Australians spend a large part of their spring trying to avoid being mercilessly swooped by magpies, and now crows are getting in on the act.
Crows are notoriously intelligent and largely avoid humans out of fear, but if behavioural changes over the last 10 years are anything to go by, the super-brained devils of the sky are abandoning their fear. And they never forget a face.
It was when ecologist Darryl Jones of Australia's Griffith University saw a crow make a nest outside his office — the first known instance of one made on a human structure — that realised he might be witnessing symptoms of a mini-evolution.
Jones quickly experienced the glaring downside of the crows new behaviour. "These crows on my building attack me," he told Mashable.
"They don't hit me but they go within 3 cm (1.1 inches) of my head and do it by surprise, from behind. I have lots of colleagues that don't get swooped, looking out at me. I look up at them as I'm being terrified by these bloody birds and they're all laughing at me."
The instances of crow swooping are eerily similar to that of their magpie cousin.
Jones sees the change back as symptomatic of rapid urbanisation. "As an animal, if you can overcome the issue of not being scared of people all the time, you've got heaps of food around. They're slowly, slowly becoming what's known as 'habituated' to people and they've lost their fear. As soon as you lose your fear you don't mind swooping people."
Over in Vancouver, Canada, crow attacks became so prevalent in some areas, that last year researcher Jim O'Leary, went and made a map of the instances of civilian swoop-age.
O'Leary spoke with about the project saying "People were coming in after getting whacked on the head after being dive-bombed by a bird," adding that the attacks were most severe during nesting seasons when crows were "aggressively protecting their young."
Image: peter karlsson/flickr
Australians are used to magpies swooping with unsettling regularity during spring. Soon crows too, might be added to the "things in Australia that will try to kill you" list.