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Carrion crow (Corvus corone) black bird portrait of head and looking at camera
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Stone the crows! Huge flocks of birds have attacked Zippos Circus

The allure of popcorn has proved too much for cheeky London corvids

Written by
Annette Richardson
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Corvids on the rise! That’s crows, people. In a strange Hitchcockian turn of events, news has reached us of converging flocks of the famously ominous birds targeting, of all places, a circus.

Zippos Circus, currently on its ‘Bon Voyage’ national tour, so-called because it takes a trip around the globe with its performers, is in East Ham from May 10-23, but has reported huge problems with pesky corvids honing in on the spilt popcorn and other food left by punters in the Big Top. Not only have the avian saboteurs honed in on the tasty snacks, they’ve pecked holes in the circus’s £250,000 Big Top, and damaged caravans and TV aerials in search of the good stuff. They have also woken the performers in the early hours of the morning. In one instance, Zippos Circus founder Martin Burton even had a crow pick up a stone and start hammering on his trailer window. He commented: ‘We’ve never seen as many crows as this year, literally flocks of them everywhere causing a nuisance. It’s no yolk!’

Zippos has had to resort to extreme measures: circus child Nicholas, aged 11 and son of the knife thrower, came up with the idea of making a scarecrow to deter the birds which has now been installed on top of the ticket office at the front of the show, which gives the circus a whole new ambience, to be fair. At least the knife thrower didn’t go route A on this one.

Aside from the lure of discarded popcorn, it’s probably no coincidence that the tour started at Easter on Blackheath, in south-east London, a space notorious for its many crows. They probably decided to pack up and follow the circus from there. Crows are from the corvus family and are renowned for their keen intelligence: in fact, their brain-to-body ratio is higher than humans’, so no doubt they have some masterplan for us, probably involving slavery, doom and death. The collective noun isn’t a ‘murder’ of crows for nothing.

Any weak explanation that the marauding crows might have been attempting to rescue Dumbo is sadly misguided, as there have been no animals in Zippos Circus show since 2019. Instead, it offers thrilling acts such as The Lucius Team from Brazil with their legendary ‘Globe of Death’, where motorbikes are ridden inside a metal globe at up to 60 mph, while a woman stands – presumably very, very still – in the middle. When the circus did feature animals, they were domestic ones only, such as horses and budgies, as they never wanted to use wild or exotic beasts, so Dumbo would have been out on his (very large) ear. 

Zippos Circus, Central Park, E6 6ET. May 10-23.

If talk of snacks has made you peckish, try these bubble waffles.

Sugar fix not quite sated? Check out our list of London’s best bakeries.

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