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Magpie swooping study by 8-year-old girl uncovers risky hairstyles

Take cover.

Every time magpie swooping season comes around, people share theories and warnings about why these Australian native birds target different people.

And this year, an 8-year-old girl went viral after conducting her own research on magpies and who they prefer to swoop. Emma Glenfield, who attends school in the Blue Mountains, wondered why magpies swoop and who they tend to target. Here’s what she found.

What attracts magpies to swoop?

Australian magpies are territorial and will defend the area around their nests from anything (or anyone) they perceive as a threat.

According to the Australian Museum, “Only a small number of Australian magpies behave like this, and some of these aggressive magpies will only swoop on particular people.”

It’s this behaviour that Emma, encouraged by her teacher, decided to research.

So, during magpie swooping season, Emma camped in the playground and watched their resident magpie, Sir Swoopsalot, swoop people. She then wrote down who the magpie swooped. 

“I watched the people he swooped, and I recorded it,” Emma told the ABC

“Then I got everything I recorded, and I figured out that they [the people the magpie swooped] were male, they were tall, and they had thin or receding hair.”

Her next port of call was to make an online survey with a QR code and ask strangers at her local park to fill it out. 

The survey included questions about their age, height, hairstyle, weight, whether they’ve been hurt by a magpie or not, and how they rate magpies out of ten.

magpie
(Credit: Getty)

Why do magpies swoop some people and not others?

Since then, the survey has gone viral, with over 30,000 people worldwide answering her questions. 

Combing through the data herself, Emma says there was a definite pattern that men with less hair get swooped more often.  

Interestingly, magpie expert Professor Darryl Jones told the ABC this is the first time anyone has studied the link between swooping magpies and appearance. 

The data is now sitting with Professor Jones to see what else he can glean about magpies. 

Well done, Emma!

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