December 9, 2023

Wildlife camera operators tend to work to a code of non-interference when it comes to the animals they film, but priorities change when it’s you own pet in your backyard.

In a video with over 1 million views on TikTok posted three days ago to the account @nowuckingfurries, an owner is filming their dog enjoying himself in the sun in the backyard. Suddenly, the pet is divebombed by an Australian butcherbird. The dog flinches before running back towards the camera and cowering under a garden bench.

Described as a bird not to be messed with by Birdlife Australia, the experts say: “Butcherbirds get their name from their habit of hanging captured prey on a hook or in a tree fork, or crevice.” The birds live across Australia from northern Queensland through southern Australia, including Tasmania and in the west.

“When a nest or newly fledged chick is around, if you venture too close, a butcherbird will swoop by flying straight at your face,” the Birdlife Australia experts add, “sometimes striking with enough force to draw blood, and each swoop is accompanied by a loud, maniacal cackle.”

Spring in Australia runs between September and November, when birds nest and breed, making this the season of the swooping butcherbird.

“Some birds will all instinctively protect their territory, nest, and young this time of year,” reports the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Queensland (RSPCA). “Swooping is the most-common way of scaring off intruders (whether it is humans or other animals) and this behavior can last up to six weeks. Once the chicks have fledged, the problem will stop.”

In the U.S, while rare, there have been reports of birds of prey attempting to carry away small dogs.

“Predatory birds are certainly capable of killing small dogs, especially some of the smallest like Chihuahuas and toy poodles,” says pet advice site Wag Walking. “While predatory birds generally look for other wild mammal species for food, small dogs can be targeted.”

Wag Walking adds that a bird would have to be desperate for food to risk attacking a dog, “no matter how small, and it would take a specific circumstance for an avian predator to pick up enough speed to lift a dog off the ground. If the pup is on the beach or in a wide-open field or yard, they may be grabbed, but will likely be dropped, which carries its own set of potential injuries.”

A swooping bird of prey. A TikTok video showing a dog being divebombed by a Australian butcherbird has gone viral with over 1 million views.
Andy_Astbury/Getty Images

As well as attacks on dogs, in 2019, the BBC reported that bird attacks on humans in the U.S. are growing more common as people continue to build houses and encroach on bird-nesting territory. The news outlet quoted Andrea Jones, the director of bird conservation for the California chapter of environmental organization National Audubon Society. Jones said: “The increase we’re seeing is because we’re encroaching on bird habitats. So there are more bird-human interactions.”

The situation is not only confined to the U.S. The BBC reports that crow attacks have become so common in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, that one victim of repeat aggression created a website called CrowTrax for people to report the incidents.

Users on TikTok were full of sympathy for the dog. “That poor baby, he was just sitting there enjoying his life,” posted one user, while another commented: “Getting swooped by a bird is traumatic.”

Newsweek has reached out to @nowuckingfurries via TikTok for comment.

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