Crows darken the sky and bring a cacophony of noise to your yard, and they can also cause a lot of damage, leaving you to clean up the mess. Although crows take care of some undesirable vermin for you, typically their minuses outweigh their pluses. Getting rid of crows is difficult, typically requiring a multipronged management plan.
Crows feast on crops including grains, fruits and nuts. Their strong beaks can crack pecans (Carya illinoinensis), which grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, and they also peck at fruits, including tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum). Unsecured garbage is fair game to crows, which can tear plastic bags apart to reach discarded food. But beyond the aesthetic and economic damage crows inflict, they can also pose a health risk to people and pets. Their fecal waste collects underneath their communal roosting areas, where it accumulates in soil and fosters a fungal pathogen called Histoplasma capsulatum that can cause a histoplasmosis infection in the lungs of people and animals.
Keeping crows away from crops and garbage helps eliminate some of their food sources, which makes your backyard less desirable to them. Large birds and other wildlife can tip trash cans, so your garbage needs to be in lidded containers with clamps, weights or bungee cords securing the lids. If tipping is a problem, use trash cans with handles through which you drive wooden or metal stakes that you drive into the ground. Cover fruit and vegetable crops with mesh bird netting that you secure along the edges by using u-shaped garden anchor pins or weights.
Visual, auditory and physical scare tactics, also called harassment tactics, may deter crows temporarily, but as the birds become used to these, the measures stop working. Alternating or combining different tactics strengthens the overall strategy to get rid of crows. For example, “eye-spot” balloons, which have large eyes imprinted on them, scare crows away by resembling larger bird predators. Several balloons in a communal crow roosting site are effective at driving crows away, although eventually the crows become desensitized to them, and they may return. Combining an auditory scare tactic with the eye-spot balloons, such as a commercially recorded crow distress call, encourages hard-to-budge crows from a backyard roost. Motion-detector sprinklers strategically placed in the roosting area work by spraying a jet of water at crows that pass across the sensor.
As its name implies, a scarecrow is designed to get rid of crows. Scarecrows do work, but their effectiveness is limited to a small area. If you have a large garden, you may need to put up more than one scarecrow. Another consideration is that crows become used to them as they do to other scare tactics. The more you can bring a scarecrow to life with movement and noise instead of using a still-life effigy, the more effective it becomes. Attach reflective foil strings or balloons to a scarecrow to create movement, and tie small bells or wind chimes to create noise. Moving the scarecrow to different places in your garden may also help keep the crows at bay.
- Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management: American Crows
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Lycopersicon Esculentum
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: Living with Wildlife -- Crows
- Audubon Society of Portland: Urban Crows
- National Audubon Society, Inc.: American Crow
- Chicago Tribune: Life Skill #429: Build a Better Scarecrow
- Floridata: Carya Illinoinensis
- Photo Credit Fratticioli/iStock/Getty Images
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