Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 31, 2012

How to fight a plague of birds? Fake crows.

Artificial birds bought to scare off real flocks

By Carson Gerber
Tribune staff writer

— PERU — City officials say an enormous flock of crows which has plagued a small patch of city property for the last two years has begun leaving the plot alone after the city hung four artificial crows purchased from a Halloween store upside down from nearby trees.

Peru Mayor Jim Walker said the city has received multiple complaints this year about hundreds of crows flocking around 5:30 p.m. every day on a strip of property beside the old Peru firehouse located at 53 W. Main St. The city sold the firehouse to First Christian Church in 2004, but the city still owns the land beside the building.

He said the crows would coat the sidewalk, building and grass in bird droppings and had started to kill the pine trees on the property.

The crow infestation became so bad this year that Walker said a mother stopped letting her child play outside because of the droppings, and church attendees worried about getting hit with crow feces. Walker said the church purchased a “squawk box” last year which simulated predatory birds and kept the crows away. He said. the device didn’t affect the crows this year.

“We got to the point where we were willing to try anything. We just didn’t want to harm the birds,” he said.

Walker said he and Brenda Douglass, the mayor’s administrative assistant, started researching ways to keep the birds at bay. He said they came across an article online that said hanging fake crows upside down from the trees and allowing them flop in the breeze would scare the crows away.

“Of all the far-fetched ideas we read about, this one at least seemed to have some credibility,” he said.

The city purchased four artificial crows for $60 from an online Halloween store, and on Dec. 17, the street department hung them in the trees by the church.

“I thought this was either going to be folly, or this would be fantastic,” Walker said. “We were skeptical about it, but if it didn’t work, it was nothing lost, nothing gained, and $60 would be a cheap fix.”

That evening, Walker said he sat across from the church and watched as a dark cloud of crows flew in. They circled the trees, made a few tentative landings and then flew away, he said.

Walker reported Thursday the crows haven’t landed on the plot since the fake birds were hung upside down.

“Am I guaranteeing this will work forever? No way,” he said. “But it’s doing the trick for now and we haven’t seen crows in 10 days.”

“If people chuckle about the idea, that’s OK,” Walker said. “The main thing is that it’s working.”

Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He may be reached at 765-854-6739, or by email at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.