A must-read for anyone who plans to step outside today

If you plan to make the most of this beautiful Spring weather this weekend, you’ll want to know how to protect your head from maggies.

September is swooping season and, for anyone who grew up here in Australia, that thought alone sends a chill down your spine and send you ducking for cover.

We all know magpies swoop to protect their brood, but that doesn’t make it any less frightening or risky. So what is the best way to protect yourself? And why are magpies more likely to attack some people – posties, cyclists and small children with blonde hair in particular?

A brave team from CSIRO set out to determine the best ways to sneak past a protective maggie and the two resulting videos are very entertaining (who knew scientists had a sense of humour?).

A team from CSIRO Black Mountain campus in Canberra set up an experiment involving a particularly aggressive maggie that was nesting on the foot and cycle path between the Australian National University and our Black Mountain site.

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The focus of the study was on whether helmet actually adornments work – for September is also the season of the the cable-tie helmet fashion, which looks ridiculous, but if it works…

Brave cyclists crossed path with the mad maggie wearing eyes on the back of their helmet, cable ties, pipe cleaners and even a wig. Here are the videos, each about three minutes:


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The results were alarming – there is nothing you can attach to your helmet that will deter an angry bird with a nest to protect.

But… and it’s a big but… when the test subjects removed their helmets, the magpie backed off. Even when one rider whipped it off mid-attack, the magpie turned away.

Obviously, scientists don’t recommend riding around with no helmet as it flies in the face of every safety message they’ve worked hard to deliver. So they pursued a solution…. it’s not pretty, but it works.

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All jokes aside, this has been a particularly bad start to the swooping season, with a planned cull in Canberra North following lots of near misses with eyes and children. We share this country with its wildlife, so if we have to wear a silly wig over our helmet for a few weeks, it’s worth considering…

Have you been swooped by a magpie? Would you consider wearing a wig over your bicycle helmet if it meant they left you alone?