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.