Crows are an intelligent and highly social species that live in groups of extended families. They share food and protect each other by working as a mob to keep threatening predators at bay. They can be incredibly intimidating to even the most ambitious intruder, including non-familiar crows. Crows conquer territories in massive battles in the air that end with the winning flock taking up residence and the battered losers gimping off in search of a new home. When these battles take place in the countryside or other non-populated locations, no one seems to mind. It is, however, a different story when the crows move their battlegrounds into suburbia.
The City Shift
Crows are highly adaptable and will thrive wherever they are; be it the country, the woodland, the field or even the city. As urban spread continues to gobble up undeveloped land, country crows are rapidly becoming city crows. However, crows make rowdy neighbors and often cramp our style. A few crows here and there could be easily tolerated; it is when they invite their family from the North to spend the winter that things get really wild. Communal roosts are noisy and messy, which creates hard feelings with human neighbors.
The Urban Roost
Crows often visit the countryside during the day and return to their city home in the evenings. The artificial light in urban areas provides comfort, and they may feel safer in the city from predators and angry farmers with guns. Once a group of crows establishes an urban roost it becomes a permanent home place and is used year after year. Roosts are constructed in the late fall and crows will stay put until the spring when they return to their breeding grounds. Urban roosts can draw anywhere from a hundred to a few thousand birds. That’s one gigantic family reunion!
Bird droppings on cars, porches, roofs and city streets create an eyesore. Continual insult requires continual cleaning by increasingly frustrated city officials and homeowners who are often at a loss with what to do with the birds. However, there are several humane harassment methods that can be employed to rouse the roost. Although the “perfect” solution not been discovered, a combination of methods consistently employed seems to work.
The Trash Dilemma
Crows are notorious dumpster divers and are often found loitering around trash, in compost piles or digging through outdoor pet food containers in search of a snack. Even trashcans with lids are no obstacle to a group of crows that will work together to push the lid free. Truly discouraging the crows requires an extremely tight fitting lid, a bungee cord or whatever method possible to lock the lid in place. Crows will visit trash cans only during the day, so if you see your trash all over the ground in the morning don’t be so quick to blame the crows. Be sure you know the culprit before you point any fingers. Evening trash raids in suburban areas are most likely the result of hungry dogs or raccoons.
If you have cleaned up your yard and taken care of any trash problems and the crows still refuse to move on, you may have to resort to some tried and true scare tactics. One of the oldest methods of scaring crows is to erect a scarecrow or two, especially in areas where the crows tend to gather. Some old loose fitting clothing draped over a bamboo stake will do the trick; nothing fancy is required.
Since owls are a predator of crows, it also useful to hang a few plastic owls on your porch, deck or even from tree branches. Contrary to what you may think, crows hate shiny objects and stringing up old CD’s from a line in your yard will send a strong signal to stay clear.
Some cities use recorded crow distress calls to push crow families’ away or even pyrotechnics. Even though crows are noisy themselves, it seems as though they do not like it when we make a lot of noise, especially when they're trying to sleep. Specially designed lasers sometimes work to harass birds, as do hanging fake dead crows around the roosting area. Reducing the amount of artificial light or thinning clumps of tall trees may discourage crows from taking up residence.
At no time should poison or other violent methods be employed, as it does not solve the problem of more birds moving in next season. It may also be illegal to kill or harm the birds, depending on where you live. Don’t expect the crows to move on immediately, even if you send a strong eviction notice they may tarry. Give them time and be patient as you use humane harassment, not violence, to encourage them to find a new home.