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“Crow Divebombing Help” – A crow aggression primer for desperate web searchers

June 8th, 2010 · 12 Comments ·

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 PlanetI’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.

birds, crows, urban nature

12 Comments so far ↓

  • kate

    In my Google Reader today along with your latest post: http://www.mygreenlake.com/2010/06/crows/#comments

    Timely! : )

  • kate

    http://www.mygreenlake.com/2010/06/crows/
    This was in my Google Reader today along with your latest post. Timely! : )

  • Crows dive-bomb baby ducks (and people!) in Green Lake • My Green Lake • Seattle's Green Lake Blog

    [...] Kate for drawing our attention to a very helpful “crow aggression primer,” available at thetanglednest.com.  The primer is authored by West Seattle resident Lyanda Lynn Haupt, former raptor rehabilitator, [...]

  • SL

    Great post–thank you! This is such helpful information. I love crows (and chickadees, pit bulls, feral cats, zebras, etc.), but it is not about being a fan of any particular animal, but respecting their right to live, whether in the “wild” or along side us. Thank you and please keep writing. Cheers,
    SL

  • Maria

    Don’t forget another important piece of advice: grow out your bangs!

  • Jill

    I am a crow apologist. And I think you are too Lyanda – clearly you have a following of other crow apologists! I saw a small group of crows eating a recently deceased kitty the other day, and I felt grateful to them for helping to ferry the kitty to the other side. Thanks for providing such inspiring and informative perspective about our mischievous friends.

  • kt

    Loved your book. Loving that I’m able Earhartear the difference in the parent’s calls and the young ‘uns calls (and the garbling of the baby as it gets fed.) Thanks for the great blog and wealth of crow info–I so admire them, and you’ve helped me to be even more aware of them in my neighborhood!

  • Baby Crows In Our Midst

    [...] unassuming, crow adults will often let us watch their young in peace.  (But not always–see my earlier post about crow scolding and dive-bombing during this season of [...]

  • Val Saltz

    Today I walked around Green Lake in Seattle and a crow began loudly cawing at me as I walked through a wooded area back to my car.
    I had just watched a documentary the day before about crow intelligence so I stopped to study the bird — big mistake. The crow continued loudly cawing so I walked on and suddenly the crow flew so close to the side of my head that its beak grazed through my long hair! I heard the wind in its wings. Luckily, I have thick hair so my scalp was saved. The crow turned to fly at me again so I waved my hat and hurried out of there with the crow chasing me. Tonight I searched the web about this behavior and came across your site. Looks like I’ll be posted on the crow “most wanted” list since my face was memorized. It’ll be disguise time for me for future walks. I was dressed in black shorts with a black tee so I wondered if I posed a threat as I looked like a giant crow:)! Most likely I was a threat to some hidden baby crows. Stopping to engage in an intellectual gazing session with a defensive crow wasn’t too smart on my part. Won’t do that again:)

  • Paul

    Theres quite an amusing blog post about aggressive crows here:

    http://www.buildvancouver.com/aggressive-divebombing-crows.html

  • Christian Schlossberg

    Im so relieved to hear that others have had this experience. I moved out here 20 years ago and until now knew if no one other than Tippi Hedrin, Suzanne Pleshette and myself who have been dive bombed or worse. And here all along I thought it was some sort of avian homophobia,antisemetism or NewYorkerphobia. How comforting to know these birds go after all kinds.

  • Jon H.

    Thank you! This is so well written and funny and USEFUL! It just happened to my wife and she was terrified — we don’t want to upset the crows — can’t we all just along?

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