Crow curiosities: Why was I attacked by a crow?

You’re minding your own business when seemingly from out of nowhere you are, or very nearly are, struck in the back of the head by crow.  It’s frightening, embarrassing, and in rare cases even painful.  So what prompted this unprovoked attack?

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If you were to gauge the answer based on newspaper headlines you might believe that it’s because crows are evil, vicious or otherwise hellbent on tormenting us humans.  This choice of words communicates that crows are behaving as they are because they lack moral decency, which is both anthropomorphic and grossly misrepresents the biological cause of their behavior.

Rather than being a reflection of their species’ character, or The Birds come to life, crows are increasingly behaving this way right now because young crows are starting to venture out of the nest.  As I’ve talked about before, it’s not unusual for baby crows (and other birds) to leave the nest while still unable to fly.  Although their parents will continue to care for them after this for many months, these first couple weeks out of the nest are a particularly vulnerable time for young crows.  Their parents are therefore keen to protect their offspring, and are willing to come to blows with potential predators if necessary.  You may have no intention of harming or even coming near their offspring, but of course the crows have no way of assessing your intentions.  You are simply a big, powerful animal that is encroaching on their young, and they are driven to scare you away.  They are simply being protective parents.

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If you were my parents you’d want to keep me safe from big mammal-monsters too

The tricky thing is that because we might not be expecting to encounter young crows or because they are tucked away out of sight under a bush, it may not be clear that this is the cause of their behavior.  Trust me though, unless you have a history of wronging your local crows, attacks between May and September are nearly exclusively related to the protection of young.

crow_maskedman_-Keith-Brust

Although crows will dive bomb people who have wronged them in the past, during the summer the most likely explanation for attacks is defense of offspring.

So what to do?  As the kids grow up and become more independent the parents will relax.  So, if possible, you can simply avoid the areas you know to be high conflict for the next couple of weeks.  In fact, some newspaper outlets even make attack maps to help people navigate the streets of stressed out crow parents.  If this isn’t possible, carry an umbrella or simply walk with your hand on top of your head.  This may not keep them from giving you a good swoop or two, but it will generally prevent any real damage.

 

 

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