We’ve all grown up with folk tales and fables concerning crows and their craftiness, and have collectively developed negative perceptions of crows as a species. While crows being intrinsically connected with notions of evil may be unfounded, their intelligence and ability to adapt certainly isn’t.
If you find a gathering of crows to be a problem on your property, consistently switching up different preventative and scaring measures will work against these highly-intelligent birds. Being informed of basic crow physiology and psychology would greatly assist in the process, as well as learning of any legal and pathological ramifications as well.
Not everyone wants to go through the trouble to pay and hire a pest control to deal with crows. In addition, you’ll learn some fun facts about crows which will greatly enhance your understanding of these intelligent creatures and maybe even garner some appreciation for the birds.
What Attracts Crows to Your Yard?
As expected of most wild animals, the most common incentive for luring any species is linked to the food that they eat. With birds, however, there is an added necessity for places to perch and/or roost.
Foods such as seeds and fruits; insects to dead animals are all incredibly appealing to the black bird’s omnivorous diet.
Crows, like any other bird, need places to rest high above the reach of predators or other unnecessary disturbances. Even if your yard was cleared of its final stump, man-made objects such as poles or sheds, fences and metal bars would still do the job for a crow.
However, being one of the most intelligent birds out there, the mere image of crows in your yard will attract other crows to join the party. This means even constructing crow decoys can attract crows to your yard, if such a result was your intention.
How to Get Rid of Crows in the Yard
To get rid of crows in the yard, begin by removing any and all incentives that can lure a crow into your yard in the first place.
After removing bits of good, garbage or even something like a crow corpse, place items that would scare the birds away in strategic locations around the yard, while being wholly aware that they’ll need to be switched up and repositioned every so often.
- Hanging shiny items like aluminum plates, worn-out or empty CDs to reflective bird tape around fences could prevent crows from perching upon them.
- Creating or purchasing wind-activated flappers whose motions scare and frighten off birds like crows.
- Playing recordings of predator noises. Be warned: this may attract other predators of the same species, so you may be trading in one problem for the other.
- Buying chemical bird repellent such as Avian Control from Avian Enterprises, which is a liquid that lasts up to two weeks outdoors.
Check with local wildlife agencies and law enforcement on the legality to kill crows via shooting (see “Is it Legal to Kill Crows?” below).
How to Keep Crows Away From Your Garden
There are plenty of preventative options available for the gardener annoyed by the invasion of crows in the vicinity. These can be anything from, but not limited to:
- Removing potential areas to roost, be it organic (trees, low-branched hedges) to man-made (poles used for laundry, or bird baths).
- Feeding your pets indoors to prevent food scraps from being left behind.
- Controlling the grub population in the soil through good gardening or the usage of nematodes.
- Cleaning up and securely latching the lid on trash cans.
- Generally denying access to food sources for the crow.
Crows are incredibly intelligent, and a mixed, varied combination of techniques is needed in order to provide optimal results. Using the same, consistent scaring method for days or weeks will enable crows to quickly catch on what is going, and will make them dismiss devices a legitimate threat.
As for the seeds and edible fruits of your garden, there are a multitude of things you can do to crow-proof your hard-grown vegetables and plants:
- You can cover your compost heaps overnight or when they’re not being disposed into.
- Buy bird feeders designed only for smaller birds and exclude larger ones like crows, and clean up after spillage.
- Cover seedlings with a thin fabric or other type covering that enable air between the covers.
- Cover mature plants with bird netting, or drape over overhanging fences or poles.
- Placing a paper cup or bag over ripening corn or similarly shaped crops.
It is not recommended to use traps, as crows are federally protected by the law in the United States of America. Crows also have the ability to tell if something is a trap by testing the bait within reach, and will fly off to warn other crows about it.
Alternatively, if you have the time and energy to scare crows by yourself, if you can ensure that the memory was particularly traumatic for them (i.e. you attempted to catch them through brute force via netting), they may not return for months and even years.
What Animals Prey Upon Crows?
Larger birds of prey, such as red-tailed hawks and owls would take down an adult crow if allowed the opportunity, and are the main predators of them. Crows do fight and attack these animals in return by large numbers (called “mobbing”), but do not eat them.
Mammals such as raccoons, dogs and of course, cats hunt for crows, as well. Even bears feast upon crow nests for their eggs if they get the chance.
In addition to predatory animals, the tiny mosquito is a carrier of the West Nile virus which has been reported to be highly lethal to crows. Crows themselves cannot pass the virus onto humans— only the bite of an infected mosquito can.
What Are Crows Afraid of?
