Two magpies responsible for a spate of attacks on five people – two of whom required emergency eye surgery – have been killed by Gippsland authorities.
Wellington Shire Council, in eastern Victoria, hired a contractor to remove and euthanise the birds that attacked people while they were eating food outside the Sale shopping centre.
Two people were taken to hospital in Melbourne for emergency eye surgery in October after being swooped on and pecked in the eyes.
The first bird was put down in October, and the council was given approval by the Victorian Department of Land, Water and Planning to destroy the second magpie after another three people were attacked in the same spot outside the Sale mall last week.
James Glindemann, 68, who was attacked in October while sitting on a park bench eating his lunch outside the Gippsland Centre plaza, said he was again able to legally drive after recovering from serious injuries to both of his eyes.
“My left eye is recovering and I can see shapes and things like that with it but it’s pretty useless for reading or anything like that, I may need a lens in the end but they’re not sure,” he said.
“My right eye has recovered reasonably well. I can read with glasses in the right eye, in circumstances where I wouldn’t have needed glasses before.
“I guess it’s slowly getting better but it’s pretty hard to tell.”
He said his damaged eyesight had affected his ability to work.
“It’s very difficult to actually do things at the moment – a lot of my work involves avionic type wiring.”
“I can drive … but it is very difficult to actually do any sort of precise work,” Mr Glindemann said.
He said the bird that attacked him was young, and still had grey feathers.
“The bird wasn’t swooping. He was actually sitting in front of me and flew straight at my face,” he said.
“This particular bird has learnt a very bad habit. I don’t think you can change that. I think it needed to be euthanised.”
Just days before Mr Glindemann was attacked, Jennifer Dyer was having a coffee and a bite to eat near the Gippsland Centre plaza when a bird struck her eye, resulting in an emergency trip to Melbourne and multiple surgeries.
Longford resident Jamie Corbett, 18, considers himself lucky after escaping with only a cut eyelid in an almost identical attack in the same location.
Killing magpies should be last resort
Gisela Kaplan, professor of animal behaviour at the University of New England, said it was unusual for magpies to attack people outside of breeding season.
Dr Kaplan said it was likely the magpies had learnt to attack over time due to a loss of habitat and food.
“Something is happening in their environment, in their interaction, in their contact with people,” she said.
“Twenty years ago when I started studying magpies, I had never come across any single case like that.”
She said euthanising native birds should always be a last resort.
“There are so many grades of different actions one can take,” Dr Kaplan said.
“Rehabilitation is one of them, removing them from the source and send them far away is another, and breaking up the group is a third because they may have learnt from each other.
“I think killing is never the answer.”