If you grew up in Australia, you would have, or you would have witnessed the swooping magpie.
During Springtime every year, we walk around with buckets, and homemade helmets usually made with ice-cream containers and skewers on our head as we tread warily under the awakening trees. For most of the year, Australians are safe from the protective father magpie, but not so in springtime and this year magpie season has come early…
In Randwick, New South Wales Rangers have already started putting up signs warning passersby of aggressive magpies. Recently, resident Emily Boulton Smith was repeatedly attacked by a swooping magpie in Maroubra.
Especially aggressive, the bird attacked the Smith several times. The gash from the pecking magpie caused the Maroubra woman to bleed.
So what prompts magpies to be so aggressive this time of year?
The swooping is usually carried out by the male magpie; the bird believes it’s protecting its chicks, which inhabit the nest for around 6-8 weeks between July and November. Magpies often target cyclists, defending its nest within a ‘defence zone’ which is usually an area of 110m- 150m. There’s even a chance magpies recognise individual faces, Selina Haefeli of Science Illustrated explains:
It has been suggested that only bird species with high cognitive abilities are capable of recognising familiar human faces and voices. However, Anna Wilkinson and her colleagues from the University of Lincoln, UK, have shown that pigeons— are capable of discriminating between individual humans.
So if you've swooped been before, prepare to be swooped again.
The Australian Government takes the matter of swooping magpies very seriously, suggesting ways to protect yourself from the black and white attackers.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Wearing a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses
- Painting eyes on the back of your hat to deter magpies
- Use an alternate route if you know a magpie is swooping
- Travel in groups
- Wave large sticks or umbrellas in the air.
Sound kind of extreme for a bird right?
So far, this year there have been 206 recorded attacks and 39 more serious injuries according to magpie alert.
If you know of a popular swooping area in your suburb you can report the area to local council or the NPWS on 1300 072 757.