This is a lazy post, because I don't have enough time to write another properly researched saga. I first wrote a short story about Tokyo's crows for my Google+ page, but then I happened to be in Yoyogi Park this afternoon, and a huge crow happened to sit next to me …
|I think they're beautiful, but watch out for that beak!|
So I've expanded my original story a bit for my blog. Tokyo's crows must be the scariest birds in the universe. They're highly intelligent and have a beautiful glossy coat, but they also have lethal beaks and malicious eyes. They fear nothing. You see signs (like the one at the end of this post) warning you against crows all over the city.
There are two species of crows in Japan, the Jungle Crow (scientific name Corvus macrorhynchos, Japanese name ハシブトガラス or hashibutogarasu) and the Carrion Crow (scientific name Corvus corone, Japanese name ハシボソガラスor hashibongarasu).
The one that terrorizes Tokyo is the Jungle Crow. Its scientific name, incidentally, is based on an ancient Greek word, macrorhynchos, that means "giant beak". Very appropriate.
The birds are thriving in the city, possibly thanks to trash bins that provide easy food. I quote from an article in Global Times:
The Tokyo government has decided to increase its crow trapping equipment to control the growing flocks in the city.
According to the Tokyo-based newspaper Asahi Shimbun, the city's Yoyogi Park is often a non-stop cacophony of cawing crows where people complain of being pecked in the spring. The park is also full of "mind the crows" signs and crow traps. Tokyo has fought a growing crow population since 2001, the report said. There were only about 7,000 crows in the Japanese capital in 1985.
After a couple of years, the number jumped to 36,400 and a professional crow-hunting team was established that brought the crow population under control. By 2006, there were 16,600 crows in Tokyo, but the number is climbing again because the cost of crow bait has climbed and the trapping equipment has aged.
Some Tokyo crow experts think a better solution would be cleaner trash bins. They say overflowing bins in the city and parks are like crow “rice bowls” and attract more of the hungry, forest-dwelling birds to the “concrete forest” of Tokyo.
I also found this NPR article about Tokyo and crow control, with an interesting comment that honey bees might be an answer!
Here's another interesting blog post (from a very nice but apparently inactive blog I discovered when I was Googling about crows) that describes two "crow castles", Okayama Castle and Matsumoto Castle.
If you feel like an academic article, I recommend "Daily Change in Spatial Distribution of Jungle Crows in Urban Areas" by Kazuhiro Katō and Takashi Nakamura. It's a PDF, but you'll find it if you Google that title.
I spotted the warning sign below at the University of Tokyo, and you can see another sign inside a building in Shinjuku (I hope the crows aren't inside!), snapped by Dru, at this link.