Dear Magpies,

AAAAHHHH! ME WANT ATTACK HUMAN!!! Um, I mean tweet tweet warble.

We don’t want your babies. I understand that you’re just trying to be a good parent, but seriously, you have to re-think this whole attack the humans thing because WE DON’T WANT YOUR BABIES.

Have you ever been inside a supermarket? If ever you bother to check out Coles or Woolworths or Aldi, you’ll see row after row of food. Some of it’s fresh. Some of it’s pre-packaged and ready to heat and eat. None of it has feathers on it. This is where most of us humans secure our sustenance and we really don’t need to supplement it with your chicks.

I understand that it’s the male magpies doing the attacking and that to some extent it’s about proving your worth to your mate, but guys, there has to be a less extreme way to do it. Rather than be the macho guy, may I suggest a romantic approach or even just taking the rubbish out or doing the dishes because this kamikaze stuff is going to catch up with you one day.

As a regular cyclist, I seriously cannot comprehend the level of intensity in your regular attacks on me. I still don’t understand what makes you believe that I’m coming for your young when I’m zipping past ‘your tree’ at 40km/h. I don’t even look like slowing down, so why oh why must you try to impose yourself on me?

If I was to stop the bike and start climbing the tree towards your nest, then I could fully understand you getting a little hot under the collar, but isn’t it clear that I don’t give a toss about your little ones?

I’m the guy who feeds you mince meat and bacon from my back deck. I’m the guy who comes out to listen to your beautiful songs. Honestly, what makes you think that I want to destroy your family?

You need to chill a bit. I think you’ll be a better father if you can just get a grip and relax. Go catch some worms or hassle the crows, but for God’s sake leave us humans alone.

To the particularly crazy magpies including the demented bird just south of Murrumbateman on the Barton Highway and the noisy warrior who lives down by Isabella Pond, I do hope your beak was jarred by the hard exterior of my bike helmet. Were you trying to scare me, or was that a genuine attempt to kill me?

And to the crazy bastard on William Slim Drive at Giralang, yes you did draw blood. I hope you’re satisfied.

Please, can we just get along?

[Ed’s note: the places in this story are in Canberra, where magpies are particularly vicious, possibly because they watch too much Question Time]

Comments on this piece close at the last plaintive warbling before sunset at 8pm AEST

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    • ramases says:

      07:26am | 26/10/12

      We have magpies here and they have been since at least 1998 when we moved in and started to build and they do not attack us at any time. We see their chicks each year and hear them calling to be fed, the dogs occasionally chase them but all in all its a pretty harmonious relationship between us.
        We have 100 acres but these birds nest within rock throwing distance of the house and have done since we moved in. The reason most of the birds attack in the cities is because their habitat has been decimated and its a natural instinct to protect ones offspring against the invaders be they bike riders or kids going to school. Lets face it, they have as much right to their place on the planet as we do so lets give them a bit of latitude instead of condemning them because they at least are doing the right thing, protecting their families.

    • ibast says:

      07:57am | 26/10/12

      I find they are a bit like dogs.  They sense when someone doesn’t like them and go for them.  I don’t think I’ve ever been swooped be a magpie.  I like them around the yard and will call for them if I dig up some grubs.

      Great birds.  Much better than those mongrel Indian mynas

    • Tony of Poorakistan says:

      09:27am | 26/10/12

      I agree with ibast

      I feed the older magpies and their young are now starting to wander along. What’s more, I can do this while the neighbour’s cat is at my feet, less than a metre from them, also looking for food. All a matter of trust and habit, I guess.

    • stephen says:

      07:33am | 26/10/12

      Just the other day at Maccas on sandgate road at brekkie a maggie came down and perched upon a chair opposite at my table, so I tipped out the crumbs of my hash brown on the table and it pecked them up.
      ‘Don’t snatch’, I said, then it tilted its head and walked all over right in front of me, then picked up the wrapper which had the avocado on it - I had just eaten a boston deli bagel - and tore it to bits looking for another morsel. (I had my finger on a corner so it could have a good look.)
      All this, right under my nose, and not a foot from mine.
      Friendly cove, but not like the one outside Garden City on Logan rd. which hammered my helmet as I was riding past on Satrday.

      Motto : maybe us humans aren’t meant to be here, and it was everthing else which was here first.

    • Coxy says:

      07:35am | 26/10/12

      A friend of mine shoots offending magpies. Seems to solve the problem.

    • marley says:

      08:25am | 26/10/12

      Until the magpies get firearms….

    • Ridge says:

      09:13am | 26/10/12

      Magpies can’t swoop if they’re dead.

      Hm, then if the only magpies that get to breed are the ones that don’t swoop, that also might be a good longer-term solution.

