Tips & resources

Swooping birds

With a feathery threat lurking in the trees, how will you escape the magpie swooping season unscathed?

Magpie madness

There’s lots to love about spring riding: not freezing your finger tips off, riding home from work through sunlit streets and watching bare branches turn green and leafy around you.

But spring also brings a treetop terror that casts a feathery shadow over even the sunniest of rides. I speak of that insidious, swooping bird of prey—the magpie.

So, in the interests of public safety, we’ve trawled through the web and asked the experts: how do you successfully avoid being swooped by these devious dive bombers?

swooping magpie

How to avoid being swooped

Magpie swooping bike rider

As expected, much of the advice is varied and contradictory — speed up, slow down, travel in groups, go solo, get off your bike and walk, don’t get off your bike.

Some strategies were perfectly sensible: put up a sign or post on your local ‘magpie map’ to warn other walkers and riders and take a detour until nesting season is over (you should be safe by November).

The most popular tip was to ‘use cable ties or pipe cleaners on the helmet’. Some believe flashing lights scare them off, while others swear a zany wig, sticking eyes to the back of your head or opening an umbrella is the way to go.

So do any of these ideas actually work? The bad news is that experts say there’s little evidence to suggest any of these tactics provide consistent results.

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Our advice

The best tactic it seems is ‘know your enemy’.

Magpies are smart, extremely territorial and will swoop riders from up to 100m away from their nest. Almost all attacks are made by male birds that see people who ride or walk as a threat to their young.

This means that they swoop anywhere and everywhere – in urban and rural areas, in parks and gardens, along bike paths and in schools.

While the wacky ideas may work for some, our advice to avoid a beak in the head is to show these birds and our wildlife the respect they deserve.

Know the swooping areas, give these birds space and take a detour—at least until they get their young out of the nest.

Victorian magpie map 2017

The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning have produced a magpie map, identifying locations where people were swooped.

Australian magpie Alerts