The Indian House Crow should not thrive!
When I read about crows “cawing and pecking” at a myna, several incidents regarding house crows (grey and black) came to my mind. Like the time my dad and me were attacked by crows when we were gardening (I think we went too close to a nest). And the time when I saw a crow flying with a small bird in its beak. Or the time when crows ate up some new plants. Or when a gang of crows ganged up on a poor defenseless owl for no reason. The area near my house has a whole host of birds and crows routinely harass the smaller (and bigger) birds.
I had once written about house crows being a factor in the reduction of the sparrow population in cities. On that post a commentator, Anish, wrote that he has seen crows eat up baby sparrows. The Observer, another commentator, said something similar. Ven Haris in another comment said that crows had driven away the songbirds in his garden.
The Indian House Crow in particular has been called the “world’s most destructive crow.” This species has been recognized as “invasive” and this means that it is a “threat to the ecological and economic well-being of the planet”. One of the reasons is that the crows multiply rapidly.
It attacks (in groups) and at times kills poultry, calves and small animals and at times sheep and domestic cats.
It preys on the chicks and eggs of native birds and destroy nests.
It harasses other birds and animals
Crows have been known to peck out the eyes of sheep and pigs.
They attack people to steal food and even jewellery.
They often dive-bomb people near their nests
They are a hazard for air planes near airports
They are known to feed on human corpses
They have had a devastating impact on indigenous bird populations by eating eggs
They mob other birds that might compete with it
Unhealthy as they forage in garbage dumps
Crows spread diseases by carrying and spreading bacteria like salmonella and E-coli.
They are carriers of cholera and typhoid
Crows may contaminate food and drinking water with their faeces.
Crows damage crops, strip fruit trees in orchards
They damage buildings
They scatter rubbish, damage electrical wiring and block drain pipes.
They have caused power cuts by constructing nests out of wire in electric pylons.
They are known to kill/ drive off birds if they have to compete for the food.
In Japan they have been known to build dummy nests lure the Crow Patrol away from their real nests.
In South Africa they are known to recognize “baiters” and therefore dead crows are collected not by the “Baiter” but by somebody else.
The birds hitch rides on ships as well as the backs of pigs and other animals
They dart through open windows to snatch food
They manage to exploit all manner of food sources
Crows are able to recognize traps and rifles and other weapons
They work collectively and attack in gangs
Seemingly unafraid of humans
Wholly dependent on human habitation
Bold, noisy, abundant
They multiply rapidly in any area with a dense human population
House crows feature in the list of the world’s 100 most invasive species
They are aggressive, vocal and competitive
They are solitary nesters but in areas of high population density they adapt
They use trees but buildings, and other artificial structures wil do for their nests. They use a rough stick nest lined with coir or other fibre.
Action taken by governments to control the Indian House Crow
The Indian House Crow is a declared pest in Western Australia, and any found here are culled.
In Seychelles, Singapore, Japan, and South Africa there are regular attempts to exterminate this bird.
In India it isn’t desirable or practical to destroy this bird but some efforts need to be made to control their population. As of now crows are of great help to tardy municipal corporations as they are scavengers, and help in removal of garbage.
But what’s more worrying is that crows are a threat to other species. If crows can attack humans, one can imagine the damage they do to other, smaller, species. So far our open garbage dumps provide enough food for the house crow. In countries such as Singapore or Japan the crows have to fight hard for their food and they can get very mean indeed.
The crow explosion has created a moral quandary for Japan, “a nation that prides itself on nonviolence and harmony with nature, because culling programs are the only truly effective method of population control.”
Culling a bird or an animal either to exterminate the species or reduce its population always presents a moral question. It’s just not the same as killing mosquitoes, cockroaches, bedbugs and rodents! In India we have faced this question with our ever growing population of stray dogs. Even now there are widely different opinions as to how to tackle the stray dog problem. And in any case what have these dogs and crows done wrong, really. Crows at least seem a lot like human beings? We humans have done a lot of damage to the earth, its ecosystem and to other species as well. Exterminated quite a few in fact. I guess we are lucky that there is no higher being who has decided that enough is enough and that it’s time to kill the humans off!
However, just as the human population needs control, so does the population of any species which has a tendency to proliferate. As for crows, we better do something soon, or they will rule the earth!
I am ending this post with a series of photographs I took some months earler. An owl was chilling out on a ledge (probably lost) when this crow spotted it. It looks like a raven, but it isn’t. That’s just the lighting.
The owl seems a little taken aback as to the nearness of the crow. It’s almost as if it is asking: what do you want?
The crow hops nearer and calls his friends. They start to arrive…
The poor owl is surrounded. After a while I could not even see the owl as all the crows hopped on to the ledge! It was scary and I tried to shoo them away but they didn’t listen.
Luckily the crows didn’t harm the owl. At least I don’t think so. An hour later the owl was gone.
(All photographs are by me and copyrighted. The last series of photographs were taken from the balcony of my old house. The crows had collected on a neighbor’s ledge.)
Related Reading: Large mammals were destroyed in most parts of the world but not India
Should we cull stray dogs?
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