Magpie season is underway with swooping becoming more frequent in Gladstone. Photo Christopher Chan / The Observer
Magpie season is underway with swooping becoming more frequent in Gladstone. Photo Christopher Chan / The Observer Christopher Chan GLA200912MAGP

OPINION: The beaks of burden a black and white issue

THERE'S something in the theory that dive-bombing magpies actually recognise their victims.

Not a maggie season goes by that I don't find myself at the mercy of the feathered fiends.

It may be paranoia, but I can't help thinking the magpies in the ghetto lay in wait for spring to start dive bombing this unsuspecting scribe.

I've only ever copped a couple of beak clippings over the years which left me with a bleeding ear, but the sound of beaks smacking just above one's head out of nowhere is not only frightening but leaves the victim more than a little embarrassed.

I've caught more than a few passing motorists laughing as they spot me doing my best Michael Jackson impersonation as I jig and jive and flail my arms about my head while being swooped on the street.

Though I do admit it can be a funny sight, provided the victim is not you.

Yet it's funny that during a discussion about magpie swooping season among a group of us, a few claimed they had never been dive-bombed while some of us lay victim to the black and white marauders every year.

The mongrel maggies weren't always our foe, however.

Back in the mid-1970s there used to be a particularly vicious magpie that nested somewhere in the trees above the south-east corner of the Holy Name School oval where we used to play footy.

In what could only be described as the ultimate in home ground advantage, kickers of our teams used to use that cranky maggie to our advantage.

Unsuspecting opposition fullbacks and wingers on that side of the field used to finish a game at Holy Name traumatised after the All Whites lads would regularly kick the ball to the south-east corner of the ground, thereby sending the opposing fullback and winger to retrieve it.

We thought it funny to see them running across field, only to bid a quick retreat when the snapping beak of the magpie zoomed down from upon high.

If a player was brave and quick enough, the ball was left there for the offing and many a try in the corner went unopposed.

However, that home advantage didn't last.

One of my mates who was a few years younger was at Under 11 team training one afternoon when the dreaded south-east corner magpie swooped and copped him a direct hit to the back of his head, leaving him dazed and bleeding and with a life-long aversion to magpies which he maintains today.

His coach was very protective of the young lads in his charge and ushered the team back upfield and into the dressing shed.

Telling the boys to sit and wait there for him, the coach disappeared. He walked to his home around the corner and returned with a rifle.

When the boys were ushered back onto the training paddock soon after, they couldn't help notice a collection of black and white feathers fluttering across field in the south-east corner.

This story can now be told, the coach having shuffled off this mortal coil many years ago.

However, as that then Under 11 player recalled the incident during our magpie discussion last week, we all wondered just how taking such action would be received today.

For starters, a bloke walking on the street with a rifle would have police units scrambling well before he got to fire a shot in anger - albeit at a dive-bombing bird who had hurt one of his boys.

Although I'd never consider such retaliation today, I can't help wishing magpies could read.

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