November 16, 2010


City plans no new approach for droves of crows

Birds have returned to roost in the city for warmth, protection as city wheels out noise machine

CrowsJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Crows roost in trees around Cortland in this file photo.

Staff Reporter

The crows have returned to the city and there are no new deterrents this year to try to keep them out of residential areas.
The city is already using a portable wailer the county bought for about $2,000 in 2008. It is used mainly within city limits, and can be loaned to non-profit groups or to different neighborhoods when the residents request it from their alderman.
Alderman Tom Michales (R-8th Ward) said that since the city’s 2011 budget still has not been finalized, there is a possibility that the city could find money for another noise-making machine to scare the crows, called a wailer.
“There is a risk there, you could spend a lot of money and they won’t go away,” Michales said.
The county also has a fixed wailer on the County Courthouse to make various noises, such as hawk or eagle imitations, intermittently from about 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to deter the crows. The machine is designed to keep the crows from roosting within about 5 acres.
“In my opinion, it has worked,” Cortland County Maintenance Supervisor Brian Parker said, adding that the machine only moves the crows, and there is no way to control them.
Parker said he didn’t believe the county had anything in the works to further alleviate the crow problem.
Alderman Dan Quail (R-5th Ward) said that he would prefer the city use the money for more important needs. There is nothing in the city’s 2010 budget, or in the proposed 2011 budget to address the crow situation.
“We have spent money year after year, and we just moved the crows from one section to another section (of the city),” Quail said.
Quail said he has been successful at scaring away crows by banging pots and pans, or putting loose change in a coffee can and shaking it. He said when he has done these techniques a couple of nights in a row when the birds are trying to roost, they will not come back.
Michales has had success by banging a pair of 2-by-4-inch pieces of wood together to scare the crows away.
According to Kevin J. McGowan, a researcher at Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology who studies crow behavior, the crows have been in the area for hundreds of years, and are just now becoming a problem because they have moved into a more developed area.
“It’s like a wrinkle in a carpet, you can’t get rid of it, you just move it around,” McGowan said, adding that the key is to leave the crows alone when they are in a less obtrusive area.
He estimates that there were about 10,000 to 15,000 crows in Cortland, but estimated the number jumped to about 30,000 about five years ago after the city of Auburn shooed about 80,000 crows out out the city.
McGowan said the crows are attracted to the city’s warmth in the winter and the light to protect themselves from predators. Crows cannot see in the dark any better than humans, unlike the crow’s biggest predator, the great horned owl.
The crows eventually get used to measures used to scare them into leaving.
McGowan said inanimate objects, such as fake owls, only work once, and the crows eventually get used to the same noises.
“You can’t guarantee any one thing that scares them will keep scaring them,” McGowan said. “They will get used to it.”
According to McGowan, the city of Geneva has had success in breaking up its crow population by mixing loud noises with green lasers and shell crackers, which are loud explosives shot out of a gun.
Systems of managing the crows, not eradicating them, are still in their infancy, McGowan said.


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