Crow attacks woman on Southsea Common

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A crow swooped repeatedly from the sky to attack a woman on Southsea Common.

In scenes reminiscent of the Hitchcock classic The Birds, 50-year-old Ashley Harley was left running for cover after the large bird dive-bombed on to her head three times and pecked her with its sharp beak.

Ashley Harley

Ashley Harley

The frightening incident happened as she took an afternoon walk in the gardens of Southsea Common, opposite Palmerston Road.

Ashley, who does marketing for The Kings Theatre in Southsea and is a columnist for The News, said: ‘I just came across the Common to see a friend and there were lots of people around.

‘I felt something hit me on the head. I thought it was a branch or something.

‘I carried on walking and it came down again, but it was hard.

‘I looked up and there was a crow hovering above me. It hit me again – it really hurt.

‘I put my hand up to my head and it was splashing with blood. I was just panicking.

‘It got me with its beak. It could have been a child.’

She said the bird was squawking as it swooped down for the last attack.

Ashley fled and went to the NHS walk-in centre in Guildhall Walk where nurses cleaned up the wound.

She will also have to have a tetanus jab as a precaution.

Ashley, of West Street, Fareham, who admits she had always found The Birds movie terrifying, said: ‘I could not believe it.

‘They cleaned it up and it was fine.

‘It just shocked me more than anything – it was the most bizarre thing.

‘If I had not got out of the way, it probably would have kept on going.’

The incident comes after joggers were recently attacked by crows in a London park.

Wez Smith, who looks after the RSPB reserves in Langstone and Chichester Harbours, said there was likely to be a crow’s nest near to where Ashley was attacked.

He said: ‘I feel for her, from personal experience I know that can be very painful.

‘Crows can be very territorial but they’re also extremely intelligent.

‘It sounds like it felt threatened by this resident walking across the park and decided that a pre-emptive attack was good idea.

‘If this is a particularly aggressive individual you may even get further reports of this.

‘My advice to anyone who finds themselves in this situation would be to look the bird in the eye and make themselves as big as possible, have a quick look around you for nests in the trees and then back away.’

The house crow, corvus splendens, is well-known as one of the most intelligent birds, capable of remembering human faces.

The bird grows up to 18in tall and feeds on insects, vegetables and rubbish left by humans.

Its beak is two inches long and is made of keratin – the same substance found in hair, nails, and teeth.

Biologist Louise MacCallum, who manages Langstone Harbour, said: ‘Crows do become very territorial during the breeding season – there is a pair nesting not far from my office window and they regularly mob much larger birds than themselves, like herons and herring gulls.’