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Not following the rules

November 15, 2019

Everyone knows that spring is Magpie season. This is shorthand for watch out for them swooping as they defend their territory from anyone who passes through whether it be by walking, cycling or any other form of locomotion. As a cyclist myself I have several defence mechanisms. The first is the cable-ties sticking vertically out of the bike helmet. This does little to deter the attacking bird but does extend the safety buffer around your head so that you don’t lose a chunk of ear. I have also had success with gluing a pair of eyes (the facsimile thereof) on my helmet. Australian Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) tend not to swoop when being watched.

Yesterday however I was swooped by a Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus), pictured above. Grey Butcherbirds are of the same family as Magpies, Currawongs and Woodswallows. They are smaller than Magpies but occupy the same ecological niche. They feed on small vertebrates including other birds (and cyclists!)

The difference seems to be that Grey Butcherbirds don’t seem to care whether you are watching them or not when they swoop. I dismounted my bicycle and had many opportunities to try and photograph the incoming missile (right). It did not seem daunted at all by the fact I was facing it.

It obviously hasn’t read the rule book.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Terry Hubbard permalink
    November 15, 2019 8:05 am

    Morning Ron.,

    It would be interesting to know why magpies are so aggressive in some areas. We have a great many and I’ve never, in 30 years, been swooped but my grandson attracts their attention on occasions.



  2. Sue Martin permalink
    November 16, 2019 1:16 pm

    I have one (Magpie), and only one, which started swooping me last year, after -then 18 years – in the area. After a year of trying to endear myself to him I have made some progress – and like Ron I have some excellent action shots. Perhaps by next year he will have forgiven me for whatever threat he thought I posed…

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