I love birds I really do. Read on and you can see me looking very happy with a host of sqauwking screeching rainbow lorikeets landing (and pooing) all over me.
And it’s healthy to get out amongst nature, right? You know, feed the birds, run with the wind and all that. We need to keep active, engaged and exercising now we’re over 50.
But this time of year my daily power walks are severely hampered by a feathered foe.
I’m talking about magpies. They are bigger, and at certain times of the year, nastier than rainbow lorikeets, and they do not amuse me any more with their sweet chirrupy calls and pretty black and white colouring.
OK. I am joking (a bit) but I am actually very unsettled by magpies at this time of year.
For a few weeks each spring when Mr Mappie and Mrs Magppie are protecting their nests from the likes of me jogging below the tall Tuart trees they suspect that I’m ready to swoop upwards in some Batman type move to steal their horrible spawn.
Minding my own business, with no thought of adding to my worldly problems with a yearning to hand rear fledgling magpies I am unjustifiably attacked at certain points along my walk. The magpies dive-bomb, cracking their wings above my head like a whip, clacking their beaks in a menacing fashion and coming in cowardly from behind – sometimes banging my head with their beak (if they’re lucky).
There have been cases of people being seriously injured; getting pecked in the eye, and of other people returning home with bloodied skulls.
We are talking a war zone in the suburbs.
I’ve seen able bodied runners sprinting along our serene lake walk being continually bombed by these birds. No amount of screaming and arm flailing seems to deter them. Indeed no one will rush out of their house to save you. Perhaps you’ll notice a net curtain flicker and hear the thud of a front door being firmly shut, but not a soul will come out brandishing a broomstick to help ward off these seemingly war-mongering birds.
The Parks and Wildlife website has this to say: “Magpies nest between August and October, usually in a tall tree. The female incubates 1-6 eggs for about three weeks and feeds the young in the nest for about another four weeks. A new clutch may be laid if the first brood fails. During this time, the magpie’s urge to protect its eggs and young from attack is very strong.They fly low and fast over the person and often clack their bill as they pass overhead. This can be alarming, but if you confidently continue on your way the bird will often retreat to a tree and watch until you leave its territory. Like dogs, magpies seem to sense fear and may capitalise on it by pressing an attack. A threatening gesture with a hat, stick or umbrella will usually make the bird retreat. It is rare for a magpie to actually strike an intruder on the head with its bill.”
In our suburb at certain spots, it can be like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, ‘The Birds’.
How to survive swooping magpie season
- Stay calm, try not to run and scream. Walk away swiftly and if you’re not wearing a hat place your arms over your head, and around the sides of your eyes if you are under attack.
- Magpies are intelligent birds and have long memories. Don’t return to the same place after an encounter because they can remember you and might attack again. Bad luck if you look like someone they swooped previously!
- You could carry an umbrella like Mary Poppins.
- If you’re riding a bike and a magpie swoops, for your own biking safety dismount and walk quickly away from the area.
- You could wear a bike helmet onto which you tie bright zip-ties. Leave them long so that they stick up and create a bright distraction.
- You can put false eyes on the back of your hat – this seems highly suspect to me but I’m ready to give anything a try. They say that Magpies are less likely to attack if you are looking at them but I wouldn’t chance anything daft like walking backwards and looking upwards because you should definitely keep your eyes protected. Try adding craft store purchased fake eyes to your cap so that the magpie thinks you’re watching it. Or you could wear your sunglasses back to front. But always, always protect your eyes.
- You could carry a stick and carry it high above your head, but don’t wave it around or the magpie might feel provoked.
- You should wear a hat, broad rimmed if possible.
- Aggressive magpies can attack from the ground aiming for your face and eyes. These are problem birds and should be reported to the Parks or Environment Department in your State or Territory immediately.
- The worst time for swooping magpies is likely to be for 4 – 6 weeks during Springtime, August to November.
Thanks to WikiHow and the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Heritage Protection for some of these preventative tips and information.
Don’t forget that it’s illegal to take any kind of aggressive action to protect yourself – no sling shots, no catapaults as these dastardly dereks are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act.
Whatever – I just want to keep up my daily walks without being damaged.
Best I start looking for some fashionable magpie armour. Anyone?
Okay let’s hear it then … Have you been swooped by a magpie? Do you have any good tips on evading them?