How Are You Dealing With Swooping Magpies This Spring?

It's September, spring is upon us and for anywhere in Australia with a few trees and not too many cars, that means the risk of getting swooped by a magpie. Many of us have tried ice cream cartons with eyes, bicycle helmets and roaring like banshees to no avail. What works for you?

Picture by Paddynapper

After you've been repeatedly swooped by a magpie, claims that they're merely defending their turf and that they aren't naturally aggressive don't carry much weight. At the ABC, there's a report arguing that the magpies which swoop are the ones which successfully defend their turf and manage to breed and that we shouldn't provoke them with tactics like fake eyes on the back of ice-cream cartons. That's all well and good, but I've never seen the logic in claims that magpies trying to defend themselves against a perceived threat is fine, but we shouldn't try and defend ourselves in turn. If they can fight back, so can we.

When I was regularly getting swooped by magpies in Armidale (which is, ironically, where the researcher the ABC quotes is based), the only options I found that work were either carrying a tennis racquet to scare/bat them off or walking around with a dog, neither of which is practical for daily use. Suggesting "taking an alternative route" is often pointless too: I lived in a location where the only two possible approach streets from the city both had magpies on them, and they'd swoop year after year.

There were plenty of trees that weren't in town, so people telling me that "we've ruined the other options for magpies so we can't complain now" were not convincing in the slightest. While I'm in favour of shooting them on a "get away from my eyes you marauding squawker" emotional level, I'd happily settle for a tactic that keeps my head unpecked with less violence.

Magpies are less of a problem in more densely populated urban areas, but certainly not unknown; the last time I got swooped by a magpie was in downtown Canberra. So I'd love to know: what tactics do Lifehacker readers use to minimise swooping when it seems like walking past a nest is the only option? Share your strategies in the comments.


Comments

    Glue fake eye's on your helmet, lol!

    I don't know why they would say fake eyes on an ice cream tub is useless, because I've seen plenty of kids that do it and don't get bothered. Personally, I grab a stick if I can find one and just regularly turn my head in the general direction of the incoming missile, if they are on the way, they generally break off when they see that you are watching them, if they don't the stick will fend them off. Seriously though I think they know if you're scared and then it becomes a game!

    I only ever had magpie/skull contact once - ever since then I found walking with a stick raised above head level kept them away.

      Agreed

    I've never really seen this as an issue... carry a small branch over your shoulder, use it to wave the fly's away every now and again and they'll still swoop but they wont come close enough to hurt you.

    Lots of cyclist I see have long zip ties the tail of the tie sticking up in the air in random directions, I can see that being somewhat effective however I got swooped the other day it got me in the shoulder!!!

    Zipties/ eyes on back of helmet/etc dont work for cyclists. Only thing that works is no helmet as shown in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wHreVKgOT4&feature=relmfu

      I'd like to believe that, because it would also solve overheating of the skull in summer. I grew up in Europe so never had either problem. But I've been swooped several time sin recent weeks and was pecked on the ear this morning, I have a bloodied shirt to prove. However, I'd like to think that at least the helmet provides some protection from being pecked straight on the head, I personally feel safer wearing the helmet, just in case.

    I don't know. I'd sooner trust the opinion of a zoologist than that of a peckerhead IT journalist when it comes to assessing animal behaviour. If you must protect your empty skull, Angus, take an umbrella with you. They're amazing creatures, intelligent and with one of the most amazing birdsongs in the avian world. The inconvenience of their protectiveness for 6 weeks of the year is a small price to pay for the pleasure of their company for the rest of the year.

      Any evidence on the 6 weeks a year claim? Ran much longer in my experience!

      Why do people feel it necessary to be so damned rude to those writing these stories! Just because you have a difference of opinion doesn't automatically give you the right to be belligerent!

        +1,000,000

    since they only breed once a year and usually swoop people when they have eggs/young why not just use an umbrella if you cant go around them

    have a nest of plovers on my front lawn who have been coming back for years that no longer swoop us because don't go near them unless we have to can even mow the lawn around the nest without getting swooped

    Cleansing the den of evil

    My mum found me a hat when I was a kid that was covered in silver sequins - not only did I look awesome (or so thought my 8 year old self) the reflections kept away the maggies. Since then I've also heard stories of people gluing bits of mirror to hats/helmets and not having any troubles.

