You know Spring has sprung when hilarious videos of people getting chased by magpies start going viral again.
Just like this poor kid, who was absolutely brutalised by a relentless magpie on his morning scoot (you’ve gotta love the dedication to the swoop and the scoot).
Can’t. Stop. Laughing…??? pic.twitter.com/E8i6Bh9zcT
— Rex Chapman?? (@RexChapman) September 28, 2020
Naturally, the internet is going a nuts for the video. Some non-Australians are shocked that, yes, even our birds want to kill us. But most of us are crying, either laughing or from resurfacing swoop trauma. Honestly, I was just praying the kid didn’t stack it on the footpath.
Whatever the video did to you, it’s clear that we’re all aware that it’s swooping season, and we’re all in need of preparation, tips and tricks to make it through Spring alive. And that’s where we come in.
BTW This Is Why And When The Magpies Swoop.
Despite what it looks like, and sometimes what it feels like, magpies aren’t blood-thirsty monsters senselessly swooping for the fun of it. Though, I’m sure that it is mildly fun to make us big scary humans shriek and scamper away.
Male magpies only swoop in the Spring months (late-ish August to late-ish October) when their testosterone levels are really high. Basically, they’re being big protective fathers.
They’re not actually ‘attacking’ you, but using their body language – beak clapping, whooshing above and around your head and screeching – to warn you away from their eggs or newly hatched chicks.
Luckily, a single magpie will only swoop for about six weeks, or until their chicks are ‘fledged’ and all good to leave the nest. It’s basically all over by November.
So hold out hope, pray for the best, and use these tips to not get swooped in the mean time. Or just stay inside until November.
Obviously, Avoid The Nesting Area. Every Year.
Change your route seems like an obvious, but it’s a very good tactic to not get swooped. Magpies swoop within 50 metres of their nests, so as long as you cut a pool-length around the, you’ll be good.
Also, magpies susually stick with the same nesting spots every year. So if there’s a street near you that was a particular hot-spot last year, you should take a detour on your way to the bus stop during Spring.
There’s Safety In Numbers.
A magpie is more likely to attack a lone scooter-riding child than a small group of people walking along the footpath. But,
If You Are Alone, Don Some (Fashionable) Armour.
I don’t mean stab zip-ties through helmets or hats – those don’t always work anyway, and then you look doubly ridiculous. But do wear a hat and some sunglasses to protect your head and eyes. Injuries are extremely rare, but we’re dealing with a wild animal here. Some people recommend carrying an umbrella – but don’t go trying to knock them out of the air, because…
Magpies Have Very Good Memories, So Don’t Piss Them Off.
Don’t provoke them. Magpies remember the people they like, and they’ll remember the people they don’t. They’ll remember the people who swung at them – and probs perceive them as a threat – and those who didn’t. With that in mind…
They Attack From Behind, So Square Off.
I mean, I don’t mean actually take it on. I literally just said don’t provoke it. But, you’ll notice that the birds usually swoop from behind. Bird-watchers and science people (and folks with far more swooping and magpie experience than I have) say they’re much less likely to target you if they think they’re being watched. They recommend drawing eyes on a helmet or hat; but you can use your own to make suer they know you’re aware of them. But if they do end up swooping you:
Try To Stay Calm, Protect Your Head And Walk Away.
Again, if you’re calm, you’ll look less like a threat than if you’re screaming, crying, and running away with your arms flailing about.
If you’re cycling, a lot of people recommend getting of your bike and walking. It may seem counter productive, to stop and walk while you’re being swooped; but it’s better to move slowly and calmly then trying to sprint away.
Try to stay calm, fold your arms over your head and walk (relatively quickly) away.
And, Just For Fun, Pray To Steve Irwin For The Best.
Getting swooped by a magpie is as much part of the Australian Spring as hayfever and asthma. So, maybe, these tips won’t work maybe they will. Maybe we should just pray to Steve Irwin, our khaki lord and saviour who art on the throne in the Animal Kingdom.
The bottom line is: give our Springtime overlords the respect they deserve.
Image Sources: Twitter (@isabellekoldreas, @p_webs, @RexChapman), Unsplash (@chrisstenger, @kvetpov).