Every spring, Australians are locked in a fierce battle with a fearsome black and white enemy – the magpie. The threat has become so imminent that to get attacked is almost a rite of passage for Australians. Pedestrians, cyclists, and dog walkers are forced to go to great measures to protect themselves; however, as seen in radio host Amber Wheatland’s video Amber vs the Magpie – The Eyes Don’t Work, which has amassed over one million views, many avoidance theories including branches in the helmet and fake eyes don’t work. To avoid getting swooped, here is all the relevant information you need to know.
Why Do Magpies Swoop
According to National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Melanie Tyas, magpies swoop in an effort to protect nestlings. ‘They’re actually very good parents,’ Tyas said. ‘They’re just doing what we would do – protecting the food bowl and their family.’ In the act of territoriality, over-protective dads who have increased levels of testosterone during mating season will swoop those unfortunate enough to pass beneath a nesting tree. Attacks can happen within 100 metres of said tree, and once a magpie has identified you as a threat, they may continue to attack throughout their lifespan.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
This year, 5,750 attacks have been reported, with 911 of those resulting in injury. The highest percentage of attacks were reported in Queensland, and 62 percent of those targeted were cyclists, while 26 percent were pedestrians.
Tips to Try
Professor Gisela Kaplan from the University of New England has been researching magpies for 25 years and has never been swooped. Her trick? Bribery. ‘I’ll approach them with a little bit of mincemeat in my hand. It’s like I’m saying ‘I come in friendship, I offer you a gift’ and the magpie will think about this.’ ‘Usually, they won’t take the mincemeat, but they won’t swoop either and if you come back the next day and put the mincemeat on the ground and take a few steps back, they’ll usually take it. By the third day, the magpie will likely give you freedom of passage.’
However, National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Melanie Tyas does not recommend feeding them as it can make the magpie sick.
If you’ve noticed a magpie guarding a particular tree, the best piece of advice is to avoid that area throughout spring. Cross the road and find another route. If you’re unsure as to whether there is a magpie in your area, visit the national crowd-sourced map Magpie Alert which will point out hot spots.
Another tell-tale sign that there’s a magpie in the area is to listen for their distinctive calls. Their singing voices are a part of the natural Australian soundtrack and are easily recognisable to any Aussie.
Eye injuries from magpies have been reported, so it’s important when venturing out in spring to pop on a pair of sunglasses as well as a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head and eyes.
Do not attempt to test or provoke a magpie as they are extremely intelligent birds. ‘Magpies are highly complex in a cognitive sense – this is what we would call intelligence,’ says Professor Gisela Kaplan. A magpie that has been harassed will learn not to trust humans, furthering the problem.
If you happen to encounter an aggressive magpie, attempt to stay calm as panicked behaviour such as screaming and waving your arms will appear hostile to the bird, which is likely to increase the severity of the attack. In the rare occasion that you are attacked, your best move is to calmly retreat from the area while maintaining eye contact with the bird. Magpies tend to swoop from behind, so keeping your eyes on them will help to deter any further aggression.
Statistics prove that magpies have a particular hatred for cyclists. Tried and tired avoidance methods include branches in the helmet and drawing eyes on the back of the helmet. Instead, behavioural ecologist Daryll Jones from Griffith University recommends cable ties: ‘You’ve got to look completely ridiculous for it to work, it’s got to be like an echidna.’ Another tip for cyclists is to dismount your bike when approaching a magpie area.
Although many people have been attacked and even injured, only a small percentage of magpies have shown aggression towards humans, and attacks are limited to their breeding season between August and October. By avoiding magpies during these months, attacks can be prevented, and Australians can live in harmony with these native birds.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.