Magpie swooping season is hitting Canberrans hard – and often in the head – with locals enduring a spate of attacks in recent weeks.
Even though we are only half way through Spring there have already been 467 reported magpie attacks in the ACT this year and a number have drawn blood.
And it is the cyclists who are most at risk from the black-and-white bombers, with 67.2 per cent of attacks in Australia being experienced by people riding bikes.
Despite our relatively small population, the ACT has the fourth highest number of magpie attacks of all Australian states and territories.
Statistics provided by www.magpiealert.com show the ACT has experienced 15 per cent of the nation’s total number of attacks so far this year – far exceeding bigger states such as Western Australia and South Australia.
In October alone, Canberrans have reported a string of attacks to the site including a cyclist being knocked off their bike after being swooped by two magpies in Kaleen and another cyclist suffering a serious injury after a swooping magpie caused them to fall off their bike in Braddon.
Also in the last two weeks, a walker in Hackett was left with a bleeding scalp after being hit on the back of the head “with full force” and a father in Harrison was watching his child play when out of the blue a magpie hit him “flush on the side of the face, drawing blood”.
Then there was the woman and her dog who were walking near the Erindale Centre when they were attacked by three magpies, with the dog left bleeding after a hit on the head.
There was also a cyclist who found themselves riding through Ainslie with a magpie wing in their eye, a young girl riding a bike who was swooped multiple times near Conder Primary School, and a person walking through Griffith who was attacked by four magpies at once.
A common theme of many ACT reports to www.magpiealert.com is that cyclists have only been saved from harm by their helmets (with contact often made) while some of the more frequent locations to encounter magpie attacks include near Bunnings in Belconnen and near the Australian National University.
Pedal Power CEO, Ian Ross, told Region Media that most riders understand that magpies are a fact of life when it comes to cycling in Canberra in springtime, and people have different strategies to deal with them.
“We know that magpies swoop at cyclists less when they ride in a bunch, for example, and some people put cable ties on their helmets to prevent magpies from getting close enough to make contact. There are differing opinions about the effectiveness of this strategy,” Mr Ross said.
“Dealing with a swooping magpie when riding in traffic can be dangerous so we would advise people to get off their bikes for their own safety.
“The official advice from government is to dismount when passing through swooping territory, as the birds tend to swoop people less when they are walking.
“Probably the best approach is to avoid locations where swooping magpies are known to be present.”
Mr Ross said the www.magpiealert.com website provides useful information about swooping locations, and word quickly gets around about places for cyclists to avoid.
The ACT Parks and Conservation Service suggests the following tips to help avoid magpie attacks:
- walk quickly through magpie territory, but don’t run
- take alternate routes if possible
- wear hats, helmets, glasses or take an umbrella
- keep domestic animals on a leash while in magpie territory
- maintain eye contact with the magpie
- walk bikes through magpie territory.
Below is a video they put together earlier in the season which also includes some good advice and tips.
Have you been swooped by a magpie recently? If you’re a cyclist what are your strategies for protecting yourself from magpies? Comment below to let us know.