    • GC says:

      09:37am | 26/10/12

      We had mudlarks at our house causing problems. They were sitting on the verandah shitting everywhere pecking at the windows and generally giving everyone the shits. We tried various methods to get rid of them without success. Then I told my Dad about them. He came round and shot them, problem solved. Sometimes firearms are the solution.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      01:31pm | 26/10/12

      They’re protected, so your friend should be shot. That would seem to solve the problem.

      Honestly, most gutless thing to do, just shooting something because it annoys you when it’s trying to protect it’s offspring. I’d say it’s a bit of a trailer trash quality, your friend sounds like a tool.

      “Sometimes firearms are the solution.”

      Ah, only for the narrow minded. Maybe people need to realise that there are other living things that exist on this planet aside from humans. Just because some birds are making your things less pretty doesn’t mean you need to get sand in your vagina about it and go shooting things. Rednecks.

    • Ridge says:

      03:28pm | 26/10/12

      Hah, of course.  Shoot a person to solve the problem of the swooping magpie.  You should be shot for your libtard ideas.

      They may be protecting their young, but they insist on living amongst us.  As long as they attack, one has to lose.

    • M. Pie says:

      07:40am | 26/10/12

      Dear humans,
      Wherever did you get the idea we are protecting our young? From my perspective you can have my bloody kids. Few things annoy me as much as getting back to the nest and all I see are four gaping mouths waiting for whatever I have been able to scrounge.

      These thing that gets me cranky is at the end of the day, I am almost starving and start to swallow a mouthful of what I have collected and the missus raps me over the scone for taking food from the screaming mongrel kids.

      No mate. As you would know, its stupid to wallop the missus even if she makes a bloke starve.  I go out and dive bomb humans instead. Those idiots won’t strike back…

    • The Scarred One says:

      07:41am | 26/10/12

      Mark, perhaps they’re attacking because you are trying to kill them indirectly by feeding them bacon.  Bacon is bad for birds or dogs for that matter.
      Actually, I feel your pain as I have a scare under my eye from a maggie attack when a child.  My advice, don’t retaliate as they do learn from their mistakes.

    • Ridge says:

      09:18am | 26/10/12

      This is a good point - retaliating just makes you an even bigger target to them.

      Feed them, avoid them, or kill them.

    • youdy beaudy says:

      07:47am | 26/10/12

      Well our beautiful Magpies, what can one say about them. The first thing that an Australian coming home from overseas, that would make them feel welcome is the call of the Magpie and its cousins the Currawong and the Butcher Bird. These three birds have the most beautiful song of all our birds.

      Yes, the Male Magpie is very territorial usually during the mating season and that is ok really. We know that they are like that and then in knowing we take precautions such as wearing a helmet or putting something above the head and covering the eyes. I don’t see why Canberras Magpies are more vicious than in other places. The Birds are different in each state, ie the markings, but the genus of the bird may be the difference.

      I feed Magpies and a large family troop arrives each day in the evening at our place. They are like chooks as they walk around near us and have no fear of us. They are one of the protected species of bird in Australia and rightly so. They come into my workshop and sing to me and i have learned to whistle back. If i say shush to them they become quieter when feeding otherwise they make a hell of a racket. Their uniqueness is that they have the ability to find worms and bugs that are beneath the ground by using some type of way of detecting movement which is unique to them.

      Some people hate them unfortunately and some councils poison them even tho they are protected. Shame on them. They bring their young birds to visit us. They are the ones who are more gray with their markings.

      The Magpie is unique in that they have learned to co habit with humans in suburbs and being very clever they can mimic different sounds and set up guards and family members to seek out food in particular from people that feed them a few meaty scraps. Their calls are their language and different calls indicate what is going on within the troop and around the neighbourhoods. We can carol to them and they will carol back to us. Wonderful.

      The currawongs are different in that they will come near but not as close and their song is very beautiful as well. And the Butcher birds are tamer and will also bring their families around for a treat and will knock on the house windows with their beaks and bring the kids as well.

      How lucky we are to have all this close association with such beautiful birds. We are very blessed by it all. As they are very territorial at certain times then all we have to do is cover up or take a different route when travelling. I think it’s great, but there are some who are mean spirited and anti wildlife. The birds have been here in our neighbourhoods long before man even arrived. It is their home. They have had to put up with us. We as invaders of their territories should see this and have respect for them because without them our world would be lesser for it.

    • hermano says:

      01:11pm | 26/10/12

      Agreed.  The magpies don’t bother me, I just take a slightly longer route to avoid them on my bike commute.  I love having them around the house and in our street.  We’ve also got a family of currawongs that hang out in our back yard.  Beautiful birds. 
      My mum’s next door neighbour feeds the lorikeets and gets dozens there ever afternoon.  Then there’s the rosellas and cockies.
      Bloody indian mynahs can go to hell, they killed my last budgie…

    • Robert says:

      07:48am | 26/10/12

      The trick is to build a rapport with the local birds over the course of a year or more. If you speak to them nicely they remember you come springtime.

