June 27

Why are huge crows attacking my head?



Photos courtesy Simone Lupson-Cook

Ever wonder why the crows in your neighborhood suddenly start frantically cawing at you, dive bombing you and possibly even hitting you in the head as you innocently walk down the block?

Simone Lupson-Cook, a Maple Leaf resident and falconer who has previously written here on local owls, has some answers.

Simone continues:

May and June are important months for our local crows. Their babies are fledging (i.e. coming out of the nest and learning to fly) and are very vulnerable at this stage. The adults are trying to keep predators away from the young as they learn what is and isn’t safe.

Many crows live in family groups. There is a main pair but their offspring from previous years may help raise their younger siblings. This is why you might have more than just two crows yelling at you as you walk down the block.

Some research suggests this is so they are more prepared when their time comes to breed, or perhaps there aren’t enough resources for them to have their own territory until other pairs move on or die.

If you are harassed by crows make note of the location and perhaps try to avoid that part of the block for a couple of weeks.

I’ve read many angry comments directed at crows this time of year, but please don’t hate them for being good parents. Respect their parenting instincts and before you know it they’ll be back to quietly keeping an eye on you.

Crows rank high on the list for avian intelligence, and new research suggests they are on par with great apes in some aspects of their intelligence. They not only use tools (like great apes) but make them too (unlike great apes, except ourselves).

Simone also posts on birds and the natural world at Wingtrip. She has started writing about a recent trip to Costa Rica here.

About the author 

Sara W

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  1. I have been attacked twice by crows where I like to walk in Reed Canyon in Portland. It is now July and seems like the fledgling time should be over, but in the one area they are still extremely cranky. So far they do attack from behind, so I will try to stay facing them when I walk through there. Today I stayed put in the spot to see if they would calm down. Another guy walked by and they went after him too, although did not make head contact. So at least I didn’t feel singled out. They did reluctantly seem to tire after 15 or 20 minutes of me leaning against a tree singing The Very Thought of You. I’m going to try some peanuts next. I’d like to avoid running through there with a big stick. Any other suggestions?

  2. Grackles! Related to Red-winged Blackbirds, Cowbirds and yes, Meadowlarks! But not crows. Same behavior though!

  3. If crows had thumbs they would dominate the earth. My theory on all the noise they make is them telling each other how much they’d like to eat my eyeballs.

    Crows… pt-ooie!

  4. The best thing to do when in crow country is to wear small bells (to warn them of your approach) and carry pepper spray in case of an attack. Stay away from their nest. You can tell a crows nest because it is full of small bells and smells like pepper spray. 😉

  5. When a baby tried to fledge prematurely in my yard and ended up stranded in the middle of our street, I put on my bike helmet and glasses, got out a ladder, picked him up in a towel, and set him up on a branch of the tree his family’s nesting in. The parents made tons of noise but they did not threaten me because, I strongly believe, they knew I was helping him.

    I had the same experience last year when I moved a stranded baby crow out of my neighbors’ yard because their dog wanted to play with it. The crow parents stayed well away while I carried him out of the yard.

    One crow family kept dive bombing me when I walked up and down my driveway, so I took to holding a stick up beside my head and that seemed to keep them at bay!

    They can be irritating, but their intelligence is truly admirable and I think we’re kind of lucky to kept on our toes by “urban wildlife.”

  6. One thing I noted when getting dive bombed is that the Crows only seem to attack the back of your head. My experience has been not to turn your back on them. Always face them, even if you have to walk backward, until you are far enough away or around a corner. Is it just a coincidence, or has anyone else notice this tendency. If it is the case that crows don’t attack when getting stared down, then I am going to sell a line of masks for the back your head as crow attack prevention. Might make a mint in Seattle.

  7. GREAT post. Crows are such amazing animals, and so misunderstood, especially in urban environments. I applaud the author for her insight into their behavior rather than writing them off for being nuisances. Thank you!

  8. I’ve been divebombed numerous times while running early in the morning. It’s rather startling to have the peace broken by a crow smacking me on the head. I have no doubt of the intelligence of crows. I think they know and remember me.

    I figured it had something to do with babies or territory. Nice to know, thanks!

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