Thorsten Alsleben was one of the first unsuspecting citizens to feel the wrath of a cranky crow. He was on his mobile phone in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin when he felt a sharp peck on the back of his head.
Turning round and rubbing his head, he looked up – and beheld a sight that chilled his heart: “Two crows were sitting on a tree behind me and looking at me,” he told the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper.
After a tense pause that could have been orchestrated by the Master of Suspense himself, the two birds swooped on to him and rained merciless pecks on to his scalp.
“It was like in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ – spooky,” added Alsleben, so The Local didn’t have to.
Baris Z., who runs a kiosk on Alsleben’s road, knew all about the attacks. He told the paper that four of his customers had been attacked on Sunday morning alone. “The crows pecked and yanked at people’s hair,” he said. “I could see it all out of my shop.”
Crow attacks have reportedly been increasing in the German capital in recent years. Last year, a 61-year-old man was wounded in the ear by several angry crows when he tried to rescue one of their young that had fallen from a nest.
Crow chicks hatch between March and June, which can make adults particularly ill-disposed to anyone approaching their nest. Fully-grown crows, considered very intelligent animals, can weigh a kilo and have a wingspan of up to a metre.
“Crows come into the city because there is enough food for them here and because there are better conditions for them,” Carmen Schultze, of German environmental agency BUND, told the paper.
She added that they soon get used to living among people, and that leftovers from summer barbecues and picnics also provide rich pickings for the birds.
“The fact that there are more attacks in May is because it’s hatching time, and they generally become more active – and then sometimes more aggressive,” said Schultze.
She also said that since crows tend to nest in colonies – and attacks are often carried out by bird gangs – one should inform the city environmental authorities in serious cases.
German nature conservation society NABU estimates that up to 5,000 breeding crow couples live in Berlin. Local district authorities have put up warning signs in crow hotspots and installed closed rubbish bins to give them less chance of scavenging food.
Crows are also being blamed for picking the plastic sealant from between panes of glass in the roof of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, causing it to leak in the rain.
According to BUND, crows don’t do this because they’re hungry, but just for fun – or because they enjoyed seeing Hertha Berlin fans get soaked.