I know how Tippi Hedren felt

There are many things about Australia that take getting used to for an American. Driving on the wrong side of the road, cricket nuts, plastic money, mayonnaise on pizzas,the Aussie version of “lemonade” (ingredients: fizzy water, sugar and citric acid). and so forth. But I never expected to be starring in my own cheesy Fox special:
WHEN BIRDS ATTACK!!!!
I was walking home from the store, minding my own business, when quite suddenly I hear a loud WHOOSH, a fluttering sound and a searing pain like an icepick in the back of my head. The New Yorker in me instantly thinks it’s a mugging (although in 29 years of living in Manhattan and the Bronx, I have never been mugged). I stagger, look up, and see a mildly sinister looking black-and-white bird flying up from where I’m standing.
A bird with particularly poor wing-eye coordination, I think. Poor bastard. And just as I’m gathering my senses to sprint the last 50 meters home, the little bugger swoops around and does it AGAIN.
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
Turns out these wretched beasts are magpies, an animal I’ve only ever heard of in the context of Aussie Rules Football or second-rate Rossini operas. “Swooping”, as it is known, is a macho ritual that male magpies put on to defend their new chicks in breeding season. Apparently the key to avoiding these attacks is to look them in the eye and not provoke them.
Whatever. I’m staying indoors until they’re gone.

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12 comments

  1. Matt

    Hey, welcome to Oz. Nice to have you here.
    Magpies get a bad reputation, but mainly that it caused by bad human behaviour at some point. Generally magpies couldn’t give a stuff about people, until someone messes with their young or their nest. Then they get angry. And they have long memories.
    Matt

  2. House Husband

    Riding a bike is a also a real bugger in “Magpie Season”. Some people stick fake eyes on the backs of their helmets and that seems to work.
    I think however that I would rather be hit by a Magpie than ride around town with two fake plastic eyes stuck on the back of my head.

  3. Michael Jennings

    Spur winged plovers are brown rather than black and white, and they hurt even more. They have spurs on their wings which are specifically there to maximise the damage.

  4. parallel

    For the real Hitchcock experience, you want the Noisy Mynah.
    Imagine this…
    Walking up a suburban street, with a cat (an Abyssinian who thinks he’s a dog) at my heel. As usual, the mynahs, who know a predator when they see one, are sitting on the telephone wires, screaming abuse. Noisy Mynahs are native birds, grey with black heads and yellow beaks and eyes, about half the size as a seagull. There is usually one who starts up as soon as the Abyssinian pokes his nose outdoors, then his mates turn up, and sometimes they swoop down on the cat… but that’s generally a losing proposition in the long term.
    So I’m walking up the street, and the mynahs are following me, and more from the rest of the neighbourhood are joinging in, and I’m just thinking that they are a bit noisier than usual, and then there’s a sudden silence… and I look up… and I see there’s at least fifty of the blighters perched around on the wires, looking through their beady yellow eyes… and suddenly the cat is streaking to hide under a parked car as the birds swoop down from all directions, and I’m killing myself laughing until a wing buffets my ear and I realise the birds, with local air supremacy on their side, aren’t being too particular…
    They stopped swooping on me once I got a fair way away from where the cat was hiding, but the cat stayed under the car for over an hour and only slunk home after dark.

  5. Alice Bachini

    Argggghhh. I hate birds. They are actually miniature dinosaurs, except flying – just as violent and stupid, though.
    But why don’t magpies in the UK act like this? Are they too inhibited and polite?

  6. Alan McCallum

    Where I live in western Victoria, we have a family of magpies on the place. They vigorously defend their territory, yet rarely swoop on us. Foxes get the treatment every time, yet we walk past their trees every day unmolested. The birds forage in our garden. I think magpies are smarter than some people think.

  7. Eileen

    Now I know why a crazy bird used to swoop at my head every day as I walked to college from my apartment. I finally changed my route just to avoid it.

  8. PB

    Magpies are the Sopranos (and I don’t refer to their singing abilities) of the bird world- if you feed the bastards, they give you free passage. Miss a payment and be ready for a hole in the back of your head.
    Feathery arseholes.