My husband Tom, who manages the technical side of this blog, has been watching the search terms that bring traffic to the site. While the random one-off searches can make for interesting reading (today someone found the Tangled Nest by searching for “the world is our tool for love”–I guess that’s good!), certain terms come up over and over. One of the most common search terms bringing people to this site lately is “divebombing crows.” Or, as someone searched for today, in a resonant plea that has finally moved me to write: “crow divebombing help!” Questions about divebombing are also frequently asked at readings for my book, Crow Planet. I’ve written a little about this before, but given the volume of searchers seeking help, here’s a little more.
Divebombing of humans by crows is a seasonal occurrence, linked to the most vulnerable stages of nesting. Right now, fledgling crows are emerging from the nest, all of them are naive, and some of them are unable to fly. It really is a dangerous phase of life for a crow family. 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. In a couple of months, when the young are grown and self-sufficient, the dive-bombing will stop.
Being so large and loud and bulky, crows are at a disadvantage as nesters. Think about it–most of the urban tree-nesting songbirds are so small. Robins, chickadees, sparrows, finches. They can build sweet little nests tucked into shadowy corners, well-camouflaged and difficult to find. Their young are small too, and easy to hide. Crows have no such luck. They are stealthy for their size, but really–it’s hard to hid a big nest full of baby crows, all of them cawing in that baby-crow way, sounding like ducks. As large, unpredictable mammals, we are rightly perceived as a threat. HERE’S WHAT TO DO: If a crow is calling at you during this season, 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 divebombed anyway, just keep going–the farther away you get, the better. Think nice thoughts for the well-being of the crow young–who knows, it might help you seem less threatening to the crow. If a crow has already determined that you are a threat and is divebombing you on sight (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 awhile. 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…
Crows attacking hawks and owls is another common occurrence, and that happens year-round. Many hawks and owls prey on both adult crows and their young, so crows are very proactive about discouraging their presence. It’s amazing to watch a few small crows attacking a huge hawk or eagle. If you hear crows suddenly calling in the neighborhood, it’s worth taking little walk outside to see what’s going on–you’ll frequently be led to a wonderful wild scene.
The same impulse, of course, is what leads robins to attack crows this season–crows do prey on robin eggs and nestlings. Robins don’t usually attack crows unless they actually see one approaching or pestering their nest or young. You have to admire their guts!
I’m not a crow apologist, but I do think it helps to consider matters from the complicated standpoint of an urban-nesting crow parent. And I think it’s wonderful that, no matter how urban our lives, we can witness firsthand the circle of life from our home places. Enjoy.
Thanks flickr user Dr. Pat for the great crow image.