TEMPTING FATE: South Grafton resident Shirley Newby travels the route along Ryan St where she was attacked by a magpie on Tuesday.
TEMPTING FATE: South Grafton resident Shirley Newby travels the route along Ryan St where she was attacked by a magpie on Tuesday. Tim Howard

Study backs magpie swooping suspicions: yes, it is personal

SOUTH Grafton bike-rider Shirley Newby bears no ill will to the magpie that swooped her earlier this week.

A magpie nesting in a tree on Ryan St between Skinner and Cowan Sts dive-bombed her twice as she cycled to the shops on Tuesday.

"I've got no bad feelings about it," she said. "They're just protecting their nests and we don't have to put up with it for too long."

Ms Newby said the attack seemed to bear out recent research which showed magpies pick their victims and remember who they are.

"I was attacked in the same area last year as well," she said. "I saw on the television last night about the research that shows magpies only attack people they know."

The research, from Griffith University in Queensland, confirmed the suspicion of many victims of magpie attacks: they pick on certain people and ignore others.

A behavioural ecologist at the university, Associate Professor Darryl Jones, found magpies recognised people they attacked and remembered them.

His researchers tried different methods, including disguises, to fool the birds, but nothing worked.

"We got (study participants) to dress in completely different ways - they still recognised the individual," Associate Professor Jones said.

"They're really smart."

The good news from the research is only 10% of magpies attack people and they tend to specialise.

About half of them target pedestrians and the rest go for either cyclists or posties and there's a small group of magpies that attack everybody, the research found.

Ms Newby might also consider herself unlucky to be swooped as magpies tended to attack men more often than women.

It also seems the behaviour is linked solely to the presence of chicks in the nest.

"People think that come spring all magpies will attack you, but it's only when chicks are in the nest and only when you're near the nest," Dr Jones said.



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