A murder of crows disturb barn owl trying to sleep on Bishan HDB block ledge

Not a good day's rest.

Yap Yee Hui | June 03, 2024, 03:44 PM



Some residents of this city in nature may observe interactions between wild animals up-close if one looks out of their windows enough.

On the evening of May 28, 2024, a Bishan resident, Sai, returned home at around 11am and was alerted to crows cawing loudly outside her kitchen window.

Fearing that crows may enter her home, she closed the window in a bid to scare these birds away.

However, amidst the rapid flapping of their black wings, an unusual brown silhouette gracefully glided across the air and perched itself on the ledge of the opposite block.

An intriguing altercation

Sai excitedly grabbed her camera for a closer look at the foreign creature.

Cross-legged and eyes shut stood a barn owl attempting to take a fitful morning nap at a corner of the building ledge.

Photo from Sai Wey Chyn/Facebook

The sweet slumber of the barn owl did not last long.

Shortly after closing its eyes, the tranquil-looking creature was awoken by the relentless murder of crows.

Four jet-black crows flapped their wings hard and loud, apparently harassing the dazed barn owl who struggled with 40 winks.

Video from Sai Wey Chyn/Facebook

Sai added that "the owl snarled back" but did not budge from its spot.

Meanwhile, the crows appeared apprehensive of the owl as well, often losing their balance as they fearfully inched towards their fellow feathered compatriot.

Video from Sai Wey Chyn/Facebook

Speaking to Mothership, Sai remarked that the owl chose a tactical spot in the corner as the crows "couldn't attack from behind".

The fracas went on and off from 2pm to 7pm, leaving the barn owl appearing "very tired" as it barely caught a wink.

The barn owl then disappeared into the dark after dinnertime — the start of a predator's long night of hunting and feasting.

More about the barn owl

Barn owls have a distinctive white facial disk and pale underparts.

As strictly nocturnal creatures, barn owls are silent predators of the night.

They are usually found roosting in hidden areas in the day, and actively gliding through the air in search of food at night.

They mostly feed on small mammals, mainly rodents.

Though uncommon in Singapore, the barn owl has made a number of pleasant appearances in recent years.

Territorial crows

This was not the first time the antagonistic relationship between crows and other creatures has been documented.

Sai told Mothership that she has also once spotted a murder of crows pecking at a white belly sea eagle from her house.

On other occasions, crows have also been seen attacking otters and vultures to protect their homes or young.

As one of the most intelligent animals on Earth with a highly territorial nature, crows are well-known bird residents of Singapore.

They excel in surviving by ingeniously making use of their strength in numbers and daylight advantage to attack larger creatures that they deem as potential threat.

This behaviour is known as mobbing — a preemptive defence strategy employed by crows to warn others of their threat and reduce their risk of predation.

One can also attribute this behaviour to crows' highly protective nature during breeding seasons, especially if they are roosting around the area.

In recent years, their hostile behaviour towards humans in Singapore has also been highlighted as an act of defence in certain situations.

Next time you see crows picking on another creature, just know that the aggressors are often more afraid of their victim, than the other way around.

Top photos from Sai Wey Chyn/Facebook