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Flipping the Bird - Aussie website's one fingered attempt to stop angry birds attacking cyclists (+ video)

Spring in Australia is when the birds attack… and their favourite target is cyclists

We may be heading into autumn up here in the northern hemisphere, but down under in Australia and New Zealand, spring is beckoning and for many of those countries’ cyclists that means one thing – magpie attacks. Now one Australian website has produced a video in which it attempts to literally give the magpie the bird.

The experiment, conducted by the website White Line Fever, isn’t admittedly the most robust piece of research in scientific terms – a drawing of a hand, middle finger extended, was fixed to the top of a cycle helmet and had no effect on the bird which continued to swoop down on the rider.

“But we discovered that magpies aren’t really angry,” reveals a blog post on the site. “They’re just doing they’re job and they’ve got a damn good reason to do it well. If they aren’t an effective defender of the nest, their magpie missus will simply give them the boot.

The site quotes a national survey that says that 90 per cent of Australian males and 72 per cent of females have been the victim of a magpie attack at some point, and in nearly half of attacks, the person on the receiving end happens to be a cyclist.

Tactics some have employed to ward off the birds include wearing an Afro wig – a tad impractical for daily use, perhaps, particularly in a country where helmets are compulsory – sticking cable ties on a bike helmet, or sticking fake eyes on a helmet, although apparently magpies have learnt to distinguish between those and real eyes.

“So wearing sunglasses and ear warmers are a pretty good start,” the site adds, “or riding with people who are slower than you gives safety in numbers.” Other advice includes the cyclist varying their route to avoid known hotspots.

While the Australian magpie is particularly infamous for its attacks on unwitting cyclists and pedestrians, and red-winged magpies are also known to attack people on bikes in North America, bike riders here in the UK often receive unwanted attention from our feathered friends too.

A few years back, a buzzard in Devon developed a certain notoriety among local cyclists following a series of attacks over a number of years.

Last year, a cyclist from the Isle of Wight who was growing a moustache as part of the Movember charity campaign found that his newly sprouted facial hair attracted the unwanted attention of a seagull, which bit his lip leading to him needing three stitches as well as a tetanus jab.

Chris Wells, aged 57, told Metro: “I was really cross and I am still spitting feathers now.

“Three stitches in my bottom lip – it was lucky it wasn’t the top one or my moustache days would be over.

“My moustache is grey, so maybe it thought it was dive-bombing a seal, or  it had mistaken my moustache for a chip. The doctor could hardly stop laughing, which is not good when they are stitching up your face.

“My wife hates the moustache and offered me £20 to shave it off after a week – this thing nearly made her wish come true,” added Mr Wells when the attack happened.

“Last week, a seagull splattered me with poo on the way to work, this week one smacks me in the face. Next week, at this rate, one will probably carry me off to its nest in its beak,” he concluded.


Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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vorsprung | 11 years ago

I've been dived bombed by a buzzard in the UK on a couple of occassions

There is a road near Hatherleigh that was used on a couple of Audaxes. In 2005/2006 there was a family of buzzards that attacked riders. Especially if you were at the back of the field.

The buzzards there now seem to have lost the habit but I always wear a helmet just to be on the safe side

GerardR | 11 years ago

I've been dive-bombed too and found it unamusing.

It was suggested tie-wraps through the helmet, with loose ends extending vertically, is a solution.

Bikeylikey | 11 years ago

Those birds have obviously been trained by JCHM, Jeremy Clarkson and His Mates, a worldwide organisation dedicated to the intimidation and overthrow of cyclists and cycling, and ulitmate world domination. If you didn't know, they are notorious for their 'midnight pothole squat team', responsible for those suddenly appearing potholes on stretches of road popular with cyclists. They are also responsible for the Bristol Rapid Transit Scheme.

Pjrob | 11 years ago

They used to attack my helmet and believe me it is very disconcerting as the loud bop as they hit can be sudden and ultimately dangerous. The solution is a simple one. Take off the helmet and put on a normal sunhat and all they do is flap around overhead.

Municipal Waste | 11 years ago

Surely everyone knows that the magpies are simply doing their bit to abolish helmet compulsion laws?  39

stewieatb | 11 years ago

I think this may be what's generously known as "Aussie humour".

Philx | 11 years ago

Sod the magpies - it's Sydney drivers trying to kill me year round I'm more concerned about  1

OldRidgeback | 11 years ago

Think cable ties are probably the best option

a .410 shotgun might not be allowed, tho it'd be effective

scotter | 11 years ago

the magpies are obviously related to that pensioner in Bristol...

Marauder | 11 years ago

I think they just need to salute the magpies.

Being a Newcastle United supporter  37 apparently it is a superstition that you need to salute a single magpie if you see one to ward of bad luck.

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