Commentary: My love-hate relationship with crows

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Two crows perched along Sunset Avenue, checking out Mount Baker. (2014 file photo by Larry Vogel)

Crow scientists (that’s someone’s job) say that crows have adapted to be completely dependent on people and aren’t found anywhere where we aren’t found. I never gave much thought, until recently, how integral crows are to humans.

My family lives on 3rd Avenue. There are at least three families of crows that set up nests in the tall pine trees on the street. Soon they will return, and when they have chicks they get very aggressive. I sit in front of my window and I watch pedestrians get attacked. As soon as someone’s back is turned, mom or dad crow swoops in like an aircraft on approach and pecks them on the head. Admittingly, it was fun watching through the window as others got hit, but my wife eventually was pecked. I thought that was funny too, but also had to defend her honor.

In response to the attacks, I went out with a large squirt gun and blasted them as they sat on the wire in front of the house. At first they flew off, startled by the water jet. The second time I sprayed them, they stayed on the wire and pretended to enjoy the bath just to spite me. I went out with the squirt gun several times until I realized I was just cleaning the birds that attacked my wife, and even ones that didn’t. They were just taking turns getting cleaned.

The crows and I argued verbally, and they actually held a grudge for over two years. They waited on the wire directly by our front door and in the tree, daring me to leave. I walk to work and they followed me from tree to roof, across town, looking for an opportunity to attack. I was being harassed. They’d land on a limb and shout at me, stabbing their beaks into their perch. I walked backward and frequently changed directions to avoid being blind-sided. To a casual observer, I was truly deranged, walking around Edmonds, looking up and periodically behind my back, talking to seemingly nobody in the sky. The crows never got me and I think they saw it as a personal challenge to do so. If anything, I diverted their aggression away from my wife and the pedestrians toward a campaign to get me.

One day my wife went into the backyard and found a crow on the ground. It just stood there and wouldn’t fly, and I originally thought it was sick, but we realized it was just a baby. It was just as big as its parents (which is a disturbing trait of crow chicks), but it had grey-blue eyes indicating that it was juvenile. My wife, who normally wanted me to take drastic action against the birds, had a heart for the baby crow. We put a box out with hay bedding and the grounded crow actually slept in it at night. Mom and dad crow would land with bits for it to eat and the baby would come out of the box long enough to gobble up whatever it was, then retreated back inside.

Part of me hates these crows, but then another part of me thinks they have some rights to live here and they’re too darn smart to not have rights. If you haven’t seen the Rambo movie “First Blood,” then check it out. My personal experience is to not “draw first blood” because if there are limits to which you are prepared to escalate the situation, the crows will win as they have no limits and all day to think. For now, there’s an armistice between me and the crow posse. I’ll get some warning signs up this year to inform pedestrians about the crows on 3rd. I’m not going to do anything to make them hate me again.

— By Matt Richardson

12 COMMENTS

  1. Matt I live in Esperance and we had some very aggressive crows here when I first moved in… they would harass me especially out back but one day I was raking leaves out from under the trees out front and one kept repeatedly swooping down at me. The last time it came down it actually brushed my head with its wing and I had finally had enough.

    I stood out on the lawn with the rake in the air and yelled up at the tree COME ON! LET’S GO, I’M READY!

    And just then I looked over any my neighbor had just stepped out his door and was looking at me with puzzlement and a bit of concern.

    “Damn crows.” He started laughing.

  2. Matt. That’s a great report. I too have been harassed. I walk to work every morning across the Edmonds play field and I’ve been followed so aggressively that one day I actually picked up a branch to defend myself and walked for several blocks swinging it in the air. Like you, I thought people must be looking at me, with my black knit wool hat pulled down all around, and thinking I was deranged. Thanksfully, they’ve left me alone lately. Perhaps they are camping out side your house instead. Be strong!

  3. Yes, the crows are a necessary evil. I, too, tried squirting the hose on them, but they just fluff up–I fully expected them to bring a bar of soap one day!. The truly are scavengers and help keep streets and forests clean. They are very family oriented. When we lived in Meadowdale, they would come in droves (or murders, as they are called) and make a racket. When we lived in England, an old farmer told us how flocks got the term “a murder of crows”. In medieval times, criminals would be taken to the highway crossroads and hung in a wooden basket with holes. The crows would come and peck the person to death, thus a “murder” of crows. Not very nice–hope humans have improved since then.

  4. Crows typically only “attack” like that when they have eggs and/or fledglings. A tip for those who enjoy walking around Edmonds during those times: keep snacks in your pocket! Keep a small baggie of some nuts, granola, jerky, etc., and toss them a couple pieces. It’s best to try and do this before they swoop down, so listen for their alarm calls. But either way, it’s far more effective for them to learn you’re a friend, rather than foe. And this happens fairly quickly since they’re relatively intelligent. Good luck!

  5. This morning I saw two crows bringing nest material to the monkey tree at the corner of Edmonds St. and Sunset Ave., not far from where the photo was taken.

  6. I watched crows in action when I heard the caw caws and looked out the window at a deodar cedar in my backyard in Portland. There I saw crows flying around the tree going after a hawk and the crows were winning. Their babies must have been in the tree. The hawk finally gave up and the din ceased.

  7. Matt. Good article and those 3rd Avenue crows mean business. After my attack, I have resorted to just avoiding the area during the spring and summer months. I am also pretty sure I am one of those victims you laughed at 🙂

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