Terror in the trees: Sydney's angriest magpie revealed
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Terror in the trees: Sydney's angriest magpie revealed

They attack from behind, swoop from the sky and can single out victims for repeated bombardments over successive years.

Welcome to magpie breeding season, which causes panic and fear during spring across Australia.

So far this year, according to online mapping site Magpie Alert!, there have been 485 attacks nationally and 60 injuries.

NSW is the second-worst state and now we can reveal the location of Sydney's most active bird, thanks to Magpie Alert!

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This magpie has already attacked 14 cyclists and walkers on a bicycle track that runs alongside the Old Windsor Road, Glenwood. It has caused five injuries. The bird is feared by local cyclists, who have used a range of tactics to avoid attacks.

The bicycle path beside Old Windsor Road, Glenwood, that is the location of multiple attacks on riders by a magpie.

The bicycle path beside Old Windsor Road, Glenwood, that is the location of multiple attacks on riders by a magpie. Credit:Magpie Alert!

Magpie Alert! is a hobby site run by IT manager Jon Clark, who set it up in 2013 when he was swooped in Bella Vista and wanted to warn other people.

"Attacks usually start in July and go through to October, but they really peak in September," Clark said.

"I've found that repeat offenders normally cause the injuries. We all know about the Windsor Road bomber. There's a lot of names for him, but I couldn't repeat them in public. He's a definite repeat offender."

Other sites of multiple attacks are Chuter Avenue, Ramsgate and Fitzgerald Avenue, Maroubra. The majority of attacks (63%) are on cyclists, followed by walkers, joggers and motorcyclists.

Clark says magpies are a protected species and should not be harmed.

Protective fathers

The vast majority of swoopings are done by males guarding their nests, according to one of the world's leading ornithologists, emeritus professor Gisela Kaplan from the University of New England.

Magpie attack on cyclist along Lambton road,  New Lambton.

Magpie attack on cyclist along Lambton road, New Lambton.Credit:Darren Pateman

Kaplan said magpies are not aggressive birds and most swoops are made during breeding season to ward off potential threats.

So Sydney's most active bird could also be seen as Sydney's most protective father.

"They are an extremely intelligent bird which are capable of recognising humans and forming relationships with them. You can work around them quite easily."

A magpie swoops beside Old Windsor Road, Glenwood.

A magpie swoops beside Old Windsor Road, Glenwood. Credit:Magpie Alert!

She suggests cyclists and walkers be aware of where birds nest, and avoid the area if possible. She advised against fighting back against the bird or running away quickly.

"The best option is to slowly move from the area. When you are out of range, face the bird. If you've got some food [such as raw meat] you can offer that. But the best option is to avoid the area if you can."

Magpie numbers are falling in Australia and remaining birds need to be nurtured and encouraged as they are losing their habitat, she said.

Since 2013 there have been 15,398 attacks and 2938 injuries across Australia. That's a lot of angry birds. Or, to put it another way, a lot of protective fathers.

What to do

Here are some tips on staying safe from the Magpie Alert! site:

  • Keep alert and pay attention for any magpie nesting sites.
  • If you spot a magpie nesting site then stay well clear and plan alternative routes.
  • Travel in groups where possible as the birds often target individuals.
  • Keep an ear open for their distinctive calls.
  • Wear sunglasses and a hat to protect your head and eyes.
  • If a magpie swoops while you are cycling, it will probably stop if you get off your bike.
  • If you get swooped tell others, log the attack here and inform your council.
  • Do not provoke magpies, they are territorial and will protect their nests.
  • Try making friends by feeding them raw mince or a sliver of steak.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat or carry an umbrella.
  • It is important to stay calm, if you panic and flap this is more likely to appear as aggressive behaviour and provoke further swooping.