Why Crows

American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

In the spring of 2019 and again last year, many of us watched in horror and fury as a gang of American Crows mobbed and killed the fledglings of a pair of White-tailed Kites. See “Murder by Crows,” May 5 2019 and “Kite Cam 5,” May 9 2020. In the latter post, I wrote:

There is a considerable literature on getting rid of crows. Google “get rid of crows” and you’ll see. Shooting and poisoning, though tempting as a vent for anger, are inhumane, probably illegal, and don’t work. Removing crows begins with removing easy food sources. I’ve seen people in the park discard half-eaten bags of cheesey fritos, and crows pouncing on them. So obviously, personal habits of tidiness are part of the solution.

But Parks management also has a job to do. Open-top trash barrels like these in the park are feeding bowls for crows. The nearby hotel may have some responsibility as well. Are all its garbage containers solidly covered? The concentration of crows around the hotel says there is a problem. It may be time for local environmental groups to get together and form a delegation to visit park and hotel managements about this issue.

Here it is about 18 months later, and Cesar Chavez Park still has dozens of open-top trash barrels. I saw a crow dive into one and fly out with that paper bag in its beak, dropping it on the path, in the video above. Then it and some of its buddies had at it, feasting on the leftovers. (After filming, I picked up the remains and dropped them back in the barrel, for what it’s worth.)

We have a city ordinance that forbids feeding wildlife, and signs in the park say so. But these open-top trash barrels are so many city-maintained feeding stations for crows. We hear that Parks management is hoping to spend $7 million to dredge parts of the boat basin so that owners of the larger sailboats can cruise in and out at low tide. How about spending a small fraction of that price for modern covered trash barrels so that park visitors can cruise by without encountering spreads of trash on the ground. There’s plenty of natural food for the crows. They’re intelligent and resourceful birds. We don’t need to fatten them up and swell their numbers with our garbage.

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