Yep, it’s magpie season, and early indications are that this year’s could be one of the worst we’ve ever had. The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital has reported a significant spike in the number of patients treated for swooping injuries.
Clearly, we’re in an arms race with our feathered nemeses, and if we are to avoid a worst-case Hitchcockian evacuation scenario, it’s time for us to step up our efforts in fighting the winged menace.
The old face-painted-on-the-back-of-a-stack-hat isn’t going to cut it anymore. They’re intensifying their attacks, so it’s time for us to redouble our defences.
Here are some handy hints to help you protect yourself, and fight back, this Year of the Maggie.
Know your enemy
Was Sun Tzu talking specifically about magpies when he wrote The Art of War? Impossible to say, but his advice is definitely applicable.
The fact is, to beat a magpie, you have to think like a magpie.
What are their needs, their desires, what drives them in their day-to-day life?
Anyone who feels at risk from swooping this spring should, at a minimum, purchase an ornithological field guide and a pair of binoculars through which to observe their enemy’s habits.
Ideally, we need to infiltrate magpie society, gain their trust, and sow discord among the magpie hierarchy. This will require a certain investment of time and money, particularly in making a convincing magpie costume, but it will be worth it in the end.
Personal Protective Equipment
As I said, the old bike helmet is no good against today’s hyper-aggressive, hormone-infused super-magpies.
But happily, protective technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years: industry has yet to market magpie-specific protective gear, but many existing technologies can be easily adapted.
Any quality attack-dog training institute can provide you with a defensive bodysuit that is just as good for deflecting a beak.
Most state police departments will be happy to offer great deals on surplus SWAT equipment, including helmets and shields.
Even if you’re dressed top-to-toe in dense, cosy Kevlar, you don’t want to simply stand there like a sitting bilby as the magpie hordes swoop, probing for a chink in the armour.
Let the magpie know that further attacks carry consequences, by equipping yourself with surface-to-magpie ordnance.
For the budget-conscious, this can be as simple as a billy club or gas-powered whipper-snipper. For the affluent among us there’s shoulder-mounted missiles.
Or, if you’re going for an elegant look, simply coat your clothes with poison.
Obviously our first impulse when confronted with magpies is to flee or slaughter, but sometimes strength means a willingness to compromise.
While remaining vigilant at all times, and not skimping on defensive measures, never be too proud to enter negotiations with your enemies.
If the magpies come to you with an offer, you should consider it, while feeling no obligation — who knows, you might be able to end the whole affair with no bloodshed whatsoever.
Just remember: letting them have the nature strip is generous; handing over your whole front garden risks others seeing you as a soft touch.
Safety in numbers
A magpie will attack one person without hesitation, but if 10 or more are gathered together, the bird will definitely think twice.
If you can make sure you never go outside with fewer than a dozen friends this season, you’ll remain safe from pecks.
The danger, of course, is that the magpies will then gather in greater and greater numbers, but that’s just playing into your hands, as it will give you the opportunity to deploy…
The Pied Piper Stratagem
If you can get all the magpies in your area into one large flock, you can take the opportunity to lead them to their doom.
This could be as simple as running into a cave, doubling back and sealing the entrance with dynamite. Or, the more elaborate tactic of trapping them in an aviary, which you’ll then set fire to.
But if that’s all too far afield, you can just…
Hit ’em where they live
Remember that if a magpie is swooping you, it means you’re a threat to its nest, so it lives nearby.
It shouldn’t be hard to find the tree where the magpie dwells. Burn it. Or cut it down.
Or even just shinny up the trunk with a pillow and gently suffocate the chicks.
Remember, they can’t defend their young if their young are already dead.
Alternatively, you could…
Win the fledglings’ affections
Some people are squeamish about slaughtering baby birds, but there remains a viable option for these wusses. Instead of killing the chicks, you can always try to win their trust.
Get up that tree with a few gifts.
Offer to take them on outings to the zoo or laser tag.
Ask them about their interests, their relationships with their parents.
Eventually you will find the chicks start to see you as a surrogate mother or father, and you can begin to plant seeds of doubt in their minds.
Before long, the babies will be convinced that remaining in the nest would mean miserable submission to the elder magpies’ fascistic regime. They’ll be only too happy to escape to your place to be raised as your own.
Thus, you will win the battle against the magpie parents by breaking their hearts — from then on, they will lack the will to swoop, and will spend every day lying in the nest crying.
The downside is your house is now filled with baby magpies. But then you still have that pillow, once you reach the end of your tether.
Fight fire with fire
Or more accurately, fight birds with birds.
Those magpies think they’re cocks of the walk, flapping around your head, puncturing your ears, poking your eyes out.
See how cocky they feel when your trained wedge-tailed eagle stoops to conquer them, plunging from the dizzy heights to pluck the feeble corvid out of the sky, before tearing it to shreds with its cruel beak and mighty talons.
Just take a course in bird training, buy a leather gauntlet, sneak into your local wildlife sanctuary under cover of darkness, and you’ve got your very own avian bodyguard.
And then there’s the last resort…
Magpies are among the most intelligent of birds: in fact, they are the only non-mammal species who can recognise themselves in a mirror.
Given this, you have a decent chance of simply talking them out of attacking you.
Just mount a cogent argument about the futility of perpetuating a cycle of pre-emptive and retributive violence.
Preach the benefits to civilisation as a whole of shedding primitive notions of forcible conquest.
Sell a more productive model of enlightened self-interest and peaceable cooperation between peoples and species.
Once the magpies understand just how counterproductive violence can be, they won’t even want to swoop you anymore.
In fact, this swooping season could bring you the greatest gift of all: a new friend.