California town mulling using laser after being invaded by crows

Vice mayor suggests annual ‘crow festival’ if efforts fail

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 18 January 2022 20:28
<p>An estimated 1,000 crows live in Sunnyvale, California </p>

An estimated 1,000 crows live in Sunnyvale, California

A coastal town in California is considering using lasers to scare away crows after thousands started roosting during the Covid pandemic.

Sunnnyvale mayor Larry Klein said on Sunday that crows had roosted in the town for decades, but had become a nuisance.

“The streets are basically riddled with crow poo,” he told The New York Times of around 1,000 crows that are estimated to call the town, about 40 miles southeast of San Francisco, home.

Residents also say the crows disappear during the day to only return at night, when they feed off food waste and defecate the sidewalks.

“I’ll go inside unless I’m under an umbrella,” resident Frank Hampton told CNN. “The city has tried everything to get the birds to find a new spot, but all success has been short lived.”

According to plans revealed at the weekend, three city employees will soon spend an hour every night shining a laser at crows. Sounds will also be played to encourage the birds to nest elsewhere.

“The biggest thing is to harass them enough so a large percentage of them find new homes,” Mr Klein said of the lasers, which cost about $20 (£14) each and are reportedly cheaper than hiring a falconry person.

“We have had a falcon previously, a hawk, but it has had limited success and the crows return,” he said. “It’s a health problem we’ve had to deal with, and at the cost of the city, so if we have a cheap solution, there’s no reason to try it, right?”

Cities elsewhere in the United States have tried similar techniques, including in Rochester, New York, which attempted to displace up to 30,000 of the birds in 2018.

The crow population of Sunnyvale is far smaller, in comparison.

Wildlife experts have warned that the laser plans might not be enough to get the crows to leave the town however, with ornithologist Kevin J McGowan telling The Times: “They’re like teenagers and Covid. You can’t stop them getting together.”

Sunnyvale vice mayor Alysa Cisneros tweeted on Monday: “It was just suggested to me that if we can’t actually make the crows leave, that Sunnyvale start having an annual crow festival. Would you come?”

More than 87 per cent of those polled told the mayor they would.

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