By Jenita Iyalu
Magpie season is with us and it appears this year it’s cyclists who are feeling the brunt of these infamous birds’ territorial swoop.
Rowan Brown, a seasoned WA cycling enthusiast, is no stranger to this bird’s swooping instinct having experienced multiple attacks each nesting season.
“You’re just riding along and next thing you know, you get the fright of your life as it clips your helmet,” says Mr Brown.
“Then you’re trying to shoo it with one hand and steer with the other. Quite scary.”
According to The Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW), August through October is nesting time for these birds whose swooping instinct is triggered by a need to protect their young ones.
Australian website, Magpie Alert found that 65.8% of the site’s registered attacks were experienced by cyclists.
The website suggests demonising these birds can at times be a knee-jerk reaction to reports of injuries and local terrorising, although some say that these birds aren’t as vicious as they seem.
June Butcher, former Australian of the Year, CEO and Founder of Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre defends the black and white bombers.
“They are a very intelligent bird and have complex family rules,” says Mrs Butcher.
“When they swoop, they’re threatened, they’re frightened.”
Mrs Butcher says areas notorious for attacks can be attributed to these birds’ amazing memories, remembering attacks for up to five years.
“If they attack a person on a bike then that bird will have that association in its mind – that a bike is a threat, ” says Mrs Butcher.
With a month to go for nesting season, DPAW advises cyclists to dismount and walk out of the birds’ territory when being swooped or alternatively to attach cable ties to your helmet to deter attacks.