Photo: @shaecycle (via Instagram)
It's almost Spring, which means one thing: Swooping Season!
The Australian Magpie is native to Australia and is notorious for becoming aggressive to passers-by during mating season, most notably to walkers and cyclists. In Australia, this occurs in Spring, and the height of the ‘swooping season’ is around September & October each year. The Magpies swoop because they feel threatened during nesting season. They can be so aggressive, they can cause skin and eye injuries from contact with their claws or beaks. As we move into the depths of the Swooping Season, here are six of our top tips to help keep you stay safe from malicious magpies!
1. Be on the lookout
Always be vigilant and lookout for nesting or aggressive magpies on your run, walk or cycle routes. Magpies like to nest in all sorts of urban/rural areas; don’t become complacent if you’re in the city. The best way to stay safe from Magpie swoops is to avoid them completely. If your daily route coincides with the nest of a Magpie, it might be time to plot a new route for the nesting season!
2. Be proactive & inform others
The website Magpie Alert is a social website that allows you to track aggressive swooping magpies in your area. Members of the public can share malicious magpie attacks online or check out maps of where attacks have occurred. If you’re swooped you can report your occurrence online or inform your local council to create warning notices for others in the area.
Photo: @russ_08 (Instagram)
Flinders University Research Centre for Injury Studies have shown that cycling injuries are common from magpie swooping attacks, with some major accidents reported due to cyclists losing control of their bicycles after a swooping attack to the temple. Wiggle Cycling Insurance includes benefits to protect you against damages from Magpie attacks. Our Essential policy (for less than $2 a week) covers you for up to $10k non-Medicare personal accident costs, whereas our Comprehensive Cycling Cover offers a bit more protection, including up to $30k damage cover for your bike. We are prepared for when the bad stuff happens… But are you?
4. Don’t retaliate
Magpies have incredible memory. In some instances, it’s been shown they will befriend humans. On the other end of the spectrum they will also attack the same people again and again, or attack you if you happen to look like someone they have attacked before! Do not harass the magpie or it will remember this behaviour and will just become even more aggressive to humans.
Photo: @michaelpbegley (Instagram)
5. Magpie Survival Kit – Protect your eyes & head
Once you’re being swooped, the best thing is to keep calm, move quickly and protect your eyes and head. If you’re on foot, make sure you’re wearing a hat and a pair of sunglasses to protect from claws and beaks. If you’re on a bike, always wear a helmet and sunglasses. Magpies usually swoop from behind so be conscious of protecting this part of your body. If you feel threatened on your bicycle, dismount and walk it away from the magpie so you don’t cause an accident.
6. Improvise solutions
If you really can’t avoid a Magpie’s nesting area, some people have tried all sorts of techniques to protect themselves. Radio host Amber Wheatland hilariously put her body on the line (see below) to try a variety of techniques: eyes on the back of your helmet, tree branches in the helmet. The eyes didn’t work but the tree branches did! Remember, Magpies almost always attack from behind and go for the highest point. Try an umbrella, cable ties in helmets, holding up a stick, anything to make your highest point of contact higher than your head.