Watch out — The Major’s feeling peckish
THEY'RE lurking in trees. They hold a grudge. And they will attack you. Look out - it's magpie swooping season.
And this year, it's started earlier than usual, according to the Environment Department.
"This year, spring seems to have come early for our magpies as we're already hearing reports of magpies swooping in some areas," Environment Department Animal Welfare Manager Dr Deb Kelly said.
"They've been singing at night, collecting nesting material and holding little street meetings to work out territory for the past month or so."
Adelaide residents have already started reporting swooping attacks on the Magpie Alert website, which tracks and records incidents.
Among them, one person reported a magpie was swooping on Francis St, Bedford Park last week.
Another person said they were "swooped from behind' on Crouch Grove, Golden Grove.
And a cyclist also reported being swooped twice on Bridge Rd, Para Hills.
Cyclist Dirk Gardner, of Camden Park, had a run-in with a notorious swooping magpie, known by locals as "The Major", on the bike track that runs alongside the Southern Expressway on Friday.
The attack was captured by The Advertiser photographer Matt Turner.
The Major has patrolled the area near the Majors Rd intersection at O'Halloran every spring for several years.
"He's always been a pretty aggressive, well-known magpie in that area," Mr Gardner, 41, said.
"He was definitely going in for pretty hard taps (on Friday).
"He looked like he wanted to rip my ears off.
"(On previous occasions) he's almost body slammed into my back."
Dr Kelly said male magpies defend nests from the time eggs are laid until the young birds are fledged "and they will attack anything they consider to be a threat, from a raven or a dog to a human".
"Magpies have excellent recall for faces and very long memories, so if you've been swooped before, or even if you just look like someone they swooped last year, you're likely to get the same treatment again," she said.
"Magpies are long-lived and highly territorial so a magpie that was in a certain tree last year is likely to be in the same tree this year, so if he was a swooper be careful.
"They aren't malicious - they're just defending their young."
Dr Kelly said magpies defend their nests within about a 50m radius and offered these swooping survival tips.
TRAVEL in groups if possible, as swooping birds usually only target individuals.
CARRY an open umbrella above your head.
WEAR sunglasses and a broad-rimmed hat.
WHEN riding a bike, walk it through magpie territory or wear a flag on the back of the bike that is higher than your head.
DON'T act aggressively (i.e. waving your arms about or shouting).
WALK, don't run.
AVOID making eye contact with magpies.
"Magpie-human interactions are more likely to happen near paths, roads or parks that are frequented by cyclists, and pedestrians," Dr Kelly said.
"Magpies are a common species in urban areas and generally nest in tall trees where they have a good view of the surrounding area."