Police Sharp shooters called in!


And so Springtime has come to Brizburg once again, and with Spring of course has come the usual chorus of Whiners & Whingers complaining about Magpies and calling for their culling.

The Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicens), a pretty, black & white bird the size of a crow, has perhaps the most beautiful voice of any of our native birds. To hear its musical, liquid warbling at any time is to have one’s Spirits uplifted. Indeed, its name, “tibicens” is Latin for flute player. Their clear carolling is an integral part of the Australian landscape. Alas, it has other habits that make it not so popular.

For the Magpie is fiercely protective of its family, and deeply territorial, and for four to six weeks each Spring the male magpie will vigorously defend the area around its nesting chicks.

What this means in effect, is swooping dive-bombing runs at intruding humans, dogs, cats, and for some reason, particularly bicyclists. (Why Magpies hate bicyclists so much is not known.) Usually they just do a near miss and clack their beaks as they pass, an un-nerving experience but hardly fatal. Sometimes they’ll pluck a few hairs from your head. Occasionally the more aggressive will actually take a peck at you and leave a tiny gash. Almost always they attack from behind, although Urban Legend records the rare aggressive bird that will go for the eyes. (Usually a bird that’s been tormented by humans previously). But sunglasses provide an effective precaution.

All in all they’re really just a bit of a nuisance for a couple of weeks, occasionally a painful nuisance, but hardly life threatening. Basically, if you wear a hat & sunglasses they’re not a bother. (A proper hat that is, not some stupid baseball cap.) True they’re more problematical for bicyclists, who’ve been known to lose their balance and crash after an unexpected magpie attack, but this is easily resolved through putting fake eyes on the back of your helmet. (Or those plastic extensions that look like antennae.)

A small price to pay for one of the world’s greatest songsters, you might think.

Yet every year we get a horde of whingers calling for “problem birds” to be culled. The ‘Letters to the Editor’ columns are full of them. Eager to provide such cranks and ratbags with a platform, Murdoch’s News limited papers (basically all of them in this town) are always happy to call for a cull of native species (all part of their general “anti-green campaign”). A recent case some kid down the coast got pecked by a Magpie and her over-protective father became front page news in the execrable Courier Mail, calling for police sharpshooters to cull “dangerous birds.” Other Life-hating ratbags soon joined in the public chorus calling for Vengence. Perhaps somewhat more constructively, the Quest papers (also Rupert’s) have an online “Magpie Map” showing problem areas.

Personally, what I’d say to that father is “Why wasn’t your kid wearing a hat? Aside from the fact it’s magpie nesting season, Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and your letting your daughter go out in the sun without a hat. Call yourself a father. Then you have the hide to call for the death of a tiny bird that was protecting ITS family just coz your kid got a little gash. For shame.

Yes shame on all you Life-hating bastards calling for the culling of this beautiful bird. We should stand in awe of its courage. That a tiny, 12 ounce bird is prepared to take on creatures hundreds of times its size to defend its family, risking Life and Wing in the process..well we should respect that creature and seek to emulate it, not eliminate it.

Goddamn what the Hell is WRONG with you people? The Wonders and Miracles and Mysteries of the Natural World are all around you and yet you cannot see it. Trapped in a crabbed and cranky Universe, you perceive only the disruption to your obssessive ideas of order. The Suburban neatness, where no bird sings out of place. Where no leaf falls without permission.

Instead of inevitably imposing our sterile vision of order over the world, we should learn to work in with the natural cycles around us. Accept the nesting behaviours, the migrations, the swarmings, the hibernations of the other species that surround us. Sure claim a Space amongst the woof and weave,

but one that works with the Patterns.

Here endeth the lesson.


And wear a damned hat.


For strategies to cope with Magpies try;

For more info on Magpies try;




The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists AND the Church of the Universe.

He is the friend of all creatures except the mosquito and the guinea worm.

(No-ones perfect)



~ by reverendhellfire on September 18, 2011.

2 Responses to “ATTACK OF THE TINY BIRDS!!”

  1. I love this.
    I have found that I never get swooped, I assumed that my local maggies (a big family on my street that nest over the road) just weren’t swoopers, until I had some doorknockers come round.
    Turns out that feeding them some scraps in the afternoons doesn’t just encourage them to sing to me, but prevents them from swooping me!

    To test my theory I went right under their nest, not showing too much interest in the nest itself because I didn’t want to put them off. One landed nearby, and sung, a few more followed me home for scraps.

    Even the nearby magpie clans leave me alone.

    Every year they bring their fledged young ones to come visit, and show them where to sit to sing for their supper.

    • Good for you my friend.I like your attitude, I wish there were more like you.
      Coincidently, I had the pleasure today of hearing a Magpie parent teaching its children to sing. Such beautiful liquid warbling! They can swoop me anytime if I can still get to hear that music! Yes how hard is it to make a few minor adjustments to allow nature to proceed on its course, instead of just bulldozing, poisoning or ring-barking everything that causes us a moments inconvenience.
      My latest peeve along this line are the idiots who paddle out hundreds of metres from the shoreline of Western Australia, splashing around like a wounded seal, and often dressed in black to heighten the resemblence, and THEN they’re SURPRISED when a Great White thinks they’re lunch.
      While the “authorities” adopt the Nazi’s approach to reprisals and kill hundreds of sharks for every dead german soldier, whoops, sorry I meant surfer.
      Yeah those nets will teach them a lesson. And those turtles too, they’ve been looking at us funny lately..better get them too before they turn on us. Yes I’m calling for Troy Buzzwell to lead an All OUT pre-emptive strike on the Environment NOW!
      Pah! The Environment!
      What’s the Environment ever done for us?

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