19 December 2004

(63) Crows in Japan - again!

The residents of Tokyo fight with the crows every day. It's because they damage and disarrange the garbage we put on the street to be collected.

In Tokyo, with the increase of population and garbage, the crows have bred unusually since they can eat anything we eat. Their numbers are said to be 30,000, that is 7 times of 40 years ago.

We cover the garbage bags with plastic net or steel cage to prevent them from being teared by the crows. But, they attack the weak portions of the covering using various methods and upset the garbage bags in the end.

The damage by crows is not only to garbage. If you pass near their nest during their breeding season, they will glide close over the ground and attack you with their sharp beak. The noise of their cry and the contamination by their excrement are intense in several areas that are crowded with crows. The hungry crows sometimes attack young kittens!

The high-intelligence, learning ability, and memory of crows are surprising. Certain crows put a walnut on a road, and wait for a car to pass over the shell, and eat the broken walnut. Some crows fly into an orange orchard, and make a hole in the hard orange peel with their beak. It's not for eating the orange: they waylay a little bird which cannot tear the peel by itself fly to the scratched orange, and catch and eat them.

This is another anecdote that tells of the intelligence of crows. Many pigeons live in shrines in Japan. They are so friendly and some of them even take food from our hand. The vending machines which sell food for pigeon are put in some shrines. The crows steal the changes offered on the shrine, put the coins into the vending machine, and eat the food that comes out from the machine. Yes, they even BUY their own food !

Several years ago, there was an incident in which some stones were placed on the rail of the train every day in Yokohama City. Since it may have caused a big derailment accident, people watched the track by using a video camera. The camera recorded a scene in which a crow held a stone in its mouth and put it on the rail. I was shocked when I heard about it, since I guessed that the crows did it expecting an accident to happen and to get lots of fresh MEAT!!

Fortunately, it was my misunderstanding. In fact, their habit was the cause of this incident. Crows have the habit of hiding their food out of sight. The bottom of gravel between rails is a suitable hiding place. They put the stones on the rail by chance for taking out their food which they hid beforehand. After a few days, the crows stopped approaching the track because of fake dead bodies of crows made from plastic that were hung there by the police.

But, the fight against the crows is still continuing here and there in Tokyo.

Xogij, June 04, 2004 (slightly edited).

Click on the next link for some great pics of Crows in Japan: