November 3, 2011


County continues effort to shoo crows

Pistol popper latest attempt to prevent the birds from roosting in the city

CrowsBob Ellis/staff photographer
Crows swarm the Cortland County Courthouse in January. The birds continue to be a major problem in the city.

Staff Reporter

This time of year can be murder.
A huge flock of crows, known as a “murder,” descends upon the treetops of Cortland in the colder months and county legislators are once more considering ways to deter the birds.
At the Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting Tuesday, lawmakers listened to the latest plan to frighten the birds away.
The county will purchase a $250 pistol popper kit to re-enforce the crow’s fear of the wailer machine at the County Courthouse, County maintenance foreman Chuck Miller said.
County employees would have to shoot the pistol poppers off in the direction of crows they wish to scare away.
They will target crows during roosting times in the early evening hours.
The mechanism works by making popping noises that frighten the birds from treetops as they are preparing to roost, explained Miller. A county employee would launch the popper into a tree, which would scare the birds into flight.
“What we have to do is make them uneasy about coming in to stay the night,” said Miller.
Once the birds roost they stay the night in that location. Miller is hopeful the birds would be frightened off and convinced to roost elsewhere, perhaps along the Tioughnioga River by Riverside Plaza.
The purpose of the popper is to back up the threatening sounds put off by the wailer. The poppers would be launched when the wailer is going off so the crows identify the noises of the wailer with the disturbance in the trees.
“They get used to the machine ... so every once in a while you have to add something different,” Miller said.
The kit would be purchased using funds in the Buildings and Grounds budget. The county is going to bid for the mechanism, Miller said.
A permanent wailer runs at the County Courthouse from 4:30 to 11 p.m. to deter crows from roosting there. It sounds hawk and eagle imitations and sounds of birds in distress.
The sounds can broadcast over about 2 acres.
The county also purchased a portable wailer in 2008 that produces hundreds of alarm sounds. The county has lent the device to the city in recent years.
By some accounts, Cortland’s crow population has grown from about 10,000 to about 30,000 over the past five years when Auburn started successfully shooing away its population, some of which are believed to have migrated to Cortland. Miller thinks the crow population has doubled over the past two years.
Legislator Newell Willcox (R-Homer), chairman of the county’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, said he hopes the $250 purchase is an effective investment.
“It was well pointed out that these crows are smarter than smart,” Willcox said. “They are probably smarter than most politicians.”
He added that since they get used to fear tactics and are not scared away, it becomes a “slippery slope” trying to deter them.
Ray Parker (D-2nd Ward) said he thinks an ornithology expert from Cornell University could examine the issue and give advice if the latest method does not work.


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