    Staring them down seems to work, just makes you look stupid.

    If my experience is anything to go by, the best thing is to ride your bike to school year after year getting swooped and regularly arriving with bloody ears or neck, then 25 years later read about potential solutions that I should have tried.

    Make sure they are watching you on a few occasions and drop food for them then leave, they will quite quickly learn you are not a threat but a provider and will leave you alone.

    The solution I have is that for the last 5-10 years we've been feeding the local magpie mating pair and their children. Have never been swooped by them where others in the street have.

      Where I used to live, we had magpies that would come into out lounge room, because they kew they could get a feed. Where I am now, the neighbour feeds them and they are very friendly and never swoop (and the are lots of kids on bikes). Two blocks away, there is a park inhabited by VERY aggressive Magpies, that swoop everyone - because nobody lives nearby to feed them. Now feeding them might not be the most ecologically sound for the birds - but it sure befriends them and hence, makes them stop swooping

    I go the traditional method of putting a dead magpie on a stick and carrying it with me...not a single live one comes swooping near me.

    I find the best solution, -the very, very, very best- is for people not to be dicks.

    That's the only thing that 100% works.
    It's hard though, because people are naturally stupid dicks and act like morons when there are animals of any kind near them... But if they can restrain their impulses and learn to ignore the birds and let them go about their daily business then the problem clears up.

    Seriously. In my suburb swooping used to be rife... But then most of the kids grew up, the population were mostly adults. People stopped acting stupid around the birds, gave them their own space etc. So in more than 15 years I've only seen one swooping bird in the whole area. Even when more kids came again, that behaviour just wasn't there anymore.

      Lovely theory, but lousy reality in my experience. In what sense is merely walking down a street being a dick? That was invariably the context when I got swooped.

        How am I able to walk home every day without one magpie swooping on me? I can walk past magpies, babies with parents and I have never been swooped. I went to ride to a friends house the other day and got swooped on by at least 3 different magpies. I believe this is either because I rode past a school, many children, feels like a bigger threat to the magpies, OR because I was wearing a helmet.

      As I said earlier, I get the feeling that if they get a reaction, it becomes a game for them!

      I was minding my own business and got swopped today. I was walking across an oval 50-80 metres away from any the make and it started swooping me. It didn't actually get me (just swooped above my head). How does this fit into the category of being a Dick?

    I was swooped by a magpie the other day and its wing hit my face.. I was walking quite a large dog at the time and that obviously doesn't work..

    When living in town I made eye contact and talked to them. We got on very well. Now I'm out of town and there are no kids around the maggies never swoop. I don't feed them either but they do like it when I dig the garden or mow the paddock.

    .22 calibre air rifle
    The soft pfhht after trigger release beats the swoosh of wings any day

    Become a Collingwood supporter. Magpies don't swoop their own.

      I am a Collingwood supporter and they swooped me today!

    Magpies are so innocent where I used to live, you could walk right up to them and hand feed them. They never swooped or anything, and they make nice noises.

    On the other hand, the crows where the "bad birds" Regularly attacking people, kicking magpies out of their home and the noises they make are annoying.

    The best method is to tape a mini Xmas tree to your head with BRIGHT tinsel and a few noisy baubles. A few bits of foil helps as well. The birds don't like the shiny noisy things.

    An air rifle fixes everything, or some form of homemade projectile device. Hey, I'm sure Instructables has something on that!

      That's a bit over the top and aggressive. Let Darwin do the work and tape a rabbit trap to your head... if the bird goes you then it has not evolved enough.

    Like a boss

    (that’s how I’m dealing with them)

    I saw a magpie swoop a POST Australia worker on his motorbike last week. He was going 50km down a road and this magpie was just flying behind him and then pecked his white helmet! Wish I got the thing on camera it was great!

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