The COVID rule making you a magpie magnet
Swooping season is in full flight in the greater Geelong region, with more than 30 bird attacks reported in recent weeks.
And an expert has warned coronavirus may turn some friendly birds to foes, with research showing magpies may be unable to recognise familiar faces wearing protective items.
A total of 31 bird attacks have been reported in Geelong, the Surf Coast and Bellarine Peninsula since the end of July, Department of Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and magpiealert.com swooping bird maps show.
Cyclist Dave Simpson has felt the wrath of swooping birds on multiple occasions already this year, including attacks in Drysdale and Wallington.
"The usual suspect at Crimea Street (Drysdale)," Mr Simpson reported to magpiealert.com following an August 13 attack. "He's a very skilful flyer, I tried to evade attack by riding right under the trees along the fence line but he still managed to get me four times, swooping in and out of the trees."
He also reported an August 25 run-in with a tenacious magpie on Grubb Road in Wallington.
"I'd forgotten about this one, (he was there last year) so it was a big shock to ride around the corner from the Bellarine Highway and suddenly hear some loud screeches and get hit on the back and helmet about six times," Mr Simpson wrote.
"He followed me along Grubb Road almost to Rhinds Road where I turned off and escaped the attack."
DELWP warns magpies often swoop when feeling threatened, particularly during breeding season from August to October.
The department suggests the best way to protect against swooping birds is to know and avoid local swooping hot spots, cover your head, travel in groups, avoid harassing or feeding swooping birds, and draw a pair of "eyes" on the backs of hats or helmets.
The start of swooping season in the region comes after Birdlife Australia's national public affairs manager Sean Dooley told 3AW this month that protective face masks might prevent magpies from recognising familiar friendly faces, placing some people in the firing line.
"Researchers actually put masks on and the magpies would only swoop them when they were wearing a certain type of mask, because they had done some behaviour that made the magpie fearful for its young that were in its nest," he said.
"Unfortunately they stereotype people. So if they've had a bad incident with, say, a bloke walking a dog who throws a stick at a magpie, or a 10-year-old-sized kid, if they're seeing more than 100 people a day and they can't work out who's who, they will just start to target those types of people."
Originally published as The COVID rule making you a magpie magnet