Be highly skeptical of devices that use sound in an effort to scare away crows. Birds cannot hear ultrasonic sounds, so avoid the purchasing of such devices.
Recorded sounds of crows in distress have fetched mixed results, and can attract other unwanted predators wishing to capitalize on an easy meal instead.
A motion-activated garden hose can be used to frighten crows temporarily, until they learn that water cannot actually harm them.
As with most birds, crows are wary and cautious of humans and will quickly take off at the sight of a charging animal or angry homeowner stumbling towards it. However, no one has the convenience or time to be prowling their front yard for unwanted wild animals, to say less of crows.
Crows are highly intelligent and will remember a face. If you can use this information to your advantage, you can, for example, be such a traumatizing memory for crows that they do not return to your area forever.
Having a canine or feline pet that freely roams the yard is therefore an easy solution to ward off any and all birds.
The sight of a dead crow (or several) can signal to other crows that the area is not safe for their kind. However, this only works with crow decoys, as an actual crow corpse will draw a murder of crows to investigate. Halloween crow decorations are a simple and effective solution, requiring no usage of chemicals, noise, or any messes to clean up after, and can easily be hung or placed due to their lightweight portability compared to traps.
There are many different types of bird repellents that are humane, non-chemical or toxic and capitalize on bird psychology.
Objects such as bird repellent tape which reflect bright light ward off certain species of birds from wanting to perch on your garden or lawn.
Owl decoys exist on the market which replicate the stature and head movement of an owl to clearly indicate to other prey critters from crow to mice not to wander into your lawn. However, crows don’t get fooled by these electronic imitations for too long, which is why you should reposition them often.
How Do I Stop Crows from Destroying My Lawn?
Crows dig up the grass and turf on your lawn in order to get to the tasty grubs underneath feeding on roots. Before you rush to action, allow the crow(s) to do some of their feasting, as they contribute their part to controlling the pest insect population.
Once the crows have finished or fled, you can stomp back or bury torn-up sod and dirt, but if the damage is too severe, a full garden makeover may be necessary— after you’ve taken preventative measures.
The easiest way to discourage the crows’ digging habits on your lawn is to deny them their reason for digging in the first place. Do not bother using insecticide, as its usage is considered illegal and ineffective in many states and provinces.
Instead, you can use packeted nematodes watered into your soil methodically which attack the grub larvae’s development.
As for interacting with the birds themselves, any combination of using bird repellents listed above to trapping or killing crows would be enough to prevent crows from flocking to your lawn and destroying it with their grub-digging habits in the first place.
Do Crows Kill Other Birds?
Crows, being omnivores and not on the bottom of the food-chain do indeed kill other birds. It is a common complaint that the presence of crows scares off more pleasant songbirds due to their predatory stigma.
However, crows kill other birds very rarely. They would attack smaller birds if no other food source was around, but they would much rather raid nestlings than assassinate a bird mid-flight.
Crows aren’t wholly responsible for decrease in bird populations, as confirmed in predator removal studies. Many other species from raccoons, foxes, hawks, owls to bullfrogs and rodents gladly eat birds with little fear.
In fact, crows themselves are subject to the same peril of becoming a meal when they’re young or roosting. The plain fact of the matter is that crows are often not the problem predators they’re made out to be.
Are Crows Bad for Other Birds?
The main danger crows pose to other species of birds is to their young. Being one of nature’s best opportunists, a crow would snack upon the eggs while the parents are away from the nest or kidnap a nestling in order to devour it at a safe distance.
However, as stated above it is very rare for a crow to go out of its way to attack another live, grown bird in the abundance of other food sources nearby. Crows have been observed to bring down pigeons, robins, and sparrows, sometimes entirely by themselves.
Crows, while famed for being omnivorous scavengers, have been noted to have developed hunting tactics for their meat. Quite interestingly, crows also track and prey upon fatigued migratory birds. Size and thickness of the bird’s skin matter to the crow’s ability to pierce the flesh with their beaks.
Are Crows Dangerous?
The answer depends on your definition of “dangerous.” To the smaller animals and insects in your backyard? Definitely. To your cats and dog-sized pets? Still unlikely.
What about your immediate person or family member? If you’re worried about crows attacking your smaller children on the lawn, that, too, is highly unlikely to happen, unless they clearly stumble near a crow’s nest of young.
Crows may be certainly annoying and unwelcome to electricians stumbling upon crow nests on towers or neighbors subject to a morning flight by crows, but no recorded death of a human from a crow has yet to be recorded.
Are Crows Poisonous?
No bird species is known to exist with a venomous bite, and only a handful of birds are toxic to consume.
