Australian Hospital Issues Warning After A Surge In Brutal Bird Attacks

The last thing you'll see as the brutal magpie swoops in on its victim. Katarina Christenson/Shutterstock

Josh Davis 19 Oct 2017, 19:26

If you are walking around urban regions of Australia, you might want to watch out for a terror descending from the skies. The annual magpie attack season has reached such levels in Melbourne that a hospital has issued a warning about a huge surge in attacks, including one patient with a penetrated eyeball.

The swooping birds are common in cities across Australia, but in recent months, Melbourne has seen an uptick in vicious injuries caused by the birds as they try and protect their nests.

“Normally, we might see one or two a month,” Dr Carmel Crock, emergency director of the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, told ABC radio. “But in July we saw 14 cases of bird eye injuries. August there were 12.

"In the last week, we saw five in the one day, including a penetrating eye injury that needed to go to theatre.”

Dive-bombing magpies. David Lade/Shutterstock

The threat of an aerial attack is well known across Australia. Typically occurring between September and November in eastern Australia, walkers and cyclists alike have to be on their guard or else they may be blindsided by the large birds as they attack with pointy claws and sharp beaks.

You would think the fact that the Australian magpies are not actually magpies but a type of passerine known as butcherbirds might give people a hint as to the murderous intent of the birds. The males in particular up their offense during nesting season, diving-bombing and pecking at any man, woman, or child that he deems has strayed too close to the nest he is guarding.

So far, the website Magpie Alert! has recorded a hefty 3,274 attacks in 2017, with 520 resulting in injuries, giving the birds a vicious one in six success rate. Despite that, it is still thought that only a small portion of the birds actually develop this violent streak, with some reports putting it at less than 9 percent. It also turns out that some may specialize in cyclists, while other prefer to single out pedestrians.

Still, that information is not much use to those who have a savage magpie nesting in their neighborhood, as many users on the Magpie Alert! website can attest to. One user going only by the name “Nards” recounts how his family was attacked by a magpie: "Attacked while cycling with my kids. Swooped several times, I was hit on the back of the helmet and my daughter was hit in the side of the head lacerating her ear.” Ouch. Thankfully, the kid was wearing a helmet, which “provided protection from a more serious injury.”

Either way, the hospital urges people to stay vigilant against any surprise attack and to stay away if possible from the ferocious feathered fiends. 

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