Cyclist dies after avoiding swooping magpie near Wollongong

Magpie swooping season is with us and the number of attacks reported in St George and Sutherland Shire is on the rise.

The dive-bombing behaviour of magpies is caused by the birds protecting their newborn chicks from anyone entering their territory.

Tragically, a man has died this week after he tried to avoid a swooping magpie in the Illawarra region.

Police are investigating the incident involving a cyclist on Sunday morning.

About 8.15am the 76-year-old man was riding a pushbike on an off-road path alongside Nicholson Park at Woonona, when witnesses report he rode off the path to avoid a swooping magpie.

The man then collided with a fence post, causing him to be thrown to the ground, sustaining serious head injuries.

He was treated on-scene before being airlifted to St George Hospital in a critical condition.

Despite medical efforts, the man died on Sunday evening.

St George and Sutherland Shire residents have reported a number of magpie attacks on the Magpie Alert! website.

On August 24 the Leader published a map indicating four attacks had been reported to Magpie Alert.

By September 17 the number of reported attacks had risen to 24 with four of those attacks resulting in injury.

The map of reported attacks on Magpiealert.com as of September 17.

The map of reported attacks on Magpiealert.com as of September 17.

A cyclist was swooped and injured on Prince Charles Parade at Kurnell on September 16 at 11.30am.

"Riding along the foreshore and was swooped multiple times drawing blood. Was okay once I started walking," Connor Morey posted.

Three days earlier on Belgrave Esplanade at Sylvania Waters another magpie attacked a family cycling together.

"Riding on footpath with my family. Very aggressive bird swooped several times," Rachel K posted.

"My son received a bite to his cheek which resulted in blood loss and a little nick.

"Bird also drew blood from my husband's ear. Bird followed us for a couple hundred metres."

On August 24 at 3.45pm a magpie attacked a family walking near Ramsgate Road at Sans Souci.

"My family was walking along the soccer field to get to the playground. My 3 yr old son was running 10m in front of the pram. The magpie swooped him and on the second swoop cut his cheek, just below his eye," Catherine reported.

A pram walker on Ramsgate Road at Beverley Park was also swooped on August 24.

"Magpie swooped me (slight cut on ear) while walking my newborn son in pram on path between golf coarse and road," JD reported.

"Had a few goes at me till I scared him off with rocks."

The map of reported attacks on magpiealert.com on August 27.

The map of reported attacks on magpiealert.com on August 27.

Over at Engadine a cyclist was dive-bombed by a magpie on Woronora Road opposite Fairview Avenue.

''Riding bike down Woronora Road got swooped multiple times,'' BJ posted on August 3.

A National Parks and Wildlife Service spokesman said the diving behaviour was the birds protecting their newborn chicks.

"Magpies start breeding as soon as conditions are suitable including when weather begins to warm up," a spokesman said.

"Magpies are very protective of their chicks. Some, but not all, magpies swoop anyone they see as an intruder in their territory.

"This protective behaviour lasts only a few weeks, so be prepared to avoid them, or risk being injured."

A magpie warning sign

A magpie warning sign

The swooping attacks of protective magpies has led to the creation of a a website designed to track and record attacks Australia-wide.

MagpieAlert.com allows people to log on and record where they have experienced a swooping, details about the attack and any injuries suffered.

People can then check the website, find out where attacks have happened and avoid the area.

In case anyone was thinking about taking out some drastic action after being swooped, the national park spokesman warned that magpies were a protected species and it was illegal to capture, harm or kill them.

It was also against the law to collect their eggs or harm their young.

The spokesman said the best thing people can do is avoid nesting areas.

If that wasn't possible people should walk past the area confidently, do not stop and watch the bird as they walk past.

A hat or bike helmet can help protect your head from the swooping magpies beak and sunglasses can do the same for your eyes.

Cyclists should get off their bike and quickly walk past.

Register magpie attacks here: MagpieAlert