Somehow the tree has changed from vibrant green to an ominous black. It stands surprisingly still even in the wind, and a series of bright caws emanate from the branches. It’s the stuff nightmares —  or at least Hitchcock’s “Birds” — are made of. But it’s actually just your backyard, overrun by crows.

Other than the fear that these flying animals might organize and attack you, there are several reasons to rid your property of them. Frequent nest predators, crows feed on eggs, chicks, and tired migratory birds. Corvus — the genus of large birds that includes crows, ravens and about 40 other birds — are especially fond of gardens, as some of their favorite food sources are fruit trees, nuts, and seeds. But, on the other hand, they also eat countless bugs, including caterpillars and grubs. Regardless of what they’re eating, mealtime will be accompanied by loud squawking. There may be a reason a group of crows is called a murder after all.

There are several reasons you might find yourself surrounded by crows. For starters, crows are willing to feast on over 600 foods, meaning there’s probably a few of their favorites on your property. And since they aren’t picky, that compost bin looks pretty tasty, too. Crows also roost up to 60-feet in the air, and tall trees are enticing places to build nests. Further, crows may also take your water feature for a river.

Corvus are highly social animals, and so they roost in large extended family groups. This means that shooing one single bird isn’t going to solve the issue, and that multiple tactics will probably be your best avenue to a bird-free yard. Here are a few ideas to get rid of crows:

Send Them Away

Scarecrow
Scarecrows: folklorish fun, but brainy researchers say you shouldn’t expect them to actually scare crows. Credit: Pixabay

The first step to ridding yourself of this avian plague is to clear them off your property. One of the best ways to do this is with visual deterrents, such as scarecrows. This tried and true method can both add some personality to the yard and fend off the intruders. He doesn’t have to be scary to humans, but make sure the scarecrow’s clothing is loose enough to flap in the wind. However, this really is less bird repellent and more the stuff of folklore. Fake owls kind of fall into the same category. While they work for a while, corvus are smart enough to figure out the ruse.

Decoys are a much more effective option. Fake crows, especially with wings spread, will likely cause residents to leave. While crows are very social, they are selective on who makes it into their circle. So, an upside-down crow decoy, which will be taken as a dead unfamiliar, is an effective tactic.

While many people like shiny stuff, crows decidedly do not. Reflective garden decorations are effective crow deterrents. But, if you’re still holding on to that giant binder of CDs from 2003, have I got an idea for you. String your old Garth Brooks, Celine Dion and Eminem CDs between trees, or against a fence. You’ll scare off the crows and clean out your trunk at the same time.

Now, another viable option may need to be approached with caution. Simulated distress calls and hair-trigger alarm systems will certainly frighten away the winged creatures lurking in the yard. However, these noisemakers might also distress your neighbors (or pets, or kids, or you…), so it’s not necessarily the best option for everyone.

Keep Them Away

Spiked surfaces deter crows.
Spiked surfaces deter crows, even if they scream bloody murder about it. Credit: PublicDomainPictures.net

Once you’ve made some progress in evicting the crows, it’s important to take steps that will prevent their return. The first step in permanent bird control is to clean up outdoor spaces. Cover trash cans and compost bins, and avoid feeding pets outside. Bird feeders intended to attract songbirds and other smaller birds will lure in crows as well, so consider removing them for now.

You may also want to eliminate prime roosting areas, such as dead branches. Since crows live in groups, pay attention to areas where they can roost together. However, this might also eliminate nesting opportunities for other birds.

Bird spikes (pictured above) are another great option to repel crows. You’ve likely seen these at shopping malls; they’re rows of spikes placed on fences and roof lines that inhibit birds’ ability to land. If crows don’t have anywhere to stand, they will eventually seek a new place to roost. Spikes can be installed on top of walls, fences, and rooflines; just make sure they are visible to crows.

To protect plants, use bird netting. This can be draped over plants, suspended from a framework, or hung from wire. For example, a framework can be built around small gardens and then the netting attached. The framework can be as permanent as wooden posts, or as simple as stakes built for supporting tomato plants. Wire, similar to a clothesline, can be strung between posts or trees, but be mindful of its height. Applying reflective tape will ensure visibility for any gardeners (and serve as another shiny repellent as well).

As with most issues, a variety of tactics will likely be most effective for your crow problem. You need to carrion … er, carry on, for a long time, to effect permanent crow control. And you might need to try out a few before you find the combination that works best. Remember, corvus are highly intelligent animals. Crow populations actually communicate in dialects specific to their murder, make and use tools, and practice cooperative breeding. They also have great memories and are highly adaptive – which may work against your best efforts. Perhaps you need to make peace and remember crows can bring some benefits with them, such as natural pest control. Plus, if you have a bunch of crows in your yard, you won’t have to do much Halloween decorating.

Main image: “Cawing crow” by Bennilover, CC by ND 2.0

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