    • Tel says:

      08:28am | 26/10/12

      Oh yes, with at least two lots breeding in our yard every year we have only had one ‘attack’ in the last 40 years - and that was when my daughter was about 4y/o (now mid 30’s) and bouncing around like 4 y/o’s do. Respect the birds and they will respect you.

    • Matt says:

      09:04am | 26/10/12

      Umm if you are riding 10 kms to work you want me to stop and build a rapport with each group of maggies along the way? We’re not talking about our backyard magpies here.

    • youdy beaudy says:

      09:29am | 26/10/12

      @Robert, you are right there. Making friends with them is good. They are remarkably intelligent birds and will make friends with you and me. They through this close association do remember us and will bring their young around to visit. When i feed them the head Male comes as well and he usually bullies the females and younger birds so he can get the food which he guards. I have to go out and stand there and he stops it and the females and young birds run in quickly to get some tucker. They are really funny. I think they adopt us into their family group if we are kind to them. Most wildlife does. They are not stupid as some people feel.

    • Trevor says:

      08:10am | 26/10/12

      Magpies are pussies compared to butcher birds if they are pissed. We were under seige at our old place, even the space under the hills hoist wasn’t safe. My son almost lost an eyeball. Nothing short of death will deter them.

    • Rowdy the NUFC Magpie says:

      08:16am | 26/10/12

      After finishing a surprising 5th last season in the EPL, I believe we deserve to attack a few non-believers.

      After all, we do cop it from the media, and we have been likened to a soap opera….but it’s all part of supporting NUFC!

      Howay the Lads!

      ......and watch out behind you….

    • Tim says:

      08:19am | 26/10/12

      I think the Magpies are deliberately targetting Mark Parton.

      I know If I was a magpie and saw Mark riding his bike around, it would just be too tempting to give him a few pecks to the skull.

      Love your work Mark.

    • Black Dynamite says:

      09:09am | 26/10/12

      You ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen a plover coming at you full speed.


    • void says:

      01:07pm | 26/10/12

      If you see only one Plover, then you’d better start looking for the other one.

    • Tash says:

      09:11am | 26/10/12

      Where families of magpies have been attacked by humans in the past the families teach their young throughout generations that humans are dangerous and to be attacked. Where families of of maggies consider humans safe they do not teach subsequent generations to attack. Science said so.

    • Jay2 says:

      09:38am | 26/10/12

      Dear Mark,

      Spokesbird of Magpies here, contacting you via J2. Just bringing you up to speed with a few things, that your so called powerful human mind doesn’t get, judging by your ‘letter’ , I’m now convinced it isn’t us feathered lot that are the birdbrains….caw caw…. (..and I don’t believe you’d be able to get to the speed of 40kms per hour for starters….just sayin’...)

      Look, for starters, we have to contend with other predatory not so birds -of- feather- stick -together types who try to eat or kick our kids out of the nest, while we’re trying to be a good parent by leaving the nest hunting; we’ve got the cats trying it on; the dogs ready to have a go while our kids are learning to fly or we’re on the ground stalking an insect, minding our business and next minute a bloody great pair of jaws snapping at us not to mention we occasionally have those nasty reptiles paying a visit. Everybody gives us grief,kid you not. we’re at our wits end!!!

      Mate… Then there’s YOU lot!  I mean, what’s the deal with people,usually young blokes on bikes who seem to come to my doorstep and do what I think you call a ‘home invasion’. Throwing sticks, stones, whatever at us, hour home, our kids, what’s the deal with that?? If you riff raff aren’t doing that, then you have you Mums n Dads with kids, that come right up to my house, stand there, stare upwards at us or our house, OBVIOUSLY up to no good, eyeballing us all like that, very bloody predatory - THEN you expect me to be able to tell the difference between a person with no intent or ill intent?? You’re kidding, right?!

      I can’t tell the difference with bike riders, you people look all the same to me, especially when you’re on those bike things, with helmest n stuff. Gloves are off mate when it comes to protecting MY OWN! You lot started it in the first place, I might add.
      So you see, Marky (I can call you that, right?), you’d be a wee bit sensitive if you had that many things trying to eat or harass you or your young too every bloody day.

      Also, Mark I’m what ... a FRACTION of your size and have the guts to take you on, you may hate me, but how about some kudos for my lots’ courage and tenacity, instead of your whiney ” poor put upon me letter?!”
      Oh, ps,  For all you people who try and kindly feed us, some of y’all are killing us with kindness, on top of the gapeworm we have to contend with, can you do a bit of research what we can and can’t eat.

