By Robert A. Vella
Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1963 horror flick The Birds told the chilling tale of a small, sleepy, picturesque Northern California town (Bodega Bay) besieged by thousands and thousands of crows and seagulls who – for some never explained reason – became aggressively hostile towards humans. Attacking en masse, the angry birds sacrificed themselves like Kamikazes destroying everything in sight, injuring and even killing the shocked and confused people. Young people today probably wouldn’t appreciate this film, but it was masterfully frightening at the time as well as critically acclaimed by the motion picture industry. It had such an impact that the Library of Congress preserved the work in its National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Still, The Birds was pure fiction. Real birds do not make a habit of attacking people, not in large numbers anyway. Sure, there are random incidents occasionally. Eagles have been known to prey upon small children and are quite capable of preying upon even bigger creatures. Many bird species will attempt to drive off large animals they think pose a threat to their nest. Blackbirds have been known to act aggressively towards humans for no apparent reason. Highly intelligent ravens and crows have been reported attacking people in retaliation for being harassed by them.
But, the following true story from British Columbia does invoke memories of the Hitchcock classic. From: Vancouver college’s crow-attack map collects thousands of reports
It was a crow fiercely protecting its nest – and repeated complaints of it dive-bombing and swooping – that prompted the idea.
“Just about every day someone would come in and say, ‘I got smacked in the back of the head, or Mary got smacked in the back of the head,’” said Jim O’Leary, a teacher at Langara College in Vancouver, Canada.
“I was thinking to myself: I know crows are smart but we’re pretty smart too. Isn’t there something that I can do about this?”
The result was CrowTrax, an online tool that since 2016 has documented about 2,500 crow attacks in the Metro Vancouver region, nearby Victoria and around the world.
Within hours of launching the site, reports began pouring in. About 1,000 anecdotes came in during the site’s first year, increasing to 1,500 the next year.
The deluge, particularly the many from across Metro Vancouver, surprised O’Leary. “I don’t know if crows are more aggressive in certain spots than others,” he said. “It just seemed to be something which we experience here in Vancouver quite a bit,” he added, pointing to the city’s tall trees and concentration of rubbish bins as a possible explanation.
The site only accepts reports during the spring, or what O’Leary referred to as crow attack season – the period of typically eight to 10 weeks each year when crows are focused on protecting their eggs or young fledglings.
“Many of the reports are the same, ‘the crow attacked me from the back, hit the side of my head,’” he said. “Some of them are kind of scary. People are saying ‘a whole pack of crows followed me down the block and I had to go inside’.”