Thursday, September 29, 2011

The swooping magpie myth

It's spring. The days are getting longer (though not necessarily warmer), the flowers are blooming and the magpies are swooping. But are they a danger?

Professor Ji Long, a Victorian researcher in Avian Science Studies doesn't believe that these black and white birds are a threat.

"You hear anecdotal reports of swooping magpies draw blood, yet there are few, if any, reports of this in the literature."

Professor Long advises victims of magpies to submit reports of their injuries to internationally reviewed journals.

"But it is important to supply a sufficient number of data points. You need at least ten to be statistically significant. If in doubt, you should try repeating the experience."

His advice for people afraid of attack is "Wear a blue and white striped scarf as it has been shown that this pattern frightens the birds. Or you could get a cat."

Not everyone agrees with Professor Long. Eddie from Collingwood in Melbourne, says he has personally witnessed over 20 cases of the magpies drawing blood this season. And he reckons it doesn't matter what colour you wear.

"They'll go for anything that doesn't look like them. It's black and white or nothing."

When asked about reports of sea eagles attacking up in Sydney Professor Long replied that he had no interest in the species but suggested that it could be due to stress. "Like the auk on land, some birds are just worriers."

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