Five Myths About Magpies You Need To Stop Believing

Image: iStock

Magpie season is currently in full swing (or should that be swoop?) with dozens of parks and playgrounds descending into avian war zones. But just because something is scary doesn't mean you should believe everything you hear. Here are five bogus magpie myths that the nation needs to debunk.

Myth #1: All magpies are aggressive

If you've ever been the unfortunate victim of a magpie, it's natural to assume that the entire species is made up of hateful, aggressive dickheads. In reality, it is estimated by scientists that around 10 per cent of paired breeding males regularly target humans. This is a tiny proportion of the entire magpie population. In other words, stop being racist. #NotAllMagpies

Myth #2: Magpies are enraged by the colour orange

This is a common misconception -- so much so that schools have been known to discourage the colour during the height of magpie season. In fact, all of the research conducted to date points towards the protective parent hypothesis. When vulnerable chicks are nearby, an aggressive magpie will swoop no matter what you are wearing.

Myth #3: People regularly lose an eye as a result of magpie attacks

According to data collated by the National Data Standards for Injury Surveillance, there were a total of 59 Australian magpie attacks requiring hospital treatment over a decade of study. (To put that into perspective, there were 119 Australian road fatalities in the month of August alone.) It should also be noted that the magpie statistic includes minor injuries and attacks that caused a person to fall or lose control of a bicycle -- actual eye pecking is exceptionally rare.

Myth #4: A magpie can remember and recognise your face for years

This one does have a kernel of truth to it but it's not unique to the magpie. As Selina Haefeli of Science Illustrated reports:

"It has been suggested that only bird species with high cognitive abilities are capable of recognising familiar human faces and voices. However Anna Wilkinson and her colleagues from the University of Lincoln, UK, have shown that even pigeons — not exactly the most “highly cognitive” birds — are capable of discriminating between individual humans."

Magpies tend to remain in the same territory for the majority of their 20-year lifespan, so it's not uncommon for them to frequently encounter the same people. There's nothing exceptional or supernatural about this though -- a stray dog can do the same thing.

Myth #5: Attaching plastic eyes on the back of your hat/helmet will scare magpies off

Nope.


Got any magpie myths, interesting factoids or feather-flying anecdotes to share? Swoop into the comments and have at it!

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Comments

    an amazing bird, not given the recognition it deserves because of a shitty AFL team and its owner.

    Another myth: Australian magpies are what articles like this are referring to.

    Our maggies aren't at all related to the Eurasian magpie (that's a corvid, ours is a butcherbird), even though they share a similar appearance and some behaviours.

    So, take any research findings from Northern Hemisphere academia with a grain of salt.

      It's called convergent evolution, or god played with the same paint palette if you're a happy clapper...

    Way off mackereth. That "is" a magpie. Our butcherbird is a different animal to our magpie.
    Likewise a corvid is more of a crow, nor a magpie.
    Simple google search will convince you I am right :)

      From the Wikipedia entry for Australian Magpie:
      "A member of the Artamidae, the Australian magpie is placed in its own genus Gymnorhina and is most closely related to the black butcherbird (Melloria quoyi). It is not, however, related to the European magpie, which is a corvid."

    The only thing worse than magpies are magpie apologists.

      Could not agree more... Magpiliphobia was a term created by Magpies to silence criticism of Magpies.

    sorry - but I'm still going to stick googly-eyes to the back of my head because it's freaking hilarious.

    I adore maggies.
    Used to have a couple of breeding pairs in the area that would visit me regularly but the past year has been hectic work wise, haven't had the chance to spend much time with them.
    (Still reply when I call though)

    One pair even left their juvenile in my yard one season, little sod would follow me around squawking for food.

    But my favourite was a young Maggie I named after Jones from Police Academy, he would sit on my fence all afternoon mimicking dog barks, sirens and car alarms (both near and far versions)

    If you are keen to make Maggie pals just observe them when they are nearby and listen for the two tone, high-low whistle they make to their mates and babies.
    It takes some practice to hit the exact same notes and length as each specific pair, but you will notce they become very interested and begin calling back to you.
    From there it's just letting them come to you over time and fostering the trust.

    Myth #6: They're nice birds.

    FALSE. They are the aggressive meth addicted hell spawn of his dark lord, Satan.

    I honestly have never been bothered by one... I've had them come down to see what I'm doing, they are quite inquisitive, but never really bothered. On the other hand when I'm flying my drones, they attack the drone while its in flight...lol

    I had one split my head open in primary school while walking through the car park which then ended in a 40m army crawl with blood soaked hair to the office. (And possibly a tear or 2)😂
    We also had a pair that would swoop our kelpie in a paddock where he would sit and (I swear) he enjoyed it!! Also the Maggie never hurt him.
    All in all I think they are beautiful birds and I love to watch them and try to call them.

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