Photo: @shaecycle (via Instagram)
The Australian Magpie is native to Australia and is notorious for becoming aggressive to passers-by during mating season, most notably 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 threated during nesting season and can be so aggressive as to cause skin and eye injuries due to contact with its claws or beaks. As we move into the depths of the Swooping Season, here are some of our top tips to help keep you safe from malicious magpies!
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!
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 swooping 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 Menzies
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 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?
Magpies have incredible memory. In some instances, it’s been shown they will befriend humans, but they will also attack the same people again and again, or 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.
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 always 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.
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 put her body on the line last year 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.