Tips & resources

Swooping Magpies

With a feathery threat lurking in the trees, here are our top tips to escape magpie swooping season unscathed.

Magpie madness

There’s lots to love about spring riding: not freezing your finger tips off, riding home from work through sunlit streets and watching bare branches turn green and leafy around you.

But spring also brings a treetop terror that casts a feathery shadow over even the sunniest of rides. That insidious, swooping bird of prey – the magpie.

So, in the interests of public safety, we’ve trawled through the web and asked the experts: how do you successfully avoid being swooped by these devious dive bombers?

swooping magpie

How to avoid being swooped

As expected, much of the advice is varied and contradictory — from speed up, slow down, travel in groups, go solo, get off your bike and walk to don’t get off your bike. Some strategies were perfectly sensible: put up a sign or post on your local ‘magpie map’ to warn other walkers and riders and take a detour until nesting season is over (you should be safe by November).

Magpie swooping bike rider

The most popular tip was to ‘use cable ties or pipe cleaners on the helmet’. Some believe flashing lights scare them off, while others swear a zany wig, sticking eyes to the back of your head or opening an umbrella is the way to go. You could even attach a flag to your bike that is higher than your head.

So do any of these ideas actually work? The bad news is that experts say there’s little evidence to suggest any of these tactics provide consistent results, not to mention they aren’t all that practical either.

Interesting fact: It’s true, magpies remember your face. They have excellent recall for faces and very long memories. So, if you’ve been swooped before, or even if you just look like someone they swooped last year, you’re likely to get the same treatment again.

Our advice

Magpies are smart, extremely territorial and will swoop riders from up to 100m away from their nest. Almost all attacks are made by male birds (the males have white markings on the back of their necks whereas the females have grey markings) that see people who ride or walk as a threat to their young.

This means that they swoop anywhere and everywhere – in urban and rural areas, in parks and gardens, along bike paths and in schools.

While the wacky ideas may work for some, our advice to avoid a beak in the head is to show these birds and our wildlife the respect they deserve.

In order to stay a little safer we would recommend that you:

  • Know the swooping areas, give these birds space and take a detour until they get their young out of the nest.
  • If you do find yourself in a swooping area, dismount your bike if you’re riding and walk through the magpie’s territory calmly and quickly.
  • Wear glasses or sunglasses to keep your eyes safe.
  • Ride in a group.

And, if you do get attacked:

  • Don’t freak out and run as that will provoke further attack
  • Quickly and calmly move out of their space
  • Don’t wave your arms around or yell

And remember all Victorian native wildlife is protected by law, and it is illegal to harass or harm native birds and other wildlife without authorisation.

Magpie swooping locations

Check out these resources to see if there are any magpies swooping in your area.

The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning have produced a Magpie Map, identifying locations where people have been swooped.

You can also add your swooping spots to Australian Magpie Alerts and check out the updated lists of locations throughout spring.

Magpie alerts

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