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It might seem that way at this time of year. You walk out of your house. You hear the familiar loud "caws" of agitated crows. Before you know, it you find yourself ducking feathered attackers and feeling like you are caught in a scene straight out of a Hitchcock movie.

American-Crow-adult-1

Being dive-bombed by crows is a much more up-close and personal interaction than most of us ever experience with wildlife. If you don't understand the reason for their agitation, it might seem like the crows are intentionally singling you out; like they are acting on some very personal grudge they hold against you. In reality though, no matter how afraid you may feel when being swooped down upon by the crows, the birds are even more terrified of you. They are terrified because their young are nearby, and they believe that you might be capable of making a meal out of their babies.

American-Crow-fledglings

We receive dozens of phone calls at this time of year from people who are having stressful interactions with crows and their families. And it is stressful being mobbed, especially if you don't understand why it is happening. There are two important things to keep in mind to put this situation in perspective: First, the crows are only trying to move you a safe distance away from their babies.  Second, the crows won't hurt you. Sure, they can make themselves seem very fierce, but this game is about intimidation, not physical harm.

If you want to avoid those unnerving low passes that the crows make when they are most agitated, you'll want to give their young a wide berth. Of course, you'll need to first identify the young crows so you know which ones to avoid. Take a look at the photos below. The top image shows an adult crow that lives here on the PAWS campus. The bottom photo is one of that crow's fledgling young.

Crow_Comparison

Note that the adult has dark-brown eyes and a completely black beak. The fledgling has blue eyes and a beak with pink "gape flanges" at the corners of his mouth. If you keep your distance from the blue-eyed crows with the pink gape flanges, the adults will keep their distance from you. The closer you get to the youngsters, the bolder and more agitated the adult crows will become. So even if you don't see the fledglings, you will know they are there by the behavior of the adults. 

If you would like to learn more about crows, as well as how to avoid conflicts with them, check out our online crow fact sheet. You can also give us a call at 425.412.4040. We're always happy to help answer any wildlife-related questions you may have.

 

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Comments

Wow! I didn't know that. I've been watching the Asian crows (where I live) seemingly agtated by god-knows-what. Everytime I walk up to my home window and peer at the trees (I can't see any nests), a crow comes out of nowhere and starts cawing at me. It's been hapening for the past 3 days. Very strange and a little peculiar.

One more thing I noticed is a single crow's ability to incite other crows to join the chorus. Often, that leads to an annoyng cacophony of crows cawing at you for seemingly no apparent reason. I usually give crows a wde berth and seldom think about them (since they are plentiful here, as are pigeons) but their curiously intimidating behavior this June -- it's the beginning of the monsoon season here -- has compelled me to observe them more closely now. Might learn a thing or two in the process.

N. Jay: Oh yes, crows are big on ganging up on threats. They can recognize people too... and tell each other which ones have gotten on their "bad" list.

They will almost never try to make contact, unless you pretty much have them cornered (or are actually messing with their young), for a simple reason: Any flying bird is a "glass cannon". No matter how sharp their claws or beak, the demands of flight mean hollow bones, no serious armor, and few internal reserves for healing. So if something the size of a human actually lands a blow, the bird will likely be too badly hurt to hunt, or even to fly... which means that unless someone like our hosts takes them in, they're dead.

On the other hand, this is also why crows gather and attack big threats (like humans) in numbers: Even if a few crows get hurt or killed, the group can chase away something that could have gobbled up the whole flock individually.

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