How to stop magpies swooping: the shocking truth
Well it's magpie season1 (or should that be Australian Airborne Death From Above Squad) so now's the time people want to know How to stop magpies swooping.
It's at this time of year that cyclists of all persuasions take on a slightly unhealthy pallour, and get a bit wild around the eyes at the prospect of solo rides: magpies are unabashed cowards and will rarely attack a large group.
You'll see the annual rollout of all manner of often hilarious Anti Magpie Deflector Shields (AMDSs) designed to (hopefully….#NOTTTT) ward off vicious and incessant attacks by these highly skilled aerial warriors.
It's also the time of year you will see articles by so called experts offering advice on effective AMDS's and strategies for avoiding catastrophic engagements with these killer birds.
These articles are often full of useless advice like this gem: “don't kill magpies”…I mean, come on. REALLY? Who the flamin' heck is really going to go all Mad Max on some poor little magpies.
These articles are also full of misinformation.
As a public service, I would like to highlight some of the egregious, perilous and downright irresponsible reporting you may come across regarding this matter.
Front and centre is this The Age article which is full–FULL, Dear Reader–of misinformation and general wrong-ness. As if that wasn't bad enough, this pap was promulgated in a certain Channel 10 “news” panel show that airs between 6.30PM and 7.30PM on weekdays.
So let us correct a few alleged factoids:
Firstly this gem:
The Brisbane City Council website offers advice ranging from “do not try to kill the birds” to “do not touch a young bird,” but also emphasises simply avoiding areas where magpies are breeding and nesting.
Well it might be useful if you're a council officer fanging around in your council Triton or Hilux, but for those who exercise on certain routes (for good reason) or commute a certain way, well that is next to useless.
I was also absolutely shocked–SHOCKED–to read Bicycle Queensland chief executive Ben Wilson assert that zip ties are ineffective against magpie attacks.
I don't know what planet Ben Wilson is living on, but it's clearly a planet with different magpies to Planet Earth. Or else he is busy commuting to work in his Hilux also.
(To be fair, maybe it's just a Queensland thing: if daylight savings can fade their curtains and make their milk sour ‘cos their cows are “up an hour earlier” then it's perfectly reasonable to think Queensland magpies would be impervious to proven AMDS' and generally be completely illogical, irrational and unreasonable.)
I've been conducting some Very Scientific Research2 for some time into this critical area and have some astounding findings to share with you all.
Key amongst them is this shocking revelation: zip ties are key tactic in your “how to stop magpies swooping” strategy.
No longer should you feel imperilled by the constant threat of a savage attack. No longer should you buy $39.95 Anti Magpie packs from Local Bike Shops (I mean, come on guys, try harder).
Nor do you need to sacrifice a pair of sunnies, placing them in the rear defensive position as a token rear gunner fending off attacked.
Nope, for a few bucks, you can safely and effectively discourage attacks these birds, who, by the way, have one of the most wonderful native Australian bird calls after probably the whip bird, bower bird, butcher bird, kookaburra, and the very prolific Peroni bird (“hooooo! hoooooo!”).
Here is a photo of my zip tie installation. The pattern I have installed these in is proven* to repel 99% of magpies. The other 1% of the magpie population is an entirely unrational bird who has a nasty kamikaze streak and will risk harming himself by attacking a Zip Tie Installation just to inflict injury. There is no stopping this 1%.
Here also for your consideration is a short video I made which clearly demonstrates the efficacy of a judiciously placed battery of Anti Magpiecraft Zip Ties.
If I ride past these magpies with no zip ties I am mercilessly attacked.
Zip ties? The bird stays away.
Ipso facto? Clearly zip ties are effective.
So my advice to you is do your own research and ignore the so called experts. (I will say that that article had one thing right: a family of magpies on your property is very unlikely to swoop. We have a couple of families, one of 5, and they appreciate the constant stream of food providing by our bird sanctuary. If only they relayed this fact to Magpie Bomber Command.)
As well as ignoring the experts, you can ignore the jeers and shocking sledges from your idiot friends who think it is cooler to be attacked by magpies than wear a few zip ties for a few months (by the way, they're also usually busy riding coffee shop kms whilst you're out busting out the km's which will be handy when you flay them in the local club races. NOT SO FUNNY NOW, FELLAS.)
And if the ignominy of wearing Zip Ties is too much to bear, simply have a riding-alone zip tie helmet, and a riding-with-others helmet you can wear when you ride to the coffee shop on your 80mm carbon tubulars in your magnificent Rapha kit.
1 Or at least it has been for a few months in my area. Aerial bombardment is coordinated through Magpie Central Bomber Command from around June, although single unauthorised kamikaze attacks can occur anytime in my area.
