Coexisting with Crows

Outsmart these intelligent and sometimes pesky crows with some easy-to-use crow-control methods.

| April/May 2005

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  • Crows
    The trouble with crows is that they are so smart.
    Photo courtesy Todd Fink
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  • 209-113-01i5
  • Crows
  • 209-113-01i6
  • 209-113-01i3

The trouble with crows is that they are so smart. Captive crows have proven capable of learning to mimic the human voice, match symbols with numbers and solve simple puzzles. As New York clergyman Henry Ward Beecher declared more than a century ago, “If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows.”

Wild crows, on the other hand, sabotage gardens by collecting seeds, pecking into tomatoes or melons, or harvesting fruits a day or two ahead of humans. And crows’ winter roosting behavior is a budget-busting problem for many towns and cities, where thousands of crows often roost together to keep one another warm.

American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) are talkative, territorial and devoted to their families. And although they can be garden pests, they do have their positive side. Crows eat lots of insects, help clean up roadside carrion, and their domestic lives exemplify an enviable level of cooperation. Males and females work together to build nests, incubate eggs and feed their young, all the while participating in crow community life. Extended families often share summer territory, and when a good food supply is found, a sentinel crow often watches from a high tree while its relatives settle in for a feast

What can you do when the site of that feast is your garden? The old standby, the scarecrow, certainly has merit, but crows will quickly become accustomed to a scarecrow that never changes. For best results, construct a scarecrow with a post up its back so it can easily be moved from one spot to another. Every week or so, give your scarecrow a flashy makeover by attaching dangling metal pie tins, compact disks or other shiny, reflective objects to its arms or hat. Movement makes sharp-eyed crows nervous, so giving your scarecrow a helium-filled Mylar party balloon is a good idea, too

Crows hear well, so the The Fund for Animals Wildlife Rehabilitation Center suggests adding sound to your crow-control arsenal in the form of a portable radio. You don’t need to keep it on at night — crows stay in their roosts after dark — but during the daytime be sure to periodically change the station. Crows will notice a difference between smooth jazz and contemporary country; although no studies have been done on their listening preferences, it’s reasonable to expect that talk radio would put them on edge

Crows also are skittish around owl effigies and balloons designed to scare them, though again it’s best to plan a bit of movement into the scene. You can use bird flash tape made of reflective Mylar as a tail for a bobbing balloon, or mount an owl effigy atop a post that includes whirligig blades that spin in the wind. Many bird-scare devices truly look nightmarish, so you may need to strike a balance between their deterrence value and how much terror you can tolerate in your garden

5/10/2007 9:12:36 PM

Plastic grocery bags suspended from string along rows ward off most crows. The slightest gust of wind will cause them to move. This is most effective along rows of newly planted corn, which crows love as they are about 3" high.


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