Earlier this week, a cacophony of crowing brought my entire family rushing to the front window, wondering which predator was attacking the crows nesting in the tree outside our home. Turns out, there wasn’t a predator. However, a very young crow sat bemusedly on the ground beneath the tree looking like it hadn’t the faintest clue about how to return to the nest. The agitated parent crows continued their belligerent cries until said youngling managed to get itself back to safety. The next morning, the crows dive-bombed me repeatedly as I tried to walk my daughter to the bus stop. We went back for an umbrella and the crows left us alone. Oh the irony of living in Seattle, where we don’t actually use our umbrellas for rain but do find they come in rather handy for fending off the urban wildlife.
Later that same day, I learned that we were not alone in having to avoid the local crows. Joan put the word out to the Wallingford Moms’ list that she was looking for answers about how to best manage the hostile crow interactions, and then shared with us the compiled information. Thanks to Joan’s research, we can now all interact more peacefully with the local crow population.
Apparently it’s crow nesting season. Bottom line is: crows are smart and they remember people. Ignore them, don’t mess with them or their babies, don’t look them in the eyes. And here’s some useful info [from Cornell University’s Cornell Lab of Ornithology] to avoid getting dive-bombed by a crow.
HERE’S WHAT TO DO: First off, you should never just stare at the crows when they are getting upset and agitated – that makes them think you are watching them and getting ready to attack so they react aggressively, as any wild animal will. NO wild animal likes being stared at! If a crow is calling at you during this season (typically late April – July), just cross nonchalantly to the other side of the street, ignoring it completely as if that’s what you meant to do anyway. Continue on your way enjoying the day. If you are dive-bombed anyway, just keep going-the farther away you get, the better. If a crow has already determined that you are a threat and is dive-bombing you on sight (this is really not ideal-other crows will think that this crow has a good reason to hate you, and might join the fun), then avoid the area for a while. If that’s impossible, walk through the area waving your arms slowly over your head, or consider a disguise-for real! A hat that hides your hair color, some sunglasses…
WHY DO THEY DO IT? Dive-bombing of humans by crows is a seasonal occurrence, linked to the most vulnerable stages of nesting. Right now, fledgling/baby crows are emerging from the nest. All of them are naïve and vulnerable to predation, and some of them are unable to fly. It really is a dangerous phase of life for a crow family (think dogs, cars, cats, hawks..). Even if you don’t actually see the young, the adult birds may be protecting a nest with eggs, a hidden nest with freshly-hatched chicks, or chicks that have left the nest and are tucked away in the branches or shrubbery. At this time the parents will mob (attack) any potential predator in the area. Usually this means cats and dogs, but it appears that your son elicits the same response. You are too big to risk getting too near. In a couple of months, when the young are grown and self-sufficient, the dive-bombing will stop, but as large, unpredictable mammals, humans are rightly viewed as a threat.
Joan also sent out some helpful links. This one takes you to a map of crow attacks in Seattle this June. And this one is a full episode of PBS’s Nature, dedicated exclusively to crows. This final one is to my favorite video of a crow using tools, just for fun.