A must-read for anyone who plans to step outside today 47



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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.

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:


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?  


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I was in my late teens and just dyed my hair a nice fire engine red, it was not meant to be so bright It almost glowed in the dark, I went strawberry picking at a local farm, when a huge Maggie flew down and grabbed a big clump of hair and pulled it out, for nest making I think. Maggies are wonderful birds but you have to treat them with respect and try avoid their nest in the nesting season

  2. stop waving your arms around like lunatics, no wonder they swoop you, they are just protecting their babies, take some food with you and give it to them. they will then expect you every day till the babies leave the nest, they dont forget kindness, like crows, they remember you

    2 REPLY
    • Yes agree, we live in a rural village in Southern NSW and have a family of 5 maggies visit us daily. They sit on the chairs on the veranda and peck on the door and call out to us until we bring them some bread and even take it out of our hand when we hold it out. It originally started with two of them and gradually grew to the 5 now. They even walk beside me when I am on the rideon mower, thats how trusting they are of us.

    • thats a great story mike, i find it hilarious watching people screaming and flapping their arms around, image the poor maggies must think people are looneys, just share and spread the word so people learn, especially if it happens to them where they walk every day. too easy

  3. I was listening on the news about Magpie and they remember you for at least 5 years, so don’t annoy them

  4. Just stay away from their nesting area for a few weeks, if someone came into your back yard who you didn’t know you’d protect your kids…that is all they are doing. We have a lot around us and have never been attacked, they bring their young to show then to us.

  5. I live on a farm and every year my husband gets swooped all the time and me never, think it’s because it’s always me who disposes of the food scraps and the magpies and crows clean them up.

  6. I feed them, even when I take my dogs for a walk I share the dog treats with them. They never forget .

  7. As country kids we swing a stick around owe heads ha ha it worked

    1 REPLY
    • I remember doing that shirley when l stayed at my aunty and uncles farm on the holidays l would ride down to the main road to collect the mail and my aunty would tell me to wave a stick above my head, quiet a task when you were riding on an old dirt and bumpy road but it worked

  8. In our last house we had one that nested in our neighbours tree. Every time I went to hang the washing on the line it would attack me. In the end my husband put a clothes line up in our garage. The children had to play in the front yard for the nesting season.

  9. We have lived in our home for the past 20 years and had never been attacked by a magpie until last nesting season while on a morning walk. Obviously it wasn’t one of the magpies that grew up in our little street scape. The magpies used to come in onto our deck and sing to us along with the butcher birds.

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