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July 21st, 2010 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know

     
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Recently, while walking to the MAX stop, I was attacked by crows. They followed me for a short distance, swooping at my head in turn. Five days later the same thing happened in the same spot, while plenty of other potential victims were wandering around untouched. Why am I being singled out? Is there anything I can do? —Hitchcock Blonde

Don’t blame yourself, Blonde—it’s not something you’re doing, or something you’re wearing, that’s causing the crows to freak out. It’s just that they hate you, personally. And they always will. Also, you’re adopted.

I’m not kidding about the crows. According to University of Washington corvid researcher John Marzluff, crows can recognize human faces, and they can remember those they don’t like for years.

“Often we unknowingly walk by a crow fledgling or nest, and the adults are quick to defend it,” says Marzluff. “From that point on, an egregious offender might be labeled and attacked on subsequent encounters, even if the young are not in the area.” In other words, once you’re on the crows’ guano list, they’ll keep harassing you on general principles even if you’re not doing anything wrong.

And it gets worse: If a crow sees you getting bitched out by another crow, it’ll assume you must suck, join in the scolding, and put you on its permanent blacklist. Joe McCarthy had nothing on these little bastards.

So what can you do? “Offer a few peanuts to the aggressive crow as you walk by,” he says. “We haven’t done this to know how long it will take or if it will work, but I’d put money on it.”

Granted, it’ll be humbling to pay protection to some birds, but at least you won’t wake up with a severed squirrel’s head in your bed.

 
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