Someone should make a game about: swooping season

February 24, 2021
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Australians talk up their dangerous wildlife something fierce. And sure, Oz is home to some of the deadliest creatures on the planet. But let me tell you a secret. Deadly they may be, but most Australian animals aren’t particularly aggressive. The death adder is among the most venomous snakes out there. But unless you actually tread on one, they prefer to keep their distance. Funnel-web and redback spiders can deliver painful and potentially lethal bites. But they’re not going to actively seek you out or hunt you down. If you look where you’re walking, you’re usually pretty safe, even in the outback.

I say that most Aussie animals aren’t aggressive. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the magpies. Australian magpies look like the ones in Europe and America. But they’re a whole different breed. They’re bigger than our magpies. Wikipedia describes them as ‘robust’, though honestly they’re closer to ‘brutish’. And they have beady little golden eyes that seethe with hatred. You’ll probably hear them before you see them. They’re warblers and, at dawn each day, they’ll sit outside the window and serenade you with their haunting, chattery song. Although they emanate malice 24/7, most of the time they’re relatively well-behaved. Except for three months a year, during ‘swooping season’.

It’s a nice word, ‘swooping’. It evokes the Wright brothers, or Superman soaring through the clouds. But there’s nothing nice about being swooped by a magpie. Between August and November, magpies get angrily territorial. If you get within ~100 meters of their nests, they will attack. And boy do they go hard. In the UK we joke about seagulls stealing our chips. Seagulls are nothing. Magpies fly directly into the back of your head and skewer you with their pointy beaks. They peck at your ears. They rake you with their claws. And they don’t quit. You will leave their territory, or they will fight you to the bitter end. They particularly hate cyclists. But anything is fair game, from pedestrians, to motorbikes, to lorries.

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