Spring has arrived and with the lovely, sunny, warm days come nesting Magpies. If you’re a seasoned rider you will be familiar with these very protective, feathered parents and heard the many ways to avoid the dreaded swoop from above. Here is a video of a swooping Magpie
There are numerous ideas on how to deter the swoop, or limit its ability to get near your head/face. And I bet you’ve seen people riding with long cable ties attached to the top of the helmet; this has been used for many years as a deterrent but does it actually work? And is it safe?
In the event of an accident a helmet’s smooth, hard outer shell is designed to slide upon hitting the ground; so if there is anything attached to the top of the helmet including cable ties, lights and cameras you are potentially putting your life at risk. If your helmet has something attached to it, or does not have the smooth hard plastic cover, it will not slide, instead it could grip the bitumen, potentially allowing your body to twist over your head/neck and you risk having a serious injury. I would strongly recommended riders to not attach anything to their helmets for this reason … and you can look a bit silly.
So what can we do about these pesky birds? Not a lot unfortunately, they are a protected in Australia so you cannot injure or kill them. Magpies are incredibly intelligent and it has been suggested if there is a particular bird on your regular route that you could stop and feed it cat biscuits or pine nuts and it will no longer see you as a threat. Loud shouting, waving the arms and sticks just makes you a potentially more dangerous threat in the eyes of the bird. The males swoop for around 12 weeks from mid-August to mid-October approximately, so it’s not too hard to go via an alternate route for a few weeks.
Magpies do swoop pedestrians but are less likely too, so you could dismount your bike and walk past the gum tree where the birds are nesting and carry on your ride. Other things to consider whilst riding is to always where eye protection in the form of sunglasses and clear lenses for low light conditions.
So how do you know if there are birds in your area? Or would you like to warn other riders of a swooping Maggie? Adelaide Cyclists is a website of very active cyclists and every year they create a map where you can see birds in your area and also report them on MagpieAlert map
Happy, safe riding
(pic courtesy of M Crick)