“They’re psycho crows!” my friend exclaimed. “Every day. Four o’clock in the morning. Caw! Caw! Caw! They’re driving me crazy.” I sympathized with her. It happens every year. Do nesting crows dive-bomb you when you walk the dog? Do they clean out your garden seeds? Do they use your car or the side of your house for target practice? There’s a solution. First a disclaimer: I know crows were here before we were and I admire their brains and clan fealty. I admire their bravery in spring, before the fish runs start, when some hungry ‘Bruce Willis’ eagle looks down at a crow colony guarding their chicks, says to himself, “Hey, I’m an eagle,” and plows right through a hundred crows attacking him from every direction. When an eagle hits a crow nest, the noise is terrific. Crows are pretty cool.
The thing is, town crows become crow towns because of edible garbage, road kill, pet food left outside and people feeding them directly. In addition to food, living in towns means street lights and traffic sounds that hamper owls and other nocturnal crow predators. After a few decades of safety, abundant food, and warm winters crow towns become boom towns.
Crow colonies are a voracious organism. An old-time Juneauite told me crows had played a central part in wiping out the song birds that used to live in his neighborhood when he was a kid. That came home to me when a crow chased a juvenile red breasted sap sucker into our window one day. Bang! As the sap sucker flapped stunned on the ground, the crow pounced and tried to fly off with it alive in its mouth; and would have if I hadn’t chased it off.
Little nesting birds in our yard are under my protection. What to do? Here are actual internet ideas for evicting crows: cutting down trees the crows perch in, sonic bird repellers played on outdoor speakers—one kind claims to cover six acres for just $670, crow traps, laser pointers, shooting, poisoning, liquid Bird Stop TM –$122.75 a gallon—apply this product in calm weather when rain is not expected …(says it’s harmless but don’t get it on you), playing owl sounds or distressed crow sounds from a loud speaker, loud fireworks in the early evening and there’s even a guy who sends his trained hawk after the crows.
Not wanting to impact other birds, bats, neighbors, the environment etc. I dug the kids’ blowgun out of the shed and bought some paintballs. Commercial blowguns in the sporting goods section cost around fifteen dollars. They are three to four feet long, made of aluminum tubing and have a lip inside the mouth piece to keep you from aspirating the ammunition. Check the inside barrel diameter. Mine takes .40 caliber paintballs which are about the size of a cherry pit. Couldn’t find paintballs in town but they’re available online. When you shoot, put your thumb over the tube as you inhale (just to be extra sure you don’t inhale the paintball) when ready, channel your inner Amazon rainforest hunter and exhale forcefully from the abdomen. “Phooo!” Paintballs from blowguns don’t splatter on crows, or kill them like a paintball gun would, but they sting. They’re surprisingly accurate to a distance of 50 feet.
Out in the yard, on the first day, a half dozen crows flew to branches right above my head and began to caw. In good Huaorani gentleman fashion I aimed and fired. Phooo! Bap! Hit the nearest crow smack in the gizzard. He was so surprised he didn’t fly off. He yelled, Caw! I fired again. Phooo! At that he flew for higher branches. His cronies did likewise but I popped another of them on the higher branch and then a third. They went to a different tree, then to the telephone wires but they were easy marks. In no time the songbirds and I had the place to ourselves.
That was many crow generations ago. Now there are forty-something crows squawking in the neighborhood each spring; but rarely in our yard. They still check every year to see if our place is an option but they’ve learned to be absolutely quiet and all I have to do is open the door and show them the blowgun. They bag it en masse—but only if I have the blowgun. Naturally, it’s easier for you and the crows to drive them off before they’re nesting. They teach their young ones to stay away but occasionally a blue-eyed youngster crow lands in our trees when it’s learning to fly. It wouldn’t be right to shoot one of those because it might fall and break a wing. Instead, I walk out, show the little one the blowgun and explain things calmly to them as their elders are going nuts in the next yard. “It’s nothing personal, but if you’re back next month our relationship will have changed.” This is how we have come to an understanding; the crows and me. Meanwhile, juncos, sapsuckers, thrushes, robins, hummingbirds and other feathered friends fledge out and prosper under the neighborhood blowgun watch.