Sep08

Dodging the Black and White Blur

It’s 8am on a late August Saturday and the household cat has just been let outside. Not 1 minute later, the squawking of the newly moved in magpie can be heard as it dive bombs the cat. Not long after, the cat is pressed up against the window crying to get back inside.

Yep, it’s magpie season again!

These territorial birds become very protective of their eggs and young from July to November in Australia, with the defensive behaviour (swooping and squawking) lasting for around 6 to 8 weeks. It has almost become a rite of passage for every Aussie to make a bolt down a street or across the park whilst under attack and waving whatever implements (handbag, newspaper, your lunch) are in your arms to try and scare it away.

Being so common place at this time of year for Australians, we are all used to it and after the terror of an attack has ebbed, we can laugh about it (until the next time we enter into magpie territory) but what about foreign tourists who suffer this ordeal?

It’s not always possible to avoid the areas that a Magpie is nesting in, so what can you do to prevent injury? The tried and true methods include wearing your sunglasses and hat, holding a bag or umbrella over your head when walking. And when riding, spike up your helmet with cable ties and adornments like big eyes. Although it seems counter intuitive, don’t run or fight back, this will only make the Magpie more defensive. If you know of swooping birds in your area, put up street signs warning people. These can be downloaded from www.ehp.qld.gov.au.

Remember, these birds aren’t out to intentionally harm you or your pets; they are protecting their nest and young through the only method available to them – scaring you away!

As for the cat, well he has developed a nervous twitch and is spending a lot more time indoors - Magpie 1, cat 0!

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