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Published September 5th 2012
Spring has finally sprung and that means some of the nicest days of the year in Brisbane to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Unfortunately Springtime in Australia has a darker side attached to it, heralding the prime months for magpie attacks in the country.
I'll never forget the attack I endured while living on the Sunshine Coast, where I was drill-pecked behind the right ear by a bird as I walked home from the bus stop at the Cnr of University Way and Scholars Drive at Sippy Downs. The dreaded creature managed to draw blood on the first impact and continued its attack on more than three occasions. All this was witnessed by a group of laughing school-kids at the corner shops across the street, who were getting a great deal of entertainment out of passers-by getting their comeuppance for daring to stray too close to the bird's territory. It was a harrowing experience and since then it's fair to say I've been a little over-cautious whenever I see the black and white birds in the sky. Since then I've been swooped near the Goodwill Bridge at River Tce on my walk to uni, and just the other day a plover dove at me and clicked its beak furiously as I was walking towards the river end of Bulimba's Oxford St. Friends have also warned me of the rogue birds diving near the Story Bridge and close to the Ferry terminal at Holman Street, Kangaroo Point.
Luckily most swooping events are not with the intention to drill peck and draw blood like my first and most memorable swooping experience. In fact only male magpies swoop and it's meant as a warning to stay away and they usually retreat when you make eye contact. That said, there is no doubt that some of the species are more aggressive than others and if possible it's best to avoid the areas where these birds are nesting all together until at least November when the season draws to a close. The area where magpies are considered territorial is around 50-100 metres from the nest so if having to stray into the area, give the birds this wide berth if possible. Since magpies usually nest in the same trees year-after-year, this is conducive for mapping hotspots around Brisbane where magpies are known to be territorial. For the last few years Quest Newspapers have created a map of Brisbane where the black and white birds are known to bomb dive. To see a list of locations around your suburb check out the map here
Bicycle riders are statistically more at risk of swooping incidents with more birds threatened by cyclists than pedestrians. The Brisbane Cyclist website has a number of online forums for riders around the city alerting on locations of swooping birds and also offering advice and opinions from riders on strategies bike riders can employ to fend off the birds - read some of the posts here. Other tips to avoid injury include wearing sunglasses while walking or riding to protect your eyes and dismounting from your bike if a magpie is swooping since more injury is often caused from the fall off the bike than from the bird itself. This is often easier said than done especially if you're spooked and just want to get away you might not be thinking this clearly. Cable ties on the top of your helmet are another popular tactic to discourage rogue magpies.
Courtesy of Department of Sustainability and Environment
All this said living in Australia it is likely you will be swooped at least once in your lifetime. Love them or loathe them, magpies and their swooping behaviour in the suburbs is here to stay. If you're wary like me, being well advised and equipped in avoiding the birds is your best defence in minimising the risk of a swooping.
Have you been swooped in Brisbane this year? Where was it? What are some ways to a avoid getting swooped? Please share your thoughts with a comment below