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Avoid magpie attacks this spring

Avoid magpie attacks this spring

Spring has arrived, bringing warmer weather, blooming flowers and longer days.

However, spring also heralds the start of the dreaded magpie swooping season.

Many thousands of Australians have fallen victim to magpie attacks.

Traditional solutions involving cable ties on bike helmets and ice cream buckets on heads often prove ineffective.

(And let's be honest, they also look ridiculous.)

Attack tactics

Magpies typically attack during their mating season, which lasts for approximately 6 weeks between August and November, depending on the state.

In this time the male bird becomes territorial and protective, attacking intruders.

Although male magpies are the biggest offenders, female magpies can also be aggressive, but are more likely to attack when their fledglings are on the ground rather than in the nest.

Making it personal

Magpies are very intelligent and are able to remember specific faces and identifying features, and generally select their victims with care.

So, if it feels like a particular magpie is regularly targeting you, it’s quite likely that it's remembered you as a past threat and is indeed singling you out.

Magpies tend to attack three main categories of people: pedestrians, posties, and cyclists.

Some birds specialise by almost exclusively attacking one of those groups.

Men are more likely to be the victim of a magpie attack than women are, with schoolchildren also a particularly victimised; perhaps due to their recognisable uniforms.

While experts are still not entirely sure why the birds target certain people at certain times, magpies do seem to have a low-tolerance threshold to someone looking in their direction while in their territory.

Make friends not war

One of the best ways to bring about a ceasefire is to befriend the hostile bird.

Bringing it food, and making it clear that the food is intended as a gift, can mean the bird will stop treating you as a threat and instead remember you as a friend in seasons to come.

However, wildlife experts suggest that giving magpies food isn’t ideal as it can make them sick, being unused to the kinds of food that humans offer.

It’s also important to note that it’s illegal to kill or harm magpies, a native species.

When trying to scare a magpie away, the more outlandish your head decorations the more effective they’ll be, research suggests.

Cable ties on a helmet work better when there are hundreds of them.

While eyes drawn on an ice cream bucket are both an Australian tradition and a good idea in theory (based on the behavioural psychology of magpies), if not in practice; in actuality an ugly rubber mask, worn backwards, is much more effective.

Finally, if you're on a bike, getting off and walking will make it more likely for the magpie to back down.

Check out more magpie safety tips.

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