From the spiders to the sharks, the snakes to the stingers, the crocs to the cassowaries, almost any living creature over here you can think of, aside from perhaps the koala, has been the cause of a human injury or death.
In fact, thinking about it, I’m sure even the innocent-looking koala, attempting a foolhardy road-crossing at some point, has been behind the demise of some poor individual after forcing them to swerve their vehicle to avoid it.
So you get my jist, Australia is a dangerous and wild country; essentially you part-risk your life just stepping out the front door.
So Far so Good
But after a year here, I was glad to say I had managed to avoid being eaten by sharks while diving the Great Barrier Reef and stung by the jellyfish in the tropical north. I’d safely navigated bush camping on Fraser Island with the dingos and river-swimming in the Northern Territory around giant crocs. I’d managed to keep the shoes outside my tent spider-free, the road in front of me koala-free and I’d avoided even seeing a cassowary. I thought I was doing pretty well. Well until magpie-breeding season that is!
Wolves in Sheeps’ Clothing
I should have seen it coming, I should have known there was something untoward in those beady little black eyes, and razor-sharp beak. Yet who would have guessed at such a lurking sinister nature? After all, at home in the UK, the worst a magpie might do is steal a bit of glinting tinfoil from the rubbish bin.
Not down under though my friends. Oh no here, magpies are killers, veritable wolves in sheep clothing. That’s right, even the innocent-looking suburban magpie is a dangerous predator in Australia.
Like something from a Hitchcock Movie
And how do I know this? Well sadly, I’ve experienced the savagery and viciousness of one of these Australian magpies first hand. And let me tell you, it’s definitely the greatest danger I’ve faced in this whole country by a long way.
Picture the scene, there I am taking my usual 20 minute walk from home to the shops through the quiet and picturesque residential streets of Noosa, Queensland. When, all of a sudden, I’m aware of a terrifyingly large flapping of wings, accompanied by a loud shriek and clacking right behind my ear, as something ominous and black swoops right past my head.
Luckily I scream, duck and run quickly enough that bird misses me, or at least that’s what I tell myself. However, as I continue to scurry up the street, heart pounding and head turning around to check the its whereabouts, I see the magpie following me, doing circles in the air then diving down occasionally, like a school-ground bully protecting its turf and warning me against trespassing any further.
I try to cross the road to avoid it, but to no avail – I realise this thing can fly and swoop and circle far greater than I ever can. It swoops me again and again, as I run crazed, zig-zagging my down the street trying desperately to get out of it’s evil path.
Looking for cover, now almost in tears, I finally find some in a daycare centre car park just off the road. Panting, gasping and fearing for my life I make a beeline for this shelter. Here, at least, I can rest with some sort of cover for protection above me and assess the situation.
Thankfully it seems the bird has at last left me alone. I mean I can still see its ominous outline in the trees, but it seems to have finally given up the physical chase. After a minute or 2 to catch my breath, I pluck up the courage to step out of the car park and am incredibly relieved to notice the bird doesn’t move.
The last I see of that bloodthirsty thing is when I finally manage to reach the crossroads. There it is, sitting atop the street sign, its glaring eyes watching me closely as I hurry, thankfully unscathed, out of its domain.
Well I think I’m going mad of course, until I get back home that is (via the bus this time) and relay the story to my Australian housemate.
“Oh yes,” she says nonchalantly, “they’re dangerous things those magpies during mating season. People often get carted off to hospital with bleeding scalps from where the magpie’s beak has caught them off guard. If they get you from the wrong angle they can even take your eye out.”
Blinded from a magpie attack? Surely not.
“Yes, they’ll go for anything that gets in their way,’ she adds, “kids, dogs, they’re not discriminatory.”
Well glad as I am that magpies aren’t prejudiced members of Australia, I can’t help but feel shocked that nobody has bothered to mention this common bird on the long list of dangerous antipodean creatures. I mean killer magpies hunting people down in the street and no one thinks to say anything? What’s going on?
“Well if we told everyone about it, it’d scare all the backpackers away,” came her reply. “Most of them are scared of cockroaches and caterpillars, let alone swooping dangerous birds.”
She’s got a good point here, but it just doesn’t cut it I’m afraid. While I might not be able to deny the truth of what she said, I can’t help but spread the word about these dangerous birds, if only to stop some other innocent trailer getting a nasty shock like me.
So there you have it, magpies truly are one of the most prominent dangers in Australia. As far as I’m concerned, this country can keep its exotic scare tactics about snakes and spiders to a minimum. The way I see it, you’re actually far more likely to come into dangerous contact with a swooping crazed magpie on the streets of Australia than you are a crocodile.
So people, watch out, you have been warned! Everything in Australia IS trying to kill you, not least the common suburban birds … it’s like something out of a horror movie!
This article was originally published on bigworldsmallpockets.com.