The birds and the flies

Springtime is coming. I know this because yesterday, the first fly of springtime attempted to enter my ear.

Aussie flies seem to like trying to enter bodily orifices – ears, nose, eyes – and are the real reason why Aussies have never thoroughly embraced the idea of the nudist beach. Probably.

The notion of spring, and the change in behaviour of the local fauna, was actually brought to mind by an article I read in a UK newspaper about the aggressive behaviour of seagulls in Cornwall.

Cornish seagulls aren’t likely to bother us in Canberra, but even though we hadn’t arrived in time for last spring, the tales of animal attacks lingered long after summer had established its warm grip.

The first sign that something might be awry came from cyclists actually. We would regularly be passed by cyclists wearing a protective helmets that had been adapted with plastic prongs to look like something from a brain-transplantation experiment or a 1930s horror movie.

“Are they radio aerials?” asked mini-CBRbound. No. They were cable ties, arranged in a pattern designed to simulate spiky hair for those of us who may no longer experience that luxury naturally.

The reason, it seems, is that, come nesting season, Canberra’s magpies become very protective of the areas around their homes. Anything that comes too close – dog, cat, cyclist, pedestrian – can be deemed a threat and the magpies swoop, peck and claw to warn the intruder off.

Last year, a few Canberrans even took it upon themselves to seek revenge on the birds, prompting a reminder that such attacks are against the law.

We haven’t experienced any of this yet, and I’m wondering whether we should stock up on cable ties now, before there’s a run on them at the DIY store.

Either way, the prospect of being clawed and gouged makes the flies’ attempts to take up residence in my ears and nose seem a relatively benign irritant. And that’s before I even think about all the spiders and snakes that are all about to hatch and seek out new homes.

4 thoughts on “The birds and the flies

  1. Thankfully, reflective sunglasses long went out of vogue. If the magpie see’s its reflection, you have no escape. I hid in the local service station for a while, hoping it would move on so that I could continue. No such luck. It waited. And taking the glasses off didn’t help.

    Since then, I’ve discovered that magpies are more scared of the sound of a crow than they are of us. If you can work out how to do that, you might have a chance!


  2. You need to watch this vid.

    I have been swooped only a few times in over ten years here. Most of the time it’s a warning swoop if you are a pedestrian – maybe being hit with the wing from behind which has happened to me….more surprising than harmful! There was one little guy who had the biggest territory when my son was first born and I had to avoid that area when out with the pram or take the dog as they swoop them over humans. My dog thought it was great fun, but it was also a bit worrying.

    Be aware that there are also kurrawongs – which are similar to magpies, but not of a swooping nature generally…at least they don’t seem to be.

    What I do love is the fact that you get to watch this scene of new life every year. The ones who take up residence in our front yard every year are just gorgeous – with their beautiful sounds and dedicated parenting. And you get to watch them raise their young for what seems like months. They don’t leave the parents until they are quite old.

    Don’t tell anyone this, but I talk to them all the time If I’m out in the garden!

    Maybe also, if you have some close by, try putting out oats for them to eat…they’ll love you for it do they do remember who you are.

    Good luck!


    • Thanks for those tips Frances. That video, in particular, is a fascinating watch and illustrates the point perfectly. At this point, avoidance seems the best course of action. What about dogs, do they swoop them too — should Mr Pup also be on his guard?


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