Crows. One or two at a time, or in a small family group or flock, they’re truly impressive creatures. Resourceful and excellent problem-solvers, crows flourish in virtually any environment. They work cooperatively to achieve goals and show strong family bonds, sharing food and looking out for one another. In fact, we may be only beginning to understand how cognitively and socially advanced these members of the corvid family are.
But, these fine qualities are often eclipsed by the sheer volume of the noise and mess they can make when they gather in huge flocks to roost. If not for the early morning racket and the droppings on cars and sidewalks that result from such flocks, most people would have no reason to look for a way to get rid of crows. Fortunately, there are effective ways to break up these raucous gatherings, and ways to discourage attracting crows in the first place.
Getting rid of crows
First, unless you truly have an unwieldy number of crows, pause to consider the benefits they’re providing. A family of crows will consume around 40,000 grubs, caterpillars, and other insects in a season. They also clean up road-killed animals and other carrion and help with forest renewal by transporting seed.
Crows tend to congregate in large roosts, oddly called “murders”, in the fall and winter, so their disturbance is relatively seasonal. Roost size can range from small scattered accumulations of under a 100 birds to large groups of thousands. If you feel the numbers of crows are extraordinarily high, here are several ways to encourage them to find a new roosting spot. Like with all wildlife conflicts, prevention and early intervention are key. It’s best to deter a flock of crows just before their numbers reach an unacceptable level and before they develop a strong attachment to the site.
- Reduce outdoor lighting. One reason crows roost at night in towns and cities and “commute” to rural areas to spend their days foraging is that they feel safer from large owls, their main predator, in well-lit environments.
- Unsettle them with noise. Try playing recordings of crow distress calls, using noisemakers that sound like fireworks, stringing up pie tins so that they clang around as they flutter in the wind, or go out at dusk—as they are arriving—and make loud noises by banging on pans or hollering together with a few neighbors. Rotate strategies until the crows get the picture.
- Introduce visual disturbances. Tie Mylar streamers (like Irri-Tape) on tree branches at the roost.
- Limit access to garden goodies. Use a heavy bird netting (like Bird Barrier) over your garden plants and put paper cups over ears of corn.
- Reduce roosting opportunities. Thin tree branches where possible in trees they have used as roosting areas in the past.
Avoid attracting crows
Once you’ve cleared out the current flock, follow these tips for making your property less attractive to crows:
- Keep trash in covered trashcans.
- Don’t put food waste in open compost piles.
- Feed pets indoors or pick dishes up immediately after they walk away.
- If you feed birds, use feeders designed for small birds.
- Keep spillage from birdfeeders cleaned up.
Steer clear of poison
Inevitably you’ll run across the suggestion of using poison to get rid of crows. Bad idea. First, it is illegal. Furthermore, regardless of how exasperated you may be with the crow situation, you will feel far worse if you attempt to resolve it with poison. Poison is an indiscriminate killer. Even if you think you could cope with the sight of crows dropping dead, other birds will also consume it, and you will watch them die a horrible death as well. Your neighbors’ pets may get into it, causing untold sorrow and bad relations. And, other wildlife may consume the poisoned crows, causing still more unintended deaths. Steer clear of this cruel and outdated approach and save yourself a lot of trouble. Get rid of crows by using an intelligent combination of the many non-lethal effective options available.