Just like the red rag to a bull, compulsory masks could spell a particularly nasty Victorian magpie-swooping season.
One birdlife expert is speculating swooping might be worse than usual because magpies will find it harder to recognise people.
All Victorians must wear masks as part of the state’s lockdown restrictions.
“There is a chance, because what we do know is magpies can recognise individual people,” Birdlife Australia’s Sean Dooley said.
“If you think a magpie has it in for you, you’re probably right.
“Research has shown magpies can recognise up to at least 100 different people and we think the main factor is facial recognition.
“They tend to swoop the people they see as a threat.”
Swooping season reaches its peak in September-October, as magpies breed and guard their nests.
The birds are renowned for repeatedly targeting individuals they perceive as threats.
While some people come under constant aerial attack, others are never harassed.
“What we’re really fascinated with is whether, especially in Melbourne in lockdown … is if you’re wearing a mask, they may not be able to recognise you,” Dooley said.