2 Through a process with absolutely no scientific process or rigour whatsoever.
A significant amount of time and effort goes into these reviews, all with the aim of helping you. As lots of readers say, I give way too much information away for nothing, and it really does take a lot of time and effort (but I do love doing it!).
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Can you please provide more detail on the type of zip tie, and optimal length? Also the number of zip ties and placement would be nice to know.
I’m thinking a schematic diagram of a helmet with notional placement would be ideal.
Thanks, your long time reader, Chris.
Chris I like the cut of your jib, I will get onto this. Thanks for the excellent suggestion.
I just usually ignore them,and just speed up a bit while not looking for the bird,usually attack from behind out of the sun. Baron von Magpie. Usually will get two strikes and then you are out of range. Only ever had one who came from the front, sort of head on who going to go chicken. He missed. But turned faster than a spitfire and got me from the rear,and then lost interest. Until tommorrow that is.
Ah David, you have been lucky.
The local Magpie-san, they are most-vicious.
My grandfather – one of only a handful of Aussie Spitfire pilots – tells me that to hone his craft he would often engage in a multi-move dogfight with Tallangatta magpies.
That stood him in good stead for the Battle of Darwin (on that count I am not joking).
David – I’m with you. From a road cycling perspective just take the hits and cycle on. I’ve been attacked as a runner and bled a little but as a cyclists we have speed, sunnies for eye protection and helmets.
Apart from the initial surprise hit put the head down, laugh and it’s a sprint. I also live in the Northern Rivers and seem to be hated by the local magpies.
Tim – I rate the currawong call highly.
Timbo, where in the Northern Rivers? You don’t do the Sat morning Alstonville ride? I’m inclined to agree but that one top of Wardell Rd or downhill on Tregeagle Rd toward Robsons Rd is too dangerous. Initial fright = handlebar dip into path of oncoming bus (on wrong side of road as usual).
Further north Tim – Banora Point and cycle mostly Tweed Valley/ Numinbah/Springbrook.
hi I think it is a bit of fun some just clip your helmet ,others just hit it hard but I personally have no fear for my safety it is mainly harmless. 🙂
Brilliant mate! I am over in Gladstone from Singapore on business and brought my bike over, didn’t have any warning about these flying Angels of death. First ride out I came across Maverick, Goose, Iceman and Baron Von Beaky – absolute psychos!
Thanks for the advice 🙂
Thanks Chris! How did you find the site?
You working on Gladstone LNG?
One of my Ozy mates in Singapore sent me the link.
Yeah down on the GLNG project, only for start up and should be back in Singapore next week. I will be back again in November for APLNG so my wee feathered friends won’t have to miss me for too long!
All the best
Tried packing along a chook or two? Just curious. When we fetched escapees, they seemed to enjoy the ride.
Maggies need their sport too – be sympathetic, their namesake footy team is not traveling too well. You call them a menace, I call them MOTIVATION!. I make a point of riding past a RAVEN-MAD (pun intended) kamikazi bird’s location at the end of a training session – he teaches me bike handling skills, improves my sprinting ability and always seems to come from a different direction. “HA! grasshopper-san” he says, beak out of sync with words “Always expect the un-expected”. “Yes Master”, I reply from the tangled mess of body and bike “I’ll do better next time”.
I moved into a rental prop house October last year and there was a tree full of about 4 baby magpies and 3 adults
the adults were swooping down on the pedestrians and animals walking up and down the street
a very busy street
so I fed the adult birds raw mince every morning and afternoon. Eventually the adult birds brought the babies down to feed and play in my yard.
They stopped swooping people and dogs. they just sat on the fence and watched people walking by.
about 4 months ago the babies (now young adults) and one adult relocated.
this month two of the young adult magpies returned to the house for food for their nest across the road in the park. I know they are the original birds because they almost feed out of my hand and follow me up the steps when I am heading for food. One of them pokes his head into the kitchen to wait for his food.
They are still wild and they chase the minor birds away not dogs or people.
I don’t feed them daily as only when I happen to be home. They still catch bugs in the garden.
I suggest if you have magpies in your street that are swooping – take some raw mince and stop and feed it. I could sit on the ground and be surrounded by adult and baby magpies within a week. If they don’t feel threatened they won’t swoop. Lots of kids walk by my fence now and are not afraid of the magpies. I have a feeling in 6wks I’ll be feeding more new baby magpies when they drop by. It feels like a mcdonalds drive through sometimes. Even two butcher birds brought a baby for food for a few weeks. They had to be quick as the magpies don’t like sharing food. Lol.
Hi Hanabira, cool story. For most of us out on the roads miles from home, this isn’t an option.
The idea of having mince pinned to my jersey is pretty funny.
Just wondering if and anyone who has tried running with Caple ties to a headband?