Although some crows have been observed to eat from garbage, it’s the ones who feast on the brains of animal carcasses which have the potential to spread prion illnesses such as mad cow disease, scrapie, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and more (source: smithsonianmag.com)
Assuming that you don’t want to eat crow, there’s very little to fear from the clawing or pecking from a crow mob. If a crow attack does draw blood, however, it’s important that you disinfect the wound and seek medical attention relative to the severity of the wound.
Are Crows Helpful or Harmful?
Crows are considered harmful to property owners because they may chase away more welcomed songbirds or dig up the grass on the lawn. Very, very rarely do their direct interaction with humans result in physical attacks.
The cawing noises they make also draw much ire from humans in nearby vicinities, but this is because the crow is a social animal. However, those with ornithophobia, or a fear of birds, may find the black and stigmatized crow to be a particularly disturbing specimen to be in the presence of.
Conversely, crows are helpful for the environment and the land owner because they help control the insect population, as well as cleaning up roadkill and other carrion. When they eat certain fruits or seeds, the seeds pass through their digestive system and help with renewing the forest flora and fauna as a result.
Some gardeners have reported to found unwanted stones in their garden after a raid by a murder of crows/ravens/rooks. The reason may be because crows like to gift their human benefactors with items they deem to be gifts, such as shiny or unusually-shaped objects.
Why Do Crows Keep Attacking Me?
According to the Chairman of Vancouver Avian Research Centre, Derek Matthews, “‘most crow attacks happen in May, June, July which is the nesting season for crows like many other song birds’” (source: dailyhive.com).
The reason for crow attacks is therefore to mitigate any threat they deem to be wandering too close to their young from the nest. Therefore, cats, dogs, and even people could be potential targets of their wrath when disturbed.
Electricians climbing power lines may find a crow in their face when they are unwittingly closing in on its nest, for example. Or, children climbing atop trees to find themselves face to face with an angry crow mother defending its young.
If a crow or group of crows (which is called a “murder”) has been singling you out for their mobbing, it’s highly likely because crows have memorized your face, and passed the message to other crows. Crows are one of the few animals to be known to carry and inherit grudges!
Crows have also been found to be able to remember other signs of identification on a human, from facial features to clothing, and can even communicate this knowledge to other crows.
If you are being attacked by a crow, don’t make wild movements back at the bird. Walk or run away from where it’s chasing you, as chances are it’s simply defending its territory and its nest.
Is it Legal to Kill Crows?
Although many states in the US claim to allow the killing of crows without restrictions, crows are federally protected in the United States, meaning you cannot trap or kill one without expecting heavy fines and even jail time.
However, the penalties for killing a crow can be overcome by having a valid permit. Even if you have the proper hunting license, you need to stop and research before you begin shooting any crows.
Depending on the laws of your state and locality, it may be considered a misdemeanor to discharge a gun in a public space. Even then, your neighbors may be severely frightened and call law enforcement on you for firing your weapon in your own backyard.
Poisoning is almost universally discouraged in the killing of any animal, as it is considered inhumane and a painful way to die. It is ineffective in targeting a specific animal, and you wouldn’t want to risk an investigation when wildlife authorities and law agencies decide to investigate a clan of crows dead from poisoned corn, for instance.
Why Do Crows Gather Around a Dead Crow?
Crows have been observed to gather around the corpse of a crow and make loud cawing noises, similar to humans mourning at a funeral. However, the purpose behind the action is two-fold.
While gathering and making loud noises around a deceased fellow corvid is a means to say goodbye, what crows are really doing is investigating what caused its death in the first place. They will poke and examine the corpse, determining how and if it was killed, and verbally warn the other members to avoid the cause of death in the future.
Why Do Crows Gather at Dawn?
Crows make their presence known to their irritated human neighbors by loudly cawing as they disperse from their roosting areas at dawn. The reason for this loud squawking is akin to a meet-and-greet before searching for food.
Therefore what you’re most likely hearing in the morning is the excited dispersal of crows from the places they’ve roosted overnight, instead of crows gathering at dawn.
Why Do Crows Gather at Sunset?
In addition to gathering at dawn, crows gather at sunset as well. Being intelligent, communal creatures, crows host their own giant slumber parties.
They may initiate this by perching all on the same tree, squawking and fluttering between branches, while exchanging information about food sources and predators, as well as providing a chance for them to find a mate.
How Many Years Does the Crow Live?
Crows reach sexual maturity around 3-4 years, and can live up to twenty years. If two decades didn’t seem long enough, they can live up to twice as long in captivity.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare