Add roosting crows to the growing list of modern inconveniences. Crow complaints are on the rise, joining white-tailed deer, pigeons, squirrels, rats, skunks, raccoons, mice, moles, spiders and numerous other species that have taken advantage of niches provided by human habitat and made pests of themselves thereby. Gregarious American crows give particular offense in some upstate New York communities where they have had the effrontery to establish communal roosts, fillings trees with their unlovely forms by the tens of thousands and carrying on after hours when decent folk are trying to sleep.
Oneonta, New York has been dealing with these uncouth avians since the late 1990s. According to a 1998 article in The Daily Star, the crows in these parts have been raising quite a ruckus.
"It is a big nuisance if you sleep with your windows open," said Scott Van Arsdale, wildlife technician with the state Department of Environmental Conservation office in Stamford."
They have also caused damage to private property. One Oneonta resident, Justine Diaz, reports that
"crows, along with skunks, feasted on grubs in the front yard until damage was so severe the lawn had to be reseeded at a cost of about $500. 'I think it was more the grubs' fault than the crows...They're birds. ... I just figured they were part of the flora and fauna — like deer."
Indeed. But lest we make too much light of these aggravations, with each succeeding year there has been an escalation in the conflict over crows. The City of Albany has requested non-lethal assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to discourage the birds from roosting.
The Business Review (Albany) reported on December 15th that:
"The non-lethal methods will include the use of pyrotechnics, electronic guards, lasers and amplified recorded crow distress calls.
The control methods will be used between 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. City officials said residents in the area may be aware of the lasers, pyrotechnics and amplified crow distress calls."
Presumably these early morning noises are less objectionable than those made by the crows and more in keeping with the natural sounds of the urban environment.
Lest you think that the crows have no champions, no lesser body than Citizens of New York State Against Crows' Harassment (CNYSACA) petitioned Governor George Pataki to stop crow relocation efforts and even more sinister plans for baiting and poisoning crows refusing to vacate. After expressing their opposition to the use of tax dollars to harass crows, they admonished the Governor to
"[p]lease remember that the “real threat” to our society is not the crows, but rather, terrorist attacks (internal and external), and the loss of moral values in all areas of our society, where school age children shoot and kill each other, and corporations misappropriate their employees retirement funds, leaving them penniless overnight."
Another group forthrightly called Save the Crows campaigns to stop crow shoots and efforts they claim have been made by New York authorities to circumvent the Federal Migratory Bird Act.
I am well aware that wildlife management is a serious business, and doubtless having many thousands of crows as your neighbors presents challenges not mentioned in press reports. I suspect there are concerns in some quarters about nutrient loading from increased guano deposits and fears of a depressing effect on property values. And to be frank, most people don't consider crows exactly cute. If this were about a mob of parrots, you wouldn't hear all this nonsense from urbanites about pyrotechnics and distress calls.
Still, they've got nothing on vultures, which are also communal roosters and flock to my town by the thousands when nighttime shadows fall. The only fireworks you'll see around here are on the 4th of July.