This morning, I babysat for a family of three boys. First thing when I got to the house, I had to walk the oldest boy, Patrick, to school while pushing the other two boys in the pram (stroller). As soon as we left the house, Patrick warned me about the Magpies, which are black and white birds in Australia. He mentioned that just last week he had been "swooped." I had heard the word before but couldn't pick out a Magpie if I tried, so I didn't think twice about the warning. We all know where this story is going...
As we strolled along Grafton Street toward Patrick's school, I heard birds in the trees, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then I heard Patrick scream and turned to see sheer terror in his eyes as a Magpie swooped from behind and started attacking my head! My hair was in a pony tail and the Magpie continued to pull strands out and peck at me. I swatted and screamed and I'm pretty sure my life flashed before my eyes (kidding...kind of...).
I grabbed Patrick, the stroller, and booked it out of there! When my heart finally stopped beating out of my chest, I caught Patrick's eyes and we bonded over Magpie attacks.
I've been told I am now officially an Aussie.
For future reference, here's what you should know about magpie swooping:
- It happens mostly during the Australian springtime (August-October)
- Male magpies are most often the attackers
- Magpies become aggressive when you get too close to their babies' nest
- Magpies will usually give you a warning, which consists of alarm calls and distant swoops
- After the warning, they go to the next tactic (which is what I experienced): the close swoop and occasional pecking at the face, eyes, head, etc.
- Then, if you still don't understand that they want you to leave immediately, they dive-bomb at your head with their chests (YIKES!)
The one thing I did right was flail my arms, scream like a schoolgirl, and get the hell away from its nest! In fact, Wikipedia informs, "Once attacked, shouting aggressively and waving one's arms at the bird should deter a second attack." Now that's what I call excitement!
I've heard about Redwing Blackbirds doing a similar swooping thing in Chicago, but seriously?!
***UPDATE: This afternoon, I was riding my bike to the grocery store when I was attacked AGAIN by a Magpie. This time, it swooped at me numerous times until I had to jump off my bike mid-cycle. See battle wounds below: