Swooped by magpies

Swooped by a magpieWith shopping bags in hand, I locked my car and headed towards the mailbox singing to myself. It was a beautiful afternoon; the sun was shining, it wasn’t too cold and I was happy.

Then I saw him. He was standing in front of the gate; his black eyes stared me down and he started to move in my direction. I knew I was in trouble.

Without taking my eyes off him, I quickly backed up to my car, jumped in and took off. Brooke 0–Magpie 1.

That’s right, magpie season is here again. Spring in Australia is magpie season, when breeding magpies (almost always males) become aggressive and swoop and attack anyone who approaches their nests, especially cyclists.

Last year, while power walking around my suburb Kath & Kim* style, I came across a magpie pacing in front of a tree.
He seemed harmless, walking backwards and forwards on the ground so I thought nothing of it and continued on my way heading for a railway pedestrian overpass.

And then it happened; I was under attack and I didn’t even have an upside down ice-cream bucket for protection.

This was no one-off swooping; it was a calculated and continuous attack. He swooped and I squealed.

After narrowly missing my head, he turned around and came at me again and again, his pointy little beak heading straight for my baby blues like they were a bullseye.

I was running; running, screaming and waving my arms around as though my life depended on it. (All the things WikiHow advises you not to do when under attack from this so-called Aussie icon).

I wanted to yell at him that my brother used to play rugby for Souths Magpies over at Chipsy Wood Oval in Yeronga and that I wear a lot of black and white so I was one of his kind but there was no time for that.

The 30m to the pedestrian overpass felt like three kilometres. As I zig-zagged across the street I had a near-miss with a ute. The driver didn’t even laugh; I think he was shocked that a crazed lycra-clad girl had almost landed on his bonnet, yelling profanities usually uttered by drunken sailors.

Finally I made it around the corner to the railway bridge and the magpie ceased his attack and probably went back to his ground patrol, no doubt waiting until he could share the story with his mates later.

As I gasped for breath on the far side of the overpass I realised karma had finally caught up to me. Years ago a mate and I sat in our car laughing at a kid being swooped while riding his bike. At least he had a helmet on!

It took a good five minutes for my heart rate to slow to a normal speed and with every bird or leaf that flew overhead I ducked, no doubt providing endless amusement for those driving past. The only thing funnier than seeing someone duck from a magpie, is to see them duck at a branch blowing in the wind.

While some victims are prepared to forgive and forget, I’m not of that school of thought. I’d like to see them all face the death penalty, especially that evil little bugger who lives in the big gum tree.

According to the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit, up to 20 Queenslanders are injured by magpies every year, with 40 per cent of victims aged under 15 years—and at least one attack resulting in serious injury.

I realise they are protecting their nests but at what cost to the humans who just happen to walk past during those six weeks in Spring? Last year a four-year-old boy was left temporarily blind in one eye after a magpie attack and the year before a 12-year-old died after being hit by a car while trying to get away from an aggressive magpie.

I’m woman enough to admit that I’m scared of birds at the best of times; I won’t even be around a budgie if it is out of its cage and even when it isn’t magpie season, I’ll cross the road if I see one ahead of me on the footpath or sitting on a fence.

So this year to avoid a repeat attack, I’ll be skipping my outdoor exercise sessions for the next few months. I’ve got myself a gym membership and the treadmill and I are going to become good mates.

For those willing to brave the outdoors over the next few months, click here for WikiHow’s 10 tips on how to keep safe from swooping magpies.

Also, when researching magpie habits for this story, I discovered even more good news … apparently the little buggers are so intelligent they not only recognise themselves in mirrors, but they have an incredible memory and will attack the same people again and again.

Here’s hoping no short blondes decide to take a run past the old gum tree over the next couple of months although a magpie attack is one surefire way to get your heart racing.

* For my international readers, Kath & Kim is an Australian sitcom about a mother and daughter and their dysfunctional relationship. The series was created by, and is written by Jane Turner and Gina Riley who play the title characters. In the show Kath (the mother) and her second husband Kel do quite a bit of power walking.

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