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Magpies and Cable Ties

DudeistPriest's picture

By DudeistPriest - Posted on 07 October 2016

I'm calling it, Canberra is the Magpie Swooping Capital of Australia. I was so traumatised after my morning ride on Wednesday I had to have the day off riding yesterday, so I needed a plan to fix this problem.

I had to shelve Plan A, apparently it's not kosher to indiscriminately poison and shoot magpies in the ACT. bummer. Plan B, only ride at night, wasn't really an option either (did you read about the woman who was recently attacked by a Wombat down here?), so Plan C, Cable Ties, was put into action this morning.

I can, after this morning's ride, offer the following observations:


Some people would say they look a bit silly (I'd be one of those)
I was swooped by 4 magpies


I was only swooped by 4 magpies, normally I'd expect to be swooped about 10 times
Only 2 of the 4 were persistent, the other 2 made halfhearted attempts then buggered off.
No helmet strikes, all 4 birds went for the cable ties not the helmet


Overall I was pretty happy with the result. Significant reduction in swoops and persistence and no helmet strikes. So for the time being I'm happy to look a bit silly and continue wearing the cable ties.

skipper_nz's picture

Looking forward to the report on monday.

Lach's picture

... injury or indignity. After aggravating a shoulder injury from last magpie season waving my left arm maniacally at a butcher bird on Lady Game Drive this week, I'm starting to think that a spiky helmet might almost be worth it.......

hawkeye's picture

Unfortunately it's a learned behaviour, and varies by individual bird. They can also learn to recognise individual riders. So there's no one-size-fits-all solution.

But the good news is you can try to befriend the bird. Leave food scraps, say little bits of dry dog food. Someone else on here is trying that with the Babbage Rd Butcher bird (ok, so not a magpie) and it seems to help. A mate of mine in Victoria swears by it, it just needs a little patience to establish the friendship.

Dudeist, you might need to buy a few more bags though, mate. Think of it as your toll for using Canberra's cycle superhighways.

DudeistPriest's picture

Hawkeye, I'd be bankrupt if I bought enough food to feed and befriend the number of Magpies I get attacked by, anyway you know my position on making friends, I'm not too keen on it.

pancakes's picture

Dammit. You beat me to the punchline Dudeist!

Flynny's picture

Learned behaivour is the key.
Every time a bird swoops someone and they quickly leave the territory that bird learns that swooping riders works.

Every time I'm swooped I stop and circle back towards the bird. I might even throw a rock in its general direction or chase it from tree to tree if it is stubborn. It only takes a couple of times at the start of the season and the bird learns that swooping the smelly bloke in the white helmet gets the opposite effect of what it wants and there after the birds on my usual route leave me alone.

DudeistPriest's picture

Over a 100km of cycle path riding since Friday and only four swoops, I'm pretty sure the cable ties are staying on for this season.

Black Flash's picture

Very interesting... From a couple of years ago in Canberra.



hawkeye's picture

... you *are* the dude. Eye-wink

It seems though that a week is long enough, according to bigNige on the other magpie thread.

DudeistPriest's picture

The Dude abides

andyfev's picture

Someone should tell our mate Duncan Gay that Helmets don't save lives afterall... They infact endanger them

hawkeye's picture

There are two issues that come into play though.

One is the fact we don't require other risk activities to wear helmets - skateboards, scooters, using ladders, driving cars, for example. So why single out cycling?

The second is the documented adverse effect on participation rates, and the unintended consequences to community health from inactivity related diseases, the cost of which far outweigh the savings from reducing a small number of head injuries.

Some have cast doubt on the impact on participation rates, but the recent partial relaxation of helmet laws in the NT, and the subsequent 400% increase in participation rates independent of infrastructure improvement kills off that argument in my view.

The trouble is this is a cross-ministry problem. It is a community health issue that is dependent on the toad in charge of the roads ministry to fix.

DudeistPriest's picture

I've often wondered though by getting more people on bikes are we taking them away from other healthy activities, therefore the overall effect is neutral?

andyfev's picture

Apologies for my comment, which lacked substance and warranted John’s response. The main point was a dig at the ridiculous laws for NSW bikes, such as the bike bell. The law makers are ignorant to worldwide examples of better systems and focused on financial punishment rather than commonsense reform.

Regarding helmets, the point is that wearing a helmet will not by itself save your life in the event of an accident. There are too many uncontrollable variables that dictate the outcome of such events. For example, if a truck runs over your abdomen without injury to your head you are likely to suffer significant arterial injury most likely resulting in death. The helmet, therefore, is irrelevant in this type of injury and has done nothing to prevent life threatening injuries.

Helmets do significantly reduce head trauma related injuries and I for one will not ride without one, law or no law. But the argument/debate is should it be law? Motorcyclists are too killed in accidents and they wear helmets. If an impact to the helmet exceeds a certain impact threshold, then it will not prevent death through head injury but does offer immense benefits for those impacts that do not exceed its threshold.

There is also the issue of helmet fit. A poor fitting helmet will offer limited protection but as long as the law sees you wearing the helmet, poor fit or not, it will allow you to continue your journey without punishment.

Back to the topic of this forum, I made peace with two large Magpies at the west head lookout yesterday. Once dismounted I saw the pair on the ground and so threw some muesli bar to them. They took the offering and came within half a metre of me whilst wearing the helmet. The biggest of the two spotted the helmet and I could see his eyes instantly lock onto its target. A standoff assumed for a minute then he turned away and hopped off with his food. I thought for a minute that he was going to launch a kamikaze attack on me, but I remained calm and kept issuing muesli bar... NO SWOOP Eye-wink

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