About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How Do I Deter Crows at the Feeder?

The crows have discovered our backyard feeders and are prone to take over. How can we keep the crows from scaring away the song birds we love.

You didn’t specify what feeders or food you are using, but when you set the table the birds come. Crows don’t realize they are “bad” birds. In fact I love to watch how the crows interact with each other.

The American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos is in the family of corvids, which includes both crows and ravens. Large flocks of crows are loud and can eat a lot. However, crows are some of the smartest birds on the planet. Their populations are just now recovering in mid Michigan from the first appearance of West Nile virus in the Western hemisphere in 1999. Their susceptibility to the virus made them a useful indicator of the West Nile activity. They are also useful in cleaning up road kill or garbage on the roads and can consume about forty thousand grubs, caterpillars, worms and bugs during a single nesting period.

The “good” song birds actually appreciate crows in the winter too. Crows announce loud and clear when you fill the feeder, if there is a predator nearby, and will defend their territory against incoming hawks.

However if you are supporting too many crows, there are a few techniques to reducing the numbers that visit your feeders.

Keeping the crows at bay

1)Change seed: Take away cracked corn or food scraps, their favorite foods. Switch to an all safflower seed diet for a few weeks. Squirrels, blackbirds, starlings, and crows don’t like safflower. It may take awhile for the other songbirds to accept the change but it is a favorite with cardinals and chickadees. And gradually the rest of the songbirds will switch over to safflower.

2)Change your bird feeders: Replace platform or hopper feeders with tube feeders, the Squirrel Buster Plus weighted perch feeder, or the upside down suet feeder. If the birds are unable to sit and eat comfortably they will probably move on to easier feeding areas.

3)Keep larger birds away from spilled seed: Since song birds knock seed out of feeders, limit access to spilled seed by placing rocks or shrubs beneath your feeders. Smaller birds will be able to hop in and out of tiny places, unlike crows.

4)Make the area more desirable for songbirds: Lots of trees will make them feel secure, as will the presence of a constant water source. Blackbirds and Crows prefer the open fields or yards.

I hope these tips reduce the number of crows at your feeders to an acceptable level. Thanks for the question.