You are out walking on a lovely sunny day when a wooshing noise starts above your head. Woosh, woosh, WOOOSSHHHH. Suddenly you have become the victim in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller ‘The Birds’. A sharp pointy beak descends with speed and makes harsh contact with your skull. Blood oozes. You run!
Sound familiar? Yes it’s magpie swooping season in Canberra again and the black-and-white bombers are on the job.
For those of us with vivid memories of being swooped by magpies, this news may be greeted with a quiet tremor of terror.
In my case, it takes me back to my teenage horse-riding days when I was regularly swooped passing a row of trees on the way to the horse-paddock.
However, my scariest magpie moment was when I was actually riding my flighty horse bareback (as in the horse, not me) and the magpie swooped us both. The fear of those flapping wings descending was nothing compared to the challenge of holding on to a bolting terrified horse!
Now you may be getting the feeling from all this that I’m not too keen on magpies (I know our readers are smart!). However, for the sake of all those Canberrans who love magpies and even feed them, I should make it clear that I wish magpies no harm.
After all they are just trying to protect their young and I am a deep admirer of good parenting skills. Actually, I am thinking of coining a new term in honour of magpies.
You’ve probably heard of ‘helicopter parenting’ where parents continually hover around their children? Now let’s add to that the term of ‘magpie parenting’, where parents go on the attack against unsuspecting passers-by just on the off-chance they might suddenly decide to harm their children.
After all, we never really know when someone might turn into an evil maniac with our children in their sights and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
But enough of all this flapping around and black-and-white conspiracy theorising. What do we do about it being magpie swooping season?
The answers come from our friends at the ACT Parks and Conservation Service who have put together this great ‘swooping season’ video (below) which is jam-packed with good advice.
It's that time of year again…
Posted by ACT Parks and Conservation Service on Wednesday, 16 August 2017
The video recommends that Canberrans take these simple measures to protect themselves if there is a swooping bird in their neighbourhood:
- wear a hat
- wear glasses to protect your eyes
- wear a helmet
- walk your bike and don’t run
- take an open umbrella on your walk
- keep your eyes on the bird (apparently this makes them less likely to swoop)
- use a leash if you’re walking your dog
- if possible, take a different route.
But wait, there’s more! If you feel inclined you can also help to protect other unsuspecting walkers, runners and cyclists by ‘dobbing in a magpie’ via the magpie alert website: https://www.magpiealert.com/
This is our nation’s social website for keeping track of aggressive magpies. You can share your attack stories online and have the location of your attack marked on the ACT map – found here.
Since the 2017 swooping season started, magpie attacks have been recorded in Amaroo, Belconnen, Holt, Hackett, Fraser, Hawker, Lyons, Phillip, Greenway, Flynn, Deakin, Evatt, Cotter Road, Yarralumla, Forrest, Acton, Kambah, Braddon, Calwell, Campbell, Weston, Pialligo, Gordon, Moncrieff, Scullin, Barton and Curtin.
Most people appear to have been cycling when the attacks happened and two cyclists recorded being injured when they were swooped in Acton and Barton. A walker was also injured by a swooping magpie in Campbell.
“Big magpie here. Big hit to the head from behind whilst riding my bike, causing slight whiplash,” reported the injured Acton cyclist.
“Surprise attack from behind always goes for left side of head. Snapped at my earlobe today but didn’t draw blood as I was wearing ear warmer,” reported the injured Barton cyclist.
“Was walking very slowly and magpie swooped me multiple times – this bird swoops every year and last year chased me to my front door 2 streets away from its nest and cut my head open. Unbelievably aggressive creature. Pls keep children away,” reported the injured Campbell walker.
So far this year, magpie attacks in the ACT have made up 9.1 per cent of total attacks throughout Australia reported to the Magpie Alert website. This is more than the number of attacks in South Australia (5.4 per cent) and around half the percentage of attacks that have occurred in the much more heavily-populated area of Victoria (19.3 per cent).
Which all goes to show that we have some busy magpies in the bush capital!
Have you been swooped by a magpie recently? Do you have any tips on ‘hot spots’ to avoid or ways to protect yourself? Let us know about your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.