What started as a “one-way conversation” with a magpie has ended with an Australian man airlifted to hospital with serious injuries to his eyes.
James Glindemann, 68, said that he was about to eat a Chinese takeaway lunch on Tuesday at an outdoor mall in Sale, about 200km east of Melbourne, when he was suddenly and viciously swooped by a magpie.
“A juvenile magpie sat down in front of me, I had a one-way conversation for a few seconds and it was just looking at me,” Glindemann told reporters.
However, after he asked the bird something akin to “how are you going?” things quickly turned ugly.
“I started to open the lunchbox, the next thing I knew, the bird had flown at my face and struck me in the left eye,” he said.
“Apart from the shock of it all, I just thought: ‘Yes, it had struck me in the face, but I didn’t think it had done any damage,’” he said.
Glindemann said at that stage he had “not dropped my meal,” which appeared to have been a mistake.
“The bird sat on the concrete in front of me and saw I had not dropped the food, or I think that was what its thinking was,” he said.
“It immediately attacked the right-hand side of my face, on the eye with a fair bit of force, and drew some blood,” Glindemann said.
“I became a bit concerned at this stage. I picked up the meal, which had fallen to the ground at this stage and started walking to my car, which wasn’t that far away,” he said.
“The closer I got to the car, the worse my eyesight was getting. I looked in the mirror to see the extent of the damage and I couldn’t focus at all on it,” Glindemann said.
He called an ambulance and was taken to a local hospital. With the doctors concerned by the extent of his injuries, he was flown to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, where he underwent surgery for two hours.
The story was first reported by ABC Gippsland, which quoted hospital official Thomas Campbell as saying that about 60 people a year sustain bird-related eye injuries.
Last month, one birdlife expert warned that Victoria’s magpie swooping season might be be worse than usual due to the statewide mask mandate.
Birdlife Australia national public affairs manager Sean Dooley said that magpies could recognize individual faces and “tend to swoop the people they see as a threat.”
Glindemann said that a woman had subsequently contacted him to say she had also been swooped in the same area.
Glindemann is now recovering at home and said he is hopeful his sight would soon return to normal.
His right eye, which bore the brunt of the attack, was still blurry, but he said doctors believed the main concern was preventing infection.
His left eye was also “very smoky, smoggy,” he said.
“On the first day I couldn’t see my hand if I raised it front of me,” he said.
“Now I can count my fingers if I only look through my left eye,” he said.
The reputation of the magpie, which won Guardian Australia’s 2017 bird of the year poll, could at best be described as divisive.
Last year a Sydney council was forced to defend its decision to shoot a swooping magpie, which it said was “not taken lightly.”
Only last month, a video of a young boy being relentlessly swooped by a magpie and filmed by his father went viral.
Magpies also have their defenders.
Glindemann is on their side.
“No, I still like magpies, I love them,” he said. “They’re a beautiful bird, they’re brave. However, I think this bird’s made a bit of a bad mistake.”
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