Avian attacks on homeowners, pedestrians a rite of spring

It’s springtime again in Manitoba — almost summer, really — and the province comes back to life after a long, cold winter. Trees are blossoming, people are out strolling in the streets, the birds are chirping.

On a sunny day, what could be better?

Well, things aren’t always as harmonious as they seem in the spring. Some of those people out strolling the streets — or even innocently working in their yards — are getting a good scare as blue jays, grackles, crows and other birds screech at them and launch dive-bomb attacks.

These attacks rarely result in injury, though they can be unnerving. They’re simply the work of parent birds who are protective of their young, some of which might be hopping around on the ground, not yet able to fly away from danger.

Though dive-bombings can happen just about anytime that there’s enough foliage available to build and conceal nests — I’ve personally been dive-bombed as late as mid-September, in the final days of summer — we’re right in the middle of the peak season, which runs from mid-May to mid-July.

Here are what some Twitter users have reported just in the past few hours:

rubygrapefruit: Dive bombed by a swallow that actually hit me in the head. Overly protective of its children if you ask me.kereme: OMG! F-ing bird just swooped down into my hair…

Ruiz2121: Racist bird research day 9, 3:50pm. I was dive bombed once again. Damn you birds!

Route53: Found out the bird that dive bombed me today has his own website: http://www.frontstreetattackbird.blogspot.com.

How can you avoid an unpleasant encounter with an overly protective parent bird? Here’s how:

  • Use your eyes and ears: This is your best bet. Crows will usually give you fair warning before dive-bombing you, often making a racket to try to deter you from getting closer. Sometimes they will even fly down to a perch just above you and stare straight at you while cawing incessantly. Grackles, which hang out in groups, will go from chirping quietly to showing signs of agitation and returning to home base in large numbers. Jays will also start to sound agitated when someone approaches their nest, and sometimes will gather in a mob to jeer someone coming too close to a nest.Be particularly wary of more aggressive birds like crows, jays, magpies and grackles. But don’t discount the possibility of a swoop by other birds, such as owls, gulls, merlins and others that have adapted to city life.

    Also, don’t forget to listen for the sound of infant birds, which could be a more obvious clue to the location of a nest.

  • Wear a hat: Not only will this put some additional separation between you and the bird, it might even deter some dive-bombings entirely. Some say that people with bald spots are more likely to be dive-bombed than those without.
  • If you can, avoid areas with lots of shrubbery: Streets with large amounts of shrubbery going right up to the sidewalk can be risky areas, as these shrubs are excellent places for young birds hopping around on the ground to hide. However, it also increases the risk that an unwitting pedestrian will walk too close to the hiding infant, incurring the wrath of the parent.
  • Stay on the more heavily traveled streets: There is no guarantee that you won’t be dive-bombed on a high-traffic street. However, birds tend to share humans’ dislike for incessant traffic noise, and will tend to favour nesting in quieter areas.

And if you are the target of a dive-bombing, or one appears inevitable:

  • Stay calm. Running or trying to get even with the bird by swinging or throwing things at it will likely only escalate the situation, possibly by bringing some of the dive-bomber’s buddies into the fight.
  • If possible, do a 180-degree turn and make a detour.
  • Find another route to walk for the next few weeks.
  • Caution others.

By the way, if you walk through Osborne Village with any frequency, there are two crows that might be nesting on the south side of Stradbrook, just east of Wellington Crescent. Use caution in that area for the next few weeks.


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

One Response to Avian attacks on homeowners, pedestrians a rite of spring

  1. cherenkov says:

    There used to be a blackbird that lived on the 3rd hole of the Blumberg golf course that would attack people as they crossed by the pond. There isn’t really much choice in that case: you just have to run the gauntlet and be alert. There was even a sign warning people of an angry blackbird. However, I’ll take that over the raven at Falcon Lake that steals your food.

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