Magpie attack in Queensland leaves boy needing surgery

By Jared Richards and John Pickrell 12 October 2016
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A magpie in Gladstone has caused serious eye injuries after swooping an eight-year-old boy.

AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD BOY has reportedly required eye surgery after being swooped by a magpie.

Cameron Nielsen was on his way to school in Gladstone, about 550km north of Brisbane, Queensland, when a swooping Australian magpie pierced through his eyelid and scratched his eyeball.

Cameron’s mother Skye Nielsen told the ABC that Cameron began to complain around 12pm that he was having trouble seeing. Doctors in Gladstone advised they visit Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, where Cameron had successful eye surgery.

“He says to me he can see properly and his operation went well and the doctors were happy with it,” Skye said.

“He’s making a full recovery, back to his normal self.”

Over the next few months, Cameron will attend weekly eye-testing to ensure he regains 100 per cent of his eyesight.

Swooping season

The attack comes at the end of swooping season, which begins in September and continues for about six weeks until the newly hatched chicks fledge the nest. Male magpies are the sole aggressors, and will swoop perceived threats within 80m of their nests.

According to Professor Chris Daniels, an expert on urban ecology at the University of South Australia, magpies often pick specific targets, a learnt behaviour often based off a previous bad experience.

Particular breeds of dogs or male children are often targeted for these reasons, and magpies have also been known to memorise faces and target individuals across their 20-25 year life span. “Holding a grudge for 20 years is kind of an amazing thing,” Chris says.

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While not common, severe magpie attacks like Cameron’s have been known to occur. In 2011, a four-year-old boy was blinded in one eye after being attacked in Toowoomba, and in September last year, five children were left with serious eye injuries after they were dive-bombed at a playground in Gosford, on the NSW Central Coast. Three magpie-related deaths have been reported since 1946.

As Australian magpies are a protected species, attacking them or seeking vengeance in any form – including disturbing their nests – is illegal.

While wearing an ice-cream container hat is an Australian staple, Chris says the best way to avoid magpie attacks to is avoid the potential attack area altogether for that six-week period.

For reference, crowd-sourced website maps out attacks and is updated daily.