THEY are the enemy of unassuming pedestrians, the bane of avid cyclists, and a menace for hard-working posties - and they’re back with a vengeance.
Magpie breeding season has just kicked off across Australia, ushering in a six-week reign of indiscriminate airborne terror.
Experts say the all-clear should arrive in October but in the meantime are offering some dos and don’ts when it comes to preventing or reacting to a flyby assault.
Suggested preventative measures include the obvious: Don’t provoke the birds and don’t dawdle past nesting sites; holding an umbrella or stick about your head also works well, as does wearing a wide brim hat and controlling excitable dogs around nesting sites.
However, it’s probably not the brightest idea to inadvertently provoke birds by panicking, according to Dave Pearce, a NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger based in Tumut, in southern NSW.
“The biggest thing is to just remain calm and get out of the area as calmly but quickly as you can,” Mr Pearce said.
“You should then try to avoid the area until the end of the season if that’s possible.”
Research shows less than 10 per cent of magpies actually swoop humans.
Dealing with persistent and problematic magpies occasionally requires dramatic intervention from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. A bird can be removed from an area should it be deemed a serious risk to public safety.
The downside for the magpie is its ‘removal’ is rather permanent. If a series of approvals have been granted, an officer can call on a .22 calibre rifle or .410 gauge shotgun to destroy the offending creature.
Mr Pearce said the more common approach was to install warning signs, a task not without risk.
“I’ve been putting up ‘beware of magpie’ signs a few times and have been hammered on the head by one which as you’d imagine caused people down the street to almost fall over themselves laughing,” Mr Pearce said.
The war against magpie strikes has also drifted online over recent years, with several state governments producing interactive ‘magpie swoop maps’, on which residents share tales of close encounters as a warning to others.