Featured Image for Techly Explains: Why do magpies swoop – and how do I avoid them?

Techly Explains: Why do magpies swoop – and how do I avoid them?

Author and artist Douglas Coupland is pretty much the man – if you haven’t read any of his books, well, just consider them plugged. In one of his collections, Life After God he wrote:

“[B]irds are a miracle because they prove to us there is a finer, simpler state of being which we may strive to attain.”

Beautiful eh? And also proof positive that Coupland grew up in Canada, a whole world away from the vicious ball of monochrome hate-filled feathers that is the Australian magpie.

After all, it’s difficult to be struck by the majesty of a creature that is dive-bombing your head.

As beautifully laid out by The Conversation, September is open season as far as the little blighters are concerned.

The whole deal, and the specific causes of such, have been pickling the brains of Australian scientists for a few years now, so much so that a paper in 2010 co-authored by academics from Deakin and Griffith universities titled ‘Attacks on humans by Australian Magpies (Cracticus tibicen): territoriality, brood-defence or testosterone?’ set out to work out what was getting the little fellas so worked up and discovered.

In their own words, the boffins said:

The response of 10 pairs of aggressive magpies to natural levels of human intrusion was compared with that of 10 non-aggressive pairs. Behavioural observations strongly supported the contention that attacks on humans resemble brood-defence and did not support an association with territoriality. The study also found no support for the suggestion that testosterone levels correlated with aggressiveness towards humans: male testosterone peaked immediately before laying and was significantly lower during the maximum period of attacks directed at people.

So there we have ourselves a cause, and you have to admit if they feel like you’re going for the chicks, then you can’t blame them.

But what, if anything, can we do to stop them – other than, you know, staying inside for the whole month of September?

Welp, again back in 2010 there was one particularly aggressive magpie who had made his home outside the CSRIO’s Canberra site, and so the scientists employed therein decided to have a little investigation into how effective different deterrents would be.

Here’s the good news, they filmed the results displaying both their eye for comedy and a surprising penchant for ’90s British trip-hop.

If you don’t have time to watch those videos – and Techly politely suggests that you find it – then allow us to nutshell the results:

If you have silly things attached to your helmet, September is cancelled.
If you have brown, grey or large hair, you may go about your business.

The magpies have spoken.

About the author

Writer of words. Dreamer of dreams. Leader of men.

Leave a comment