Re: Attacking magpies

To: (Birding Aus)
Subject: Re: Attacking magpies
From: Paul Taylor <>
Date: Mon, 4 Nov 1996 21:47:02 +1100 (EST)
> [background on attacks snipped]

Your timing is impeccable - my supervisor was telling me about being
pecked on his helmet while riding on the weekend.
> 1) Capture of the birds, secondaries clipped or removed to inhibit
> dive-bombing. It didn't seem to affect their flying capabilities. Would
> clipping their primaries be a death sentence for them?
> 2) Shooting the birds. Solves the problem but is a little drastic.

I don't like either of these options at all.
> 3) Waving a bicycle pump in a random pattern around the head. Keeps them
> at a metre away.

Worth a try - also effective against pedestrians and other cyclists.  :)
> Suggested (but untried) methods
> 1) Remove the eggs from the nest. Would they just lay more?
>    (And you'd have to be game to remove them)

Don't like this one either.
> 2) Relocation of the birds. I reckon the magpies in the new area would
> kill them, so not an ideal method.

And probably ineffective - it wouldn't take long for a new pair to take
over the empty territory.

> 3) Teatowel wrapped around ears and neck to protect exposed skin from
> attack. Should work.

Helps prevent skin cancer, too. 

> 4) Eyes of some kind glued to the back of bicycle helmet. I'm trialling
> some teddy-bear eyes (with the pupils that roll around) and black felt for
> eye-brows tomorrow, I'll let you know. Think they'll fall for it?

Considering how often this method is suggested, there must be something
to it.
> 5) Carry a small umbrella that opens with the click of a button. Open
> prior to entering the war zone, use to deflect attack from behind.

Hmm... a drag-chute.  I don't what the magpies will think, but I'm sure
human onlookers will find it amusing as you try to stay on the bike.  :)
> Any other suggestions will be gratefully received. 

Some possibilities (untried):

1)  A bike flag.  The one I had as a kid was a tall fibreglass rod with
an orange flag at the tip.  There should be enough flex in the rod to
keep your back protected.

2)  Carry some Maggie Munchies(tm).  When the magpie swoops, simply drop some
goodies for it.  Provided they are sufficiently enticing (e.g. fresh worms)
the magpie will (hopefully) decide an easy meal for its squawking youngster
is more attractive than your head.

3)  Similar to 2 - get to know your magpies out of swooping season.  If the
magpies recognise you as not being a threat, they may leave you alone when
they are swooping.  Again, some snacks are a useful way of gaining their
trust so long as they don't become dependant on it.

4)  Wear a magpie T-shirt (with birds, not the Collingwood F.C. variety).
I bought one from the Wilderness shop (available from Australian Geographic
and others, too) and haven't been swooped yet.  I don't know if T-shirt is
the reason, but I'm not planning to test it out, either...

While magpies can be a nuisance at times, they are just doing their best
to protect their young.  Getting rid of animals that don't suit us is the
sort of thing that led to the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger, and 
obviously shouldn't be encouraged.  Except for spiders.  I hate spiders.

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