Magpie Swooping Season in Australia – A Dangerous Time to Be Outside!
12 August, 2016
Magpie season

September is the peak of Australia’s own version of “home-grown terrorism” when a small but conspicuous proportion of magpies throughout the country begin to attack otherwise innocent bystanders or walkers. It is certainly the most significant human-wildlife conflict in the towns and cities in Australia.   Poor walkers, joggers, cyclists need to look out for and prepare for the Magpie attacks particularly in September which is their mating season.

Australian magpies are notorious for swooping

Australian magpies are notorious for a habit that can cause injury and distress to humans – swooping. This nasty little habit, done to protect the bird’s territory when it feels its nest is threatened during nesting season, can result in skin injuries, eye injuries and sometimes chunks of flesh being removed through contact with claws or beak.

Magpies have actually caused injuries to innocent walkers or bikes

Unfortunately, as noted by the Flinders University Research Centre for Injury Studies, people have even died from magpie swooping attacks, such as losing control of a bicycle after a swooping attack to the temple. This outcome is rare instance but even the average swoop is scary and most people have to be trained how to act when a magpie swoops in during their walk.

Magpies swoop from behind which is why riders put fake eyes on the back of their helmets!

Magpies usually swoop from behind and it is known that magpies are much less likely to swoop if they are being watched directly. This means the magpie must be able to see people’s eyes looking towards him.  It is recommended that victims maintain eye contact or walk backwards if the path is clear.

Bicycles irritate magpies the most which is why bikers really need to prepare! The major cause of accidents following a magpie swoop is from a bicycle. Helmets are a necessity as they protect riders if the swooping occurs.

Riders in Australia are recommended to wear eyes on the back of their head!

Magpies are less likely to attack when riders look at them.  It is recommended that riders add fake eyes to their headgear to make the magpie think you are watching it from either side of your head. They also recommend wearing sunglasses back to front.  Yes, this is real!

Walkers are recommended to have an umbrella or stick when getting their daily exercise

Walkers, during magpie season, are recommended to walk with an open umbrella or carry a stick.  The idea is that if the magpie attacks, it will likely go for the highest point – your stick or umbrella.  No waving is encouraged as the magpies will only be provoked.  And, of course, you don’t want to hurt them, just get them away.

Sometimes, living in the United States, has real advantages especially for those of us who love the outdoors!

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