Crows are members of the Corvidae family (the Corvids), including magpies, ravens, jays, rooks, and jackdaws. According to some studies, these well-known and widespread birds are incredibly intelligent - about as intelligent as a 7-year-old, but are crows aggressive or territorial?
Crows have incredible social intelligence and are adept at learning who or what is dangerous or potentially dangerous. If they sense danger, they won’t hesitate to act proactively, swooping and diving at their adversaries to scare them away. However, this behavior is only common in the breeding season, when most birds grow increasingly territorial.
Birds often become increasingly aggressive and territorial during the breeding seasons, while nesting and raising chicks. This is extremely common amongst birds, which often isolate themselves from others during the breeding season so they can focus all their efforts on successfully raising their young. This is when crows are most likely to display aggression towards humans, animals, and other birds.
It’s not uncommon to spot groups of crows “mobbing” ravens or other animals. Ravens and crows seem to have a great rivalry in the Corvid family!
Of course, there’s much more to learn about the aggressive behaviors of crows - read on to find out!
A pair of crows fighting in the air
Towards humans crows don't actually pose much danger, as due to their relatively small size, they can't cause much damage at all. Generally speaking, crows only tend to attack humans when they get near to their nests during the breeding season.
Crows usually keep to themselves and will only attack when they feel threatened themselves, or towards their chicks or other family members.
Usually first, crows will just take flight when threats or humans are approaching. Aggression is only usually a last resort. Crows are highly intelligent birds who have the ability to recognise when someone is just passing by versus someone that is walking directly towards them.
If a crow was to mob and attack you, the worst outcome is usually just a few cuts or scratches, however, this is an extremely rare thing to happen.
Continue reading as we'll dive into what to do if a crow attacks you, along with when crows are aggressive or territorial.
Crows don't pose any danger or threat to humans
Crows use their intelligence to identify threats. Studies show that crows are remarkably efficient at picking out potential environmental threats. So instead of waiting until they’re attacked, crows often take proactive action to scare birds, animals, or even humans from their habitats.
One of the main techniques crows use to defend their territories is mobbing. Small groups of crows often gang up on other animals, especially birds. It’s reasonably common to see groups of crows pursue eagles, hawks, kites, gulls, and other large predatory birds.
Even when they don’t have a group to attack, crows are happy to take on large birds alone. Single crows have even been observed violently pursuing eagles that are many times bigger than themselves!
A second tactic crows use to protect themselves, and their nests is dive-bombing. There are a few hotspots in the US and Canada where crows regularly dive-bomb humans, including in Vancouver and outside the Acadia University in Nova Scotia.
If a crow is nesting nearby, they’re quite capable of swooping in to peck passers-by! Of course, the wounds inflicted by this are nearly always superficial at worst, but still, it shows how aggressive these intelligent birds become when ‘provoked.’
American Crow mobbing a Red-tailed Hawk
Crows don’t discriminate the size of their target if they feel threatened and can definitely attack humans if they feel sufficiently defensive!
In the breeding season, crows often divebomb humans that pass by near their nests, which is a regular occurrence in North America. In fact, the American crow is one of the most aggressive species of crows, whereas the smaller Carrion crow is less aggressive towards larger animals, including humans.
In Canada’s Acadia University in Nova Scotia, the university campus had to warn students and staff because aggressive crows were dive-bombing people on campus. There are news reports of dive-bombing crows from many states and cities across the US and Canada!
When crows dive-bomb people, they rarely inflict serious wounds. Superficial scratches are probably the worst you can expect. In fact, crow aggression very rarely results in wounding - the aim is to scare the predator away, not engage in an actual fight!
Crow aggression is pretty impressive, as crows remember those who ‘offend them’ the most and target them. Crows remember faces for years - if not their entire life - so if you’re marked as a threat by a particular crow, then it might pursue you whenever they see you.
This happened to a man in Madhya Pradesh, India, who was constantly pursued by angry crows outside of his home. The crows likely singled him out as a potential threat - and didn’t forget who he was!
Carrion Crow with a beak full of mealworms
Crows are capable of high aggression in the breeding season especially. However, this is far from unique to crows - most birds become aggressive during breeding season.
When crows become aggressive, they attack and pursue other birds in and around their nests and territories. Crows aren’t just aggressive towards other birds, but towards each other too.
However, it’s important to point out that crows rarely attack other birds to seriously injure or kill them. While groups of crows are known as a “murder of crows,” they’re not evil.
Instead, their goal is to scare the predator away. That might involve scratches and pecks, but crows rarely go further than they need to deter a predator!
Crows really aren't bothered about the size of the other bird!
If a crow attacks you, it’ll likely be quick and harmless. Remain calm and walk away. If you flap or pursue the crow, it’ll probably continue to attack you.
Crows usually become territorial if you infringe on their nest, so if you leave the area, they’ll almost certainly leave you alone. If you know there’s a crow nest down a path or sidewalk you usually take, it might be wise to give it a wide berth in the future!
Crow mobbing a grey heron in the air
Crows don’t usually attack each other to kill or inflict serious harm. Instead, this is a territorial behavior designed to protect the crow and its nest - not to kill other crows.
However, there are some exceptions, as crows are sometimes seen attacking injured or sick crows and even killing them. The vast majority of the time, crows are reasonably social and docile with each other, especially outside of the breeding season.
Crows sometimes kill and eat nestlings and other small birds, but this isn’t particularly common either. So while crows are certainly capable of high aggression, they’re not evil birds, and aren’t more aggressive than most other birds.
Three crows fighting on the ice
Probably because you invaded its personal space, or got too close to its nests or babies! Crows are fiercely defensive of their territories, especially throughout the spring breeding season. During this time, crows won’t hesitate to attack anyone who gets too close to their nests. American crows are particularly aggressive, hence why most crow dive bombings occur in the USA and Canada!
Luckily, crows have never killed a human and probably never will. While crows aren’t small by bird standards, they’d still struggle to land a serious blow on a human. Scratches and cuts are probably the very worst you can expect. In theory, a huge flock of hundreds of crows could inflict serious damage on a human, but this hasn’t happened, yet!
There have been a few anecdotal reports of crows attacking kittens, but this is very unlikely. While crows would chase a cat from their territory like they would most other animals, they still don’t want to be hurt themselves. A cat is much more likely to kill the crow in open combat!
Crows recognize dogs as predators much the same as many other animals. Therefore, crows will attack dogs if they have a fair reason to do so, such as defending their nests or chicks. However, crows are exceptionally intelligent and only pick battles they’ll win, so they won’t come face-to-face with a dog if they can help it!
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