Murder mayhem: Experts advise caw-tion amid spate of crow attacks in Korea

Posted on : 2024-05-31 17:49 KST Modified on : 2024-05-31 18:03 KST
Reports of crows dive-bombing pedestrians in cities across the country have left some Koreans saying “nevermore” to outings
A large-billed crow. (courtesy of the National Institute of Biological Resources)
A large-billed crow. (courtesy of the National Institute of Biological Resources)

A surge in reports of crows attacking pedestrians in urban centers around Korea has left many feeling flighty. The birds’ aggressive behavior is being attributed to the current breeding and nesting season, when the territorial corvids can go on the attack to protect their offspring. Experts advise caution and encourage those outdoors to remain alert.  

During an interview aired on the CBS radio program “Kim Hyun-jung’s News Show” on Thursday, a resident of Seoul’s Seodaemun District shared her experience of being attacked by a crow.  

“I was leaving a parking lot and headed to a building near Gwanghwamun when I saw two crows perched on a railing,” the woman recalled.  

“This was the first time I’d seen crows up close, so I couldn’t help but stare. Then, one looked me straight in the eyes.”  

“I averted my gaze and continued on my way, but then I felt something heavy on my head. The crow then clawed and grabbed at my neck and hair,” she recalled.  

“It was such a shocking experience, knowing that it was the crow that I had stared into my eyes just a moment before.”  

The crow that stared into the woman’s eyes was around an arm’s length away. 

“At first, I tried to shoo it away, but then I got worried I might injure my hands. I need my hands for work,” she recalled. 

“So I just ran away. I then heard the crow fly away. I looked back and it was perched on the railing again.”   

“I was shocked, but even more so, I felt I was in danger,” the woman said.  

“This was the first time I realized that crows attack humans. If I see one again, I’ll probably go out of my way to avoid it.”  

Similar stories are abounding online.  

“I saw two crows that continually attacked pedestrians, targeting their heads. They stayed in the same spot, preying on passersby. Imagine if they were perched near a school when kids were heading to class!” 

“A kid that lives in a nearby apartment complex fell down while trying to avoid a crow. He scraped up his leg.”  

Experts say that a certain species of crow, known as the large-billed crow, specifically resides in urban areas. Park Byeong-kwon, the director of the Urban Ecology Research Institute, also appeared on the CBS radio show.  

“Historically, crows made their habitats in forests and near agricultural sites. Lately, however, cities with tall buildings have become their main nesting grounds. Cities have also built more public parks over the years. Winters offer fruit while spring and summer offer a bounty of eggs from smaller birds — not to mention their offspring. Crows have no reason to stay away from cities,” Park said.  

According to Park, the number of crows living in urban areas has increased tenfold in recent years.  

In some regions, they’ve multiplied by a factor of 100 or even more. While it’s legal to exterminate sparrows, magpies, regular crows and other birds that have been officially designated as “harmful,” large-billed crows have been excluded from that list.  

The key reason behind the crows’ aggression is their breeding and nesting seasons, which typically begin in March and end in June.  

“Crows can’t help but get aggressive when people get near their hatchlings or eggs. They’re being protective,” explained Park. “There are even cases in which they’ll go after short, slow or weak people who happen to be passing by an area that they feel they’ve claimed as theirs just to show everyone who’s boss.” 

If people have thrown rocks or otherwise harassed crows, Park said, it's entirely possible that the birth retaliate in turn to prove they can hurt people back.  

The expert recommended that notices be put up in areas where crows have been known to attack passersby, and suggested that those with parasols use them. Park further suggested that those divebombed by crows swing a stick or other object to scare off the birds.  

By Jeong Bong-bi, staff reporter 

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