British Columbia

Squawk, don't run: Vancouverites on high alert as crows begin dive-bombing pedestrians

Sometime around May and June every year, Vancouver’s most notorious feathered felons strike — and this year, the season may last a bit longer.

It’s that time of year where people have to watch their backs — and heads — to avoid the birds' wrath

Crows dive bomb pedestrians, but they do it for love, experts say. (Don Little)

Jessica Manhas was walking down Richards Street past the Choices Market at the corner of Davie Street when four crows dive-bombed her for an entire block.

"I was screaming the whole way," said Manhas.

"I didn't know if I should quickly go into a corner store or something for shelter."

But Wayne Goodey, a zoology professor at UBC said attacks like these aren't uncommon because male and female crows will often take turns attacking passersby.

Crows are notorious for dive-bombing pedestrians across the city annually. This year is no exception — and the season may even last a bit longer.

Protective parents

However, Vancouver isn't about to become host to 2018's version of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, because regardless of how many times a crow dive-bombs, people aren't the targets.

The crows are simply trying to keep their babies safe during nesting season and will attack anything that comes close to their nests.

The attacks may continue a bit longer this year because, according to Goodey, while nesting season is typically a bit earlier, the crows are a bit delayed because of a cold and wet spring.

"The season may continue even a month from now," said Goodey. "It's hard to tell."

The corner of Alexander and Main streets is a hot bed for reported Vancouver crow attacks this year. (Haley Lewis/CBC)

Is anywhere safe?

Generally, the crow attacks happen in Vancouver's downtown and West End, where there are a lot of tall, leafy trees — just how crows like it.

These areas with smaller sidewalks, restaurants and shops allow for a lot of crow-human interactions, which is why the attacks are more consistent.

Langara instructors Jim O'Leary and Rick Davidson developed Vancouver's user-populated CrowTrax, which allows victims of crow attacks to plot their hits on a map.

According to O'Leary, creating the map was inevitable. 

"I know the crows are smart, but we're pretty smart too," he said.

"So why not create a map where we can at least see where and what the crows are doing?"

The purple crows represent the attacks tracked in 2017, and the red crows represent the attacks tracked so far this year. (Jim O'Leary, Rick Davidson/Screenshot)

The best way to stay safe

The most common reaction when people are met with a dive-bombing crow is to run. "If you run, a crow takes that as open season. They'll come and smack you again," said O'Leary.

But hiding out isn't the answer, because there are so many areas in Vancouver where the crows nest.

Both O'Leary and Goodey agree that wearing a hat is the simplest solution — and if you hear a crow squawking, that's a sign to be watchful.


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