Rise in house crow population shows unsustainable urbanisation

The expansion of urbanisation can negatively impact many animal species.

It comes with the destruction of natural environments for these precious animals, leaving them without suitable habitats, food, and spaces to mingle and breed.

But crows are a completely different story.

It is rather common to see countless house crows roosting in buildings, trees, overhead electric cables by the streets, and near beaches. House crows are an immensely intelligent family of birds which can adapt to their surroundings.

When it comes to food, they can eat anything, aside from their natural choices, such as insects, berries, and nuts.

They can live in urban areas because of their higher than average temperatures, called urban heat island.

In Malaysia, hot spots for crows are Klang, Kuala Lumpur, and Kajang. House crows are regarded as pests as they are unhygienic and loud.

They forage for scraps everywhere in urban areas in large flocks, making the place dirty.

This would indicate that these areas have poorly maintained garbage dumps, where food and other wastes are not very well managed.

Poor waste management provides feeding opportunities for scavenging birds as they can eat absolutely anything. Open trash bins make it easy for them to dig through the trash, as these birds excel at problem-solving.

They can rummage through all the discarded food items, leaving urban areas filled with litter. There is also a likelihood of them spreading dangerous diseases since they can eat just about anything.

Crows live in large flocks and love roosting in high areas such as trees, lamp posts, tall buildings, and even overhead electric cables. Droppings can be seen in urban areas where they flock together, such as on buildings and vehicles.

Cleaning up their droppings is an immense pain. Not only does this impact the cleanliness of urban areas, these droppings may also spread deadly diseases.

Street, and park trees in cities are often places where crows build their nests. In fact, any safe place of high elevation is also an option, including the ceilings of buildings.

This can be bothersome for city dwellers, in ensuring the cleanliness of these areas.

The presence of crows in urban centres can be regarded as indicators of unsustainability in these areas, due to the poor hygiene and health issues posed by these pests.

In Malaysia, it is not uncommon to see shooting exercises being conducted to cull the crow population in certain areas.

However, shooting often doesn’t address the need for precautions from direct exposure to biological elements when collecting the dead house crows. This increases the risk of human exposure to deadly pathogens.

Other methods to reduce the crow population should be further studied since simply scaring these birds away is not effective in the long term.

The use of toxic chemicals in urban areas to control the population of these pests can pose a risk to public health. More methods should be investigated to tackle this problem, which if left unchecked, could affect the sustainability of Malaysia’s urban centres.

Although there is still no significant evidence on the widespread zoonosis of house crows among humans, we must still be wary and take precautions to avoid adverse health effects that can impact the economy, livestock, and the environment.

It can be concluded that the presence of house crows in urban centres can cast doubt on the sustainability of an area in terms of cleanliness, safety, and health. The presence of house crows can be an indicator of unsustainable urbanisation.

Megat Daniel Izmeer M. Al-Imran is an undergraduate student, while Dr Hasmahzaiti Omar is an Associate Professor of the Ecology Biodiversity Programme, Institute of Biological Sciences, Universiti Malaya.

This is the personal opinion of the writers and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.