Flipping the bird at magpie menaces

Queensland bike riders think they may have found a workable deterrence to attack by swooping magpies.

Fed up with frequent and repeated targeting by the black and white missiles along the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, local riders were desperate for a defence system that shielded them from the close contact while ensuring the protected species was kept from harm.

Their ingenious solution—which only seems obvious in retrospect—was to deploy strips of holographic reflective tape, tied to their helmets and flipping and flapping in the breeze.

The tape is sold as "scare tape" from hardware stores and nurseries and is usually used to protect vegetable gardens and fruit trees.

The tape reflects bright shards of light, and is thought to disorientate our feathered unfriendlies, perhaps reminding them of shine of snake skin.

Its use to deter birds is somewhat analogous to the use of “chaff” in military aviation. Recent news footage of rescue flights leaving Kabul Airport showed strips of reflective tape dropping from the aircraft, in that case to confuse real missiles.

Brisbane Valley Rail Trial Users Association President Paul Heymans told ABC Southern Queensland he started using the tape after he noticed he was being attacked less.

"It's not 100 per cent effective; I reckon it's about 85 per cent effective, but it does work," he said.

He uses a piece of the tape about 80cm long, threaded through his helmet.

Now the local council and tourism businesses are handing out the tape to encourage bird-shy tourist to ride the trail in the three-month breeding season

The Somerset Regional Council has invested in nearly 2000 metres of tape and is offering strips at its visitor information centres in Fernvale, Esk and Toogoolawah.

You can watch Paul Heymans full video, and read more of the venture, here

And you can get the tape at Bunnings.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.