    • sami says:

      03:05pm | 26/10/12

      Thanks magpie spokesbird, I will make some of your special food for when your rellos come to visit me!

    • archaeoptryx says:

      09:54am | 26/10/12

      Dear Mark

      We are what dinosaurs evolved* into. You F%^&ing; mammals think you run the place, your turn will come.
      * Dawkins freaks: yes, I know the strict wording is “shared a common ancestor”, get over it.
      Creationists: just get over it.

    • Anjuli says:

      09:57am | 26/10/12

      We have magpies and curawongs all around us always have, for the 40 years we have lived here .When we first moved in we had one Magpie attack then nothing ,is it they recognize the families living around the park . We have them sun-baking along the fence line 2 at a time ,I just love the antics and the call of these birds .

    • Fed Up says:

      09:57am | 26/10/12

      Magpies can sense evil…and act accordingly.
      Our maggies dont mind us or our cat but the male has a distinct hatred for the neighbours cat across the street and will continuously stalk him.
      Its a poke of the head out the door and then a quick dash across the road and into our house.Meanwhile this Maggy is acting like a Zero dive bombing the cat.
      The cats name will remain anonymous to retain his dignity.
      Now for the escape…a dash across the road and back to his own home.
      Uh oh Maggy is waiting at the back door…quick the front door….dang how can this darn bird cover both exists at once.
      Its Nat Geo Gone Wild at my place.
      Now for the female who during the breading season ventures to our back yard numerous times a day for food.Upon arrival she will rattle the chain attached to one of my hanging baskets.She will keep rattling until fed.
      After 4 feedings i get fed up.

    • Jess says:

      10:04am | 26/10/12

      The magpies in Belconnen don’t swoop me. the little baby magpies are sooo cute little balls of fluffed up feathers and Magpies are even cuter when it rains. I just chat to them when I cycle or walk past. There is this one part where there is a family mum and dad who are teaching the little one to be a magpie it’s adoreable. they watch out for humans but seem to be ok with them

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      10:29am | 26/10/12

      I’ve actually found that magpies won’t attack you if you keep looking at them.  As soon as you turn and lose eye contact that’s when they dive bomb if they’re going to dive bomb.

    • medium ted says:

      11:33am | 26/10/12

      I always thought making adults were those plastic bike hats a bit of a silly idea until a little black and white thug moved into the tree up the road he is a little terror but with sunnies and the hat he cant do much harm i can live with it

    • Louise says:

      11:46am | 26/10/12

      I feel the author’s pain.

      Magpies, we’re not coming anywhere near you. Leave us alone. Give us back October.

    • Kassandra says:

      12:30pm | 26/10/12

      He doesn’t think you’re after his chicks, he just hates cyclists.
      p.s. It’s ecologically unsound to feed the birds and most of what you give them is bad for them anyway.

    • Esteban says:

      12:41pm | 26/10/12

      The magpies that nest near in or near my front and back yard never swoop. Even in nesting time we can walk within a couple of metres of them and they don’t even hop away let alone swoop.

      There is a loacal park over the road infested with magpies. They never swoop humans.

      There are however a couple of dogs who as youngsters used to chase the magpies.

      Those now aged dogs are routinely swooped all year round.

      I am convinced that the maggies have a memory.

      Which came first ? The swooping or the frightened humans waving sticks which the maggies don’t like and then they swoop.

      I can assure you that magpies that don’t fear humans do not swoop as a matter of course in nesting season.

      How you all break that cycle is for your own care but a good starting point is to not let children or dogs chase them in the non nesting period.

    • millane says:

      12:57pm | 26/10/12

      forget the magpies… its the pluvvers we should all be worried about

    • Old Cobber says:

      12:58pm | 26/10/12

      Leave me alone ,you Magpie Misogonist! BOO HOO SOB SNIFFLE Idin’t shit on Ruddy, or lie or give Carr,s missus a Boeing,or support poor Thommo,ever since Dad fell off the perch you all attack lil ol me Sob sob,and Maxine ,s on the nest with Mr Rabbit—-so there   [Actually,thats a better story than the crap you Journos spread]

    • sami says:

      03:00pm | 26/10/12

      Am I the only one here who wore an empty ice cream container on their head with big eyes drawn on it as a kid?
      Mark just draw some eyes on your bike helmet. Problem solved.

      I love magpies, we’ve moved into a house with a magpie family living in the backyard. They’re always welcome. Funny little characters smile I’m a soft touch though, all animals are welcome at my place.

    • Goresh says:

      03:34pm | 26/10/12

      I found bribing them helps.
      Rather than “whizzing past”, actually get off the bike and feed the blighters. They seem able to tell humans apart (I can’t tell one magoie from another so who is smarter really).


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