Crows target residents of leafy south London street

Crows target residents of leafy south London street

Ajax Murrell was walking along her road one morning when she heard a strange rustling in the trees above her.

Stopping to see what the commotion was about she spotted a crow glowering down at her as it hopped among the branches.

The next thing she knew, she was running and screaming, pursued by the bird under a barrage of pecks and clawing.

“I was pretty shocked by it,” said Murrell, 19, a barista, who was left with a bloodied scalp and deep scratches on her hands.

“Ever since then I’ve been wary of walking on the side of the road beneath the trees. I’ve been keeping my eye out for it. If it tries to come for me again I would have no qualms about throwing a punch at it.”

On this tree-lined, suburban street in Dulwich, south London, Murrell is not the only one to have fallen prey to the murder of crows that roost here.

Ajax Murrell suffered cuts and scratches after being set upon by a crow

AKIRA SUEMORI FOR THE TIMES

Over the past few months, there have been regular attacks on Townley Road, with victims including schoolchildren, cyclists and young mothers.

Bridget Furst, chairwoman of the Dulwich Residents’ Association, said that she saw a woman with a pushchair fleeing from a crow as it repeatedly dive-bombed her. Residents are now considering going out with umbrellas to protect themselves from any would-be attackers, she said.

The crow family is a large one and comprises 133 species including ravens, rooks and magpies. Mated pairs share territories with their grown children, and older offspring help their parents to raise each season’s new brood of young birds.

Mark Avery, former conservation director of the RSPB, said attacks on humans were highly unusual among crows and suggested that it may be the work of a single aberrant bird.

“Crows are quite intelligent and are normally quite scared of humans,” he said. “Sometimes birds will dive people if they have young nearby, and now is the right time of year for that. But even so, it’s very unusual.” Two months ago, the crows were in a state of agitation, screaming and circling the sky, after one of their number had fallen from its nest into the road and was hit by a car. At that moment, a cyclist happened to pass by and was subsequently chased and pecked at.

Tom Ball opted for an umbrella to shield him from potential attack

Tom Ball opted for an umbrella to shield him from potential attack

AKIRA SUEMORI FOR THE TIMES

Louella Round, 77, a resident, said that she remembered a similar spate of crow attacks from her childhood in Greece, the cause of which had been the death of a baby bird. “When the young falls from the nest, the family then seeks to protect it. It seems to me that that is what has happened here,” she said.

“If you were to choose one animal to double-cross, it would be wisest not to choose a crow,” the writer Katherine Rundell warns in her book The Golden Mole and other Living Treasure. “They are clever and wise enough to hold grudges against us.”

Twenty years ago, students at the University of Washington carried out an experiment in which they dressed in masks before capturing and caging and later releasing the crows that lived in the trees on campus.

Thereafter, the crows would ignore the students when they walked past without masks, but would angrily assail them when they were wearing them.

The study found that long after the original group of captured birds had died, their descendants berated the mask-wearing researchers.



https://www.thetimes.com/uk/society/article/crows-target-residents-of-leafy-south-london-street-lfq5h6lhn

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