A video has gone viral online of a boy on a scooter being chased and attacked by a bird. In the video, the boy scoots as fast as his little legs will scoot, clearly in distress, as the bird continues its sustained attack. The adult filming the events breaks into laughter.
Even without any context, we're confident you have guessed that this scene takes place in Australia, where, let's face it, everything from creepy crawlies to jumping tree snakes to the trees themselves is out to cause you harm.
The birds are no different, as you can see. These ones, as we will explain, are especially big (to use an Australian term) wankers.
Shortly before spider season in Australia, the frankly uninhabitable country goes through swooping season, in which its "magpies" are known to swoop down from the skies and attack humans minding their own business below. The magpies (actually a type of passerine known as butcherbirds, which only makes them more terrifying) become active between late August and late November, regularly dive-bombing and chasing humans in order to protect their nests.
Particularly aggressive, you don't really need to be anywhere near their nests for them to attack. And when they do, they tend to go for the head, face, and eyes. In a brutal 2017 season, 3,253 attacks and 518 injuries were reported, including a boy who required eye surgery. In 2019, a cyclist died trying to escape an attack.
People have tried several different methods to avoid being singled out by the avian would-be assassins, although as you can see in the video below, no successful technique has been found yet.
The thing that is particularly strange and (saying this safely from the other side of the world) kind of badass about these birds is that the attacks aren't entirely random: As well as focusing largely on men, the birds are known to repeatedly attack the same individuals over several years.
“Research has shown magpies can recognize up to at least 100 different people and we think the main factor is facial recognition," birdlife expert Sean Dooley told radio station 3aw earlier this year. "If you think a magpie has it in for you, you’re probably right."
Experts have warned this year could be especially brutal as the birds may have trouble recognizing their usual enemies while everyone is wearing a mask, and attack in a case of mistaken identity.
“A magpie may know you and know that you’re okay, but when you’re wearing a mask they may not be able to recognize you,” Dooley explained.
With masks mandatory in many states, this could be a problem. Unfortunately, the advice for avoiding the beady-eyed birds is basically to alter your life.
"Magpies seem to have very good memories and have attacked the same people over subsequent seasons," according to Magpiealert, a site for runners, cyclists etc to register where attacks have occurred. It also advises your route belongs to them now. "If it's attacked you before, probably a good idea to use an alternative route next season."