By Derek Schlennstedt
Don’t be alarmed, but magpie swooping season has officially started.
The black and white winged avians have already claimed one victim – Mount Evelyn woman Therese, who on Sunday 9 September posted a photo of her bloody forehead after a run-in with a magpie while walking along the Warburton trail.
Facebook has since been beset with similar survival stories warning people to stay away from certain locations around the Yarra Ranges.
Speaking to the Mail, Therese said she regularly walks along the trail and this was her first experience being swooped.
“I was just running and then he came from behind me and I didn’t see him coming,” she said.
“He was in and out of my head before I knew what happened.
“He actually pecked me, I was quite surprised I didn’t think they actually attacked you, just swooped.”
A small nick from the bird’s beak caused blood to run over her forehead and a off-duty nurse who was also walking along the trail came to her aid.
“I put my hand on my head and I had blood everywhere,” she said.
“The photo didn’t do it justice, a lot came out.”
According to Wild Natives manager Falk Wicker from Healesville Sanctuary, magpies swoop only during mating season in spring when they basically become over-protective parents.
The mating season can vary from state to state but is generally between late August and October.
Mr Wicker said that magpies swoop because they are trying to deter others from entering their territory and coming close to their young.
He suggested that the best response to being swooped was to maintain a normal walking or riding pace and leave the area.
“There are different strategies with birds; some birds hide, some try to camouflage but all have very different responses to potential predators,” he said.
“With magpies – they are a big black and white bird and are out in the open – their response mechanism cannot rely on camouflage or hiding, so they go right the other way.
“They don’t want to hurt you but they want to protect their nest, and they do that by letting you know that you’re on the wrong track.”
The best advice is to also avoid areas where swooping magpies are on watch, and the interactive Swooping Magpie Attack Map at MagpieAlert.com shows precisely where previous swooping has occurred.
Mr Wicker suggested that hats, sunnies and attaching cable ties to helmets can all help to prevent magpies from swooping.
Magpies are a protected species in Australia and it is illegal to capture, harm or kill them.