What does the bird think?
If you’ve ever ridden a bike in Australia during the spring months, it’s likely that you have heard the rush of wings and felt the claws of a Gymnorhina Tibecen trying to penetrate your helmet. Luke Stockwell* certainly has…
[NOTE: This was originally published in RIDE #19, Volume 03, 2002. RIDE Media does not endorse the harming of animals... even though it is tempting to take action against those animals which are harming you as you merrily ride along, minding your own business.]
Memo from a magpie
I am a warrior. A chosen one. You cannot see me but I am out there. I move swiftly and silence is my friend. You are out there. You number many but I am not afraid. I know my capabilities and I can anticipate what you will do. I do not need weapons. I was born with everything I need to defeat you, my enemy. My body is part bird, part machine. Training has made me a silent killer, my movements are so refined that I am a precision killing machine. I am preparing myself before the sun shines its warmth on the roads you will travel today. My young are fed before you rise from your lazy, wasted existence to hide behind the veil of that two-wheeled machine you pedal through my territory. I hate you and everything you stand for. You think you are fit. What a joke! Your wasted training is of no real use in this war torn land. Your 11-cog exploits are fun when you talk at the coffee shop, but why waste precious training time on your legs. Your speed will never match mine. My black and white wings can outpace you. Why do you assemble in numbers? How dare you bring reinforcements to my domain. It seems like you have beaten me with your group, a disgusting display of cowardice, all rolling along on those two-wheeled machines singing in that ugly song of clicks and clacks that comes from your soft beakless mouths. Just because I don’t swoop your group, you have not won. I have marked each of you for a future individual attack. I know your markings, those hideous colours you insult me with. I remember these and I will come down on you harder and faster than you would ever believe possible. Be warned, I will wait and one day you will be alone in my territory. I am the king of this land. I am the most feared and beautiful creature. I rule as far as your pathetic eyes can see. You visitor. You filthy tourist in my kingdom. One day you will bow down to the black and white ruler of the land and sky.
* * * * *
A warning from the National Parks and Wildlife: “A magpie attack can be quite alarming, but it is usually only a warning. Only occasionally will a bird actually strike the intruder on the head with its beak or claws. If this unusual behaviour persists, there are ways of reducing the risk of physical injury to humans. However, if these are unsuccessful, the National Parks and Wildlife Service can authorise destruction of the offending bird as a last resort. If a magpie swoops at you:
• Walk quickly and carefully away from the area, and avoid walking there when magpies are swooping
• Make a temporary sign to warn other people
• Magpies are less likely to swoop if you look at them. Try to keep an eye on the magpie, at the same time walking carefully away. Alternatively, you can draw or sew a pair of eyes onto the back of a hat, and wear it when walking through the area. You can also try wearing your sunglasses on the back of your head
• Wear a bicycle or skateboard helmet. Any sort of hat, even a hat made from an ice cream container or cardboard box, will help protect you
• Carry an open umbrella, or a stick or small branch, above your head but do not swing it at the magpie, as this will only provoke it to attack
• If you are riding a bicycle when the magpie swoops, get off and wheel it quickly through the area. Your bicycle helmet will protect your head, and you can attach a tall red safety flag to your bicycle or hold a stick or branch as a deterrent
* * * * *
You think I am a foolish bird with a beautiful song. I cannot believe a so-called genius Homo sapien species would insult my intelligence. This is how I prefer it to be. Please continue to underestimate me. I like it when you are surprised by what I can do. This is my advantage. If you really knew what I was capable of you would never go outside again.
Listen to your experts, they spent four years studying me at university and now you pay them to feed you this babble. Yes, that’s right, I am just a weak bird. I am only scared and protecting my young and it’s really only a warning, actually quite rare that I will strike you. Just remember to wear your helmet, that will stop me. Hah! You twits amongst men!
I laugh at you with your ice cream containers. Of course I won’t strike an ice cream container when you look so foolish wearing them. Keep buying those sew on eyes, I have shares in the company. Of course I cannot tell the difference between real eyes and the craft shop teddy peepers you glue on your helmets. I can only spot a spider in the grass from 200 metres, a grub in the dirt from the highest eucalyptus. Mount an orange safety flag and rise against me with sticks. I live with sticks. My nest is sticks and I will treat you to something. Please, please get off your bicycle and “wheel it quickly through the area”. That would be your last mistake. I am evolving.
Dear NSW National Parks and Wildlife (please forward this to all the respective state departments).
I am forwarding this to you so you can update your files. I, the Australian Magpie, am evolving. For the safety of your public, the people you serve through your government department, you will need to realise what I can do.
We have a distinct battle plan. Our reign of terror has shifted laterally. This means we no longer target school children and the elderly. We now have stepped up our attack methods and will be targeting all cyclists and postal workers.
We are prepared to employ the following tactics:
• Land on cyclists’ shoulders and attack from there
• Target almost exclusively the earlobes
• Monitor training times and patrol our areas accordingly
• Be unafraid of bicycle pumps or swear words
• Co-ordinate with other areas for two- and three-pronged attacks
• Approach from the front and back and attack while you are looking at us
• And finally, have begun to introduce our behaviour across the bird species. Crows in Roma, north Queensland, have proven to be excellent students and have begun to swoop cyclists
We will not stop our reign of terror until you encase all your civilians in those mobile steel cages that roam the earth.
Love, the Australian Magpie. (Gymnorhina Tibecen).
- By Luke Stockwell
*Luke Stockwell has quite obviously been attacked one too many times by the famous Australian magpie. (Haven’t we all? But that doesn’t stop it from being the prettiest sounding bird on earth.) He has also been trying his hand at a bit of track racing… without too much luck, as a chipped vertebrae demonstrates – but at least it shows his passion for cycling remains.
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