How Not To Get Swooped This Magpie Season
It's the six weeks of the year cyclists and pedestrians dread: Magpie swooping season.
Every year, from late August to mid-October, a small percentage of highly aggressive and terrifyingly sneaky maggies take to the skies. They swoop and attack from your blind spot, repeatedly and without warning.
"It's almost always about the fathers protecting his chicks from what he regards as a threat," Urban Ecologist Darryl Jones told 10 daily.
He explained that any cyclist is targetted if they're riding within 100 metres or so of a nest because the birds "can't tell the difference".
However, attacks on pedestrians are little more calculated.
"We know that magpies remember our faces and because they remain in one spot forever they can remember everyone that walks past, for decades," Jones said.
Why they target specific individuals remains a mystery.
"We've looked at every possible factor, from coloured clothing to hairstyles, we really don't know what is going on. They just decide that certain people are a threat and they take them on," he explained.
It seems the birds are also picky with their targets.
"Most are specialists on a type of people too. They'll either target cyclists or pedestrians."
Some people know where the vicious maggies live and have accepted the fact that their morning exercise will be that little bit more tricky for the next few weeks.
People like Nick Dunne.
"It’s the viaduct, the Maggie owns it, he sits in the trees then swoops down attacking from behind with two or three low passes," he told 10 daily. "It’s usually the fastest 100 meters of my five-kilometre run."
Others have found creative ways to address the issue.
"If I am walking I will take a big large stick to twirl around my head, which is supposed to scare them off," David Lennon told 10 daily. "I don't know if it works or not, and I look like an idiot, but it's better than copping that beak in the skull."
"Nothing gets the adrenaline going like the sound of those wings flapping behind your head," he continued.
This season has already been a hectic one, with 272 people reporting being swooped, with still some weeks to go before the so-called peak season.
According to community website Magpie Alert, Queensland has copped 42 percent of this year's attacks, followed by NSW on 19 percent.
More than 70 percent of the attacks were on cyclists, and 21 percent on those walking.
So how do you avoid an attack?
Firstly, and maybe the most difficult for some is to make the bird your friend.
If a magpie determines that you are a nice and trustworthy person, you will be free to ride, walk or run in peace, no matter the season. It is also advised that you wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses or take an umbrella to shelter your face.
READ MORE: Magpie Shot Dead Following Council Complaint
Jones explained that if you are cycling, getting off your bike and walking should do the trick.
He also suggested tying a number of cable ties to the helmet or attaching a plastic mask that you would find in a costume shop.
"Posties use witches' rubber faces on the back of the helmet and they seem to do the trick," he said.
What to do if you are under attack?
Don’t fight back if a magpie swoops, is the advice from the Queensland Government.
"Throwing sticks and stones or yelling at a magpie are likely to make it more aggressive next time anyone enters the defence zone around their nest," its Magpie Safe website reads.
Escaping as soon as possible and avoiding the area until after the danger period is your best bet and avoid feeding them at all times.
While only 10 percent of Maggies will take you on, once you're a target you will always be a target, unless you somehow make amends.
The good news, according to Jones, is that "they won't attack you down the street, they won't attack you randomly, they will only attack if you come too close or are deemed a threat".