Never miss a thing. Sign up to HuffPost Australia’s weekly newsletter for the latest news, exclusives and guides to achieving the good life.
A video of a terrified child being continuously swooped by a protective magpie is proof Australia’s magpie season is one of the scariest times of year.
Wayne Sherwood filmed his son Max riding a scooter on the sidewalk in Lake Illawarra, an hour and a half south of Sydney, while a magpie repeatedly attacked his head.
“Australia is beautiful but our native birds are killers,” Sherwood posted on Instagram on Monday.
“They’ll eat your kids alive. Beware hahaha 😂. Watch how we conquer this horrible experience in part 2/3.”
Watch Sherwood’s video below with the volume up for the full experience:
HuffPost has reached out to Sherwood for comment.
The video has since been shared on local meme accounts and has racked up tens of thousands of views. The word “Magpies” was trending on Twitter on Tuesday.
Many Australians are showing empathy in their comments on the video while explaining to international folks that the bird was not aggravated — it’s just how magpies act in springtime.
“Rite of passage,” one user wrote.
“Best swooping I’ve seen in my 37 years,” posted another.
The start of spring Down Under means Australians are on the lookout for pesky and sometimes blood-drawing magpies that perform a protective plummet into peoples’ heads in a bid to scare folks away from a nest area.
They’re known in Australia as “swoopy boiz”.
Out of fear of being plunged at, plenty of Aussies wear protective head gear in September. From ice-cream containers, hats with eyes drawn on the back of them and helmets with spikes pointing out, extreme measures are taken to avoid a clawed scalp.
See another run-in Sherwood had with a magpie below for context:
Why do magpies swoop?
Magpies only swoop for about six weeks of the year when they have babies in their nest, often at the start of spring.
Most magpies don’t swoop, but when they do, it’s the male protecting the nest and their resources.
Magpies will usually only swoop about 100m from the tree they’re nesting in.
Magpies have been known to remember someone they believe to be a foe and exclusively swoop them for a lifetime, which can be 25 years.
Strategies To Avoid The Swoop
Cross the road or avoid known swooping trees for the first few weeks of spring. There’s national crowd-sourced map Magpie Alert showing you hotspots.
Show a problem magpie you’re a friend using mincemeat.
Draw eyes in the back of your hat. Then run, because this one probably doesn’t work.
Wear a hat with sticks poking out.
Pop an ice cream container on your head for protection.
Plan to be out of the country for the first few weeks of spring (although a bit hard with current travel restrictions).
University of New England professor Gisela Kaplan has researched magpies for 25 years and has never once been swooped. Not once. Not even when she was on a rope dangling a few metres from a magpie nest.
“I have a little trick, you see,” Kaplan previously told HuffPost Australia.
To understand her swoop-avoidance strategy, you first need to understand something about magpies ― they’re fiercely intelligent.
“The neurons in the brain of a bird are much more densely packed than even primates, so the idea of a bird brain is entirely false,” Kaplan said.
“Magpies can solve problems immediately, they can recognise faces and they have a memory of the past. They can also point to signal danger.”
“All these indications suggest magpies are highly complex in a cognitive sense ― this is what we would call intelligence.”
Kaplan said magpies are smart enough to remember friends and foes, and if a particular magpie has it in for people in general, you need to show it you’re friendly.
“Because I’ve never been swooped in 25 years of research, people will occasionally say to me to come with them and test it out on a magpie that doesn’t know me,” Kaplan said.
“I’ll approach them with a little bit of mincemeat in my hand. It’s like I’m saying, ‘I come in friendship, I offer you a gift’ and the magpie will think about this.”
Because magpies can think.
“Usually, they won’t take the mincemeat but they won’t swoop either, and if you come back the next day and put the mincemeat on the ground and take a few steps back, they’ll usually take it.”
“By the third day, the magpie will likely give you freedom of passage.”
So there you have it. But, seriously, best to stay away from Swoopy Boiz if you can.
Cayla Dengate contributed to this report.