An extremely tame House Crow

on 10th April 2012

“My colleague, Patrick Chua, took a video of this adult house crow (Corvus splendens) at his Housing and Development Board residence. When he informed me of this unusual phenomenon, I requested to see the video. I couldn’t believe what I saw next.

“This is a full grown crow that not only takes food from the hand but also allows a complete stranger to scratch its head.

“Patrick Chua told me that he has not kept the bird and sees it roosting on a low hedge along the sheltered area of his HDB void deck. Someone actually is feeding this crow and it has lost all fear of close human contact. What I found interesting is how it acquired that bold attitude and was it raised as a chick and later abandoned?

“It does fly from time to time but somehow always return to roost at the same low lying hedge and sometimes low trees surrounding the void deck area.

“This is my first time seeing this happening with a wild crow or any bird species for that matter. For the most part, wild birds here will take what you feed but not from your hands, let alone allow you to scratch its head. Indeed an interesting phenomenon.

Haniman Boniran
8th April 2012

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

10 Responses

  1. Ha, ha … this is another interesting post on bird behaviour, I guess this crow was able to over come its’ fear of humans, and I guess that this would be a start to domesticating a wild bird, or animal.

  2. I love crows and think they are a much-maligned bird. I hardly see any crows these days in Singapore. Perhaps this is why the Javan Myna has become so successful; they are merely occupying the niche once filled by crows.

    And I wouldn’t say crows have ever been “fearful” of humans at all. In fact, they are one of the few species in Singapore that dare attack humans. I have seen some even blatantly snatching food from hawker centre tables while other people were seated on that same table. (This was long ago, when crows were still widely seen all over our island.) They are probably the most “gutsy” bird species with regards to character, and that is also probably why they have been so successful in urban settings, where risk takers are rewarded handsomely for their efforts.

    1. Crows may be successful elsewhere and here in Singapore once upon a time. But the “fearless” character – attacking human beings – made them a public enemy and has led to their downfall here. Culling them became public policy since 1973 and their numbers have reduced drastically. According to a 8 Jan 2007 National Geography News report about Singapore Gun Club Hunt Crows in Singapore,'”The crow population in Singapore is currently estimated to be at a manageable level of 10,000, as compared to a population of 120,000 in 2001,” said an agency spokesperson, who requested anonymity to avoid taking credit for preparing the culling data, which was done by her department as a whole.’ [The agency refers to Singapore’s National Environment Agency.]

      As for Javan Myna, they were found to be the most common bird in Singapore from the Second Mid-Year Bird Census (MYBC) conducted in 2001 (and also in 2000), with House Crow in the second position [source: Nature Watch – Official Magazine of the Nature Society (Singapore)]. According to the census report, “Its numbers [crow] didn’t drop even though there has been a lot of publicity in the mass media of late on the culling of this species through shooting and trapping.”

      From the above it is clear that Javan Myna were already very successful long ago when House Crow were also plentiful. It is doubtful that the success of Javan Myna has got anything to do with the removal of competition from House Crow. I believe they are successful because they push the limit of human tolerance without turning them hostile.

      1. I’m aware of the attacks by crows on humans; they were publicised in the papers many years ago. I have also personally witnessed crows hovering very close to humans, in “attack mode”, possibly because their nests were nearby.

        I would be interested in finding out the numbers of mynas before the crow culling as well as after. That would demonstrate clearly whether the destruction of crows has caused a surge in the myna population – which I believe it has.

        But you are right about the point about mynas being more successful than crows – at least here in Singapore – because they “push the limit of human tolerance without turning them hostile”. I mean, that’s exactly why the government decided to cull crows in the first place isn’t it – because people complained about crow attacks and crows were viewed as being dangerous to an extent, but not mynas.

        However, I strongly believe the extreme culling of any one species, causing their numbers to fall drastically in a short period of time, causes ecological imbalance, which is never a good thing.

        Anyway, with the crows now not considered a problem, the public is now complaining about mynas (droppings, noise, eating off hawker centre tables, etc). My mother found a dead myna on top of her air-con condenser as well.

        You can’t please everybody, and when you cull one species, SURELY there must be an increase in the population of some other species to fill the void. And how would you know the species that benefits from the removal of the culled one won’t cause MORE problems than the culled species? Can anyone answer that?

        1. You can probably find answers to some of your questions and comments from the article “Less Housecrows…More Asian Koels…” from the BESG article published on 13 Jan 2013, and the research paper by Kwek et al.(2012) quoted.

    1. That’s what I thought too. It’s not in their nature to be this way. They are generally smart birds who are very wary of humans.

      1. I found a single individual for a short period of time in Ipoh, Perak years ago, it was not known to be established in the area yet, it is highly sensitive and once it gains eye contact, it will quickly fly off to another perch, I believed that might be a freshly escaped bird that is still highly wary of humans, especially those looking at it, they are very smart species and will learn well, I did not get to see it again lately, not sure if it is still around or not.

        1. Interesting point about eye contact – I wonder what other bird species are “aware” enough to establish eye contact with humans as well. Crows also seem able to “read” humans quite well to an extent.

          1. crows are very intelligent category, listed among one of the most intelligent, some species like the Common Raven are recognized to be most intelligent in the avian world with intelligence that are probably higher than the average dogs.

            Birds do tend to be able to locate eyes and you can always find that before gaining eye contact (behind glass of a car), birds are often not very wary of you, due to the difficulty to see through reflective glasses, there is no proper studies but wearing a highly reflective sun glass may be helpful when it comes to approaching some birds? Maybe someone can try to conduct such studies to see if this is really a factor. For the crow I experienced, it will fly from roof top to roof top, usually out of my view, when I managed to sneak and peak on it and before I can put my bins on, it will usually head off to another spot, and most of the time, I could be at least 100 meters away!!

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