaining such a list, tyler.

We are on the topic of swooping maggies aren’t we? Now to clarify, I wasn’t suggesting an official page on RA, or a dedicated website either. I was suggesting that everyone who’s written in with their “near death experience” magpie attacks might consider actually pointing out where it happened. So your assumption Overheard, that I was suggesting some grand plan of a maintained list is exactly that…an assumption.

misspris misspris 10:54 am 30 Sep 08

GB said :

Really, its not like there’s a critical shortage of magpies. Lets just kill it.

Reminds me of a very un-PC story about my dad (long dead now) but who at the time was a country copper. Anyway, Mum and various friends were playing golf and were being swooped by a particularly vicious magpie so Dad (who’d called by to say g’day) drew his service revolver and shot it out of the tree. I suspect if that happened these days there’d be a full-scale PIC-style investigation!

Pris

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