Cyclists call for signage at reserve after magpie attacks

Shirley Halkett is dive bombed by a protective magpie while cycling in the Scenic Reserve.
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/STUFF

Shirley Halkett is dive bombed by a protective magpie while cycling in the Scenic Reserve.

Cyclists who have been attacked by aggressive magpies are calling for warning signs to be installed at Timaru's Scenic Reserve.

Last weekend mountain biker Brendan Chittock felt a thump on the back of his head while riding with his son near the south end foot bridge at the reserve. He did not realise it was a magpie immediately. 

"I thought it was my cheeky son whacking me on the head as he rode past. Then I saw him on another trail."

It was then he realised he had been hit by a magpie which had done considerable damage to his helmet.

"It's a worry that it smacked me that hard ... If it had not been for my helmet I'm sure I would have needed stitches."

Chittock said he warned some walkers as they were about to cross the footbridge of the danger.

Worried that a child would be terrified, if faced with a similar situation, Chittock emailed the Timaru District Council regarding his concerns.

Chittock would like to see warning signs in public places where the magpies were likely to strike. 

Parks Liaison officer Gary Foster responded that there was little the council could do.

"It is a natural occurrence, and is not confined to one area," Foster wrote.

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The birds nest and breed between August and October warning off anything they consider a threat by swooping close to any perceived intruder. ​

He said the only way to get rid of the nuisance birds was to shoot them but that was problematic in a town environment.

His suggestion was for cyclists to be aware of the issue at this time of the year and take precautions such as avoiding the area, wearing a helmet, and carrying a stick.

In the past, the council had tried to trap and relocate birds but that proved time consuming, costly and ineffective. 

"The birds returned as fast as it took to drive back to town from the release site - which was as far away as Tekapo," Foster said.

Another resident who has had plenty of experience with swooping magpies and supports the idea of warning signage, is retired postie Shirley Halkett.

Halkett was targeted by one of the birds as she rode her bike at the reserve on Tuesday morning.

"It's scary for some people. They come quite low. I just keep going," Halkett said.

A TDC spokesman said dive bombing magpies were not an issue solely confined to Centennial Park (Scenic Reserve).

"It's pretty wide spread at this time of year and can be in parks, urban areas, rural locations etc. It's good for the media to raise awareness of this and we will put warnings on social media, but it isn't possible to signpost everywhere this could happen."

The spokesman there had been a couple of complaints regarding the behaviour of the birds but no official record was kept. 

 - Stuff

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