It was a hot summer morning in early July. I was walking along the residential district of central Tokyo on my usual commute to the office.
I heard crows cawing over my head. I thought nothing of it.
When I turned the corner into a small path, I noticed cawing got closer and louder. I thought they must be high on a tree branch just over the path claiming for their territory.
I started to feel something ominous when all of a sudden a crow flew over my back and passed an inch or so over my head! That was their warning shot.
“No, no, I’m not your enemy at all!” I thought. A little frightened, I tried to run out of the area as soon as possible.
But it was too late. I couldn’t escape from the second air raid, and this one was not just a warning. It was an intentional shot and a direct hit. The back of my head was fiercely hit with a pair of sharp claws that felt as if Barry Bonds had hit my head with a bat.
Stunned by the sudden attack, I turned around, glared at two large crows sitting on power line about 10 feet over my head. With shock and anger, I shouted at them, “Bakayaroo!” (Damn it!) I swung my arms and kept shouting, “Nanisunda, kono bakagarasu” (Why the heck did you do this, you fool crow!)
The two crows continued cawing and flapping their wings furiously. They appeared ready to launch the next attack.
I wish I had a bat to fight back. But I could do nothing more than walk away, shouting at them as I walked backwards.
In Japan, the crow is often considered a bad omen.
Some believe if a crow settles on the roof of a house and begins cawing, a funeral will soon follow.
Others believe crows cawing at midnight is a sign that disaster is about to strike.
Even though these are merely superstition, the bird is still disliked by many Japanese because of their every-day behavior. Whether it is droppings on your car or picking at bags full of garbage, these birds sure know how to get under people’s skin.
And when they attack, the metaphor can become literal.
When I reached my office, I went to the Safety Office and had them disinfect the wound on my head.
I was so angry that I nearly tried to call a local Health Center to catch the harmful crows.
Why me? Was it my shiny bald head?
When I googled “crows and their behavior,” to my surprise, I found there were many pedestrians with similar “when crows attack,” type of stories as me.
The website for the Environmental Ministry of Japan says that crows get nervous and go on the offensive during their nesting and breeding period (May to early July). In this period, they nest on high trees or pylons and lay three or five blue-green eggs with brown spots. Then they raise their chicks for over a month. Throughout the period, especially in June and July when the chicks become ready to fledge out, parent crows get extremely aggressive in protecting their chicks from enemies.
I wish I would have known this before I was attacked!
But, at least now I knew it wasn’t my bald head. Their nest must be on my route to the office.
I also learned that crows are protected by the Wildlife Conservation Laws, and legally, you’re not allowed to fight back, catch them or kill them.
Crows in Japan, mostly Jungle Crows or Carrion Crows, often take to cities when nesting and breeding, as it offers plenty of tasty garbage for them and the newborn chicks.
So, what should you do the next time you run into a murder – yes, murder - of crows? Good question.
According to Japan’s Environmental Ministry, when the crows caw short and sharply, like “guatt, guatt,” drops a branch, or shows you their poking at power line, they sure are angry. Don’t get close to them. They typically attack from behind, so maybe use a hat or umbrella to cover your head or walk along a wall or building for protection.
And be sure to keep an eye on them because you know they’ve got a couple on you.