Caw and Order: This California City Is Using Lasers in Its Struggle Against Crows

Crows are taking over Sunnyvale, California.
Crows are taking over Sunnyvale, California. / Firehorse/iStock via Getty Images

In bucolic Sunnyvale, California, a new kind of blight has appeared. It’s crow poop. And it’s covering the sidewalks and buildings.

According to The New York Times, an increase in the crow population has turned Sunnyvale into the birds' own personal bathroom and lounge—one where the birds, known for their fierce intelligence, is also bombarding residents with sticks and other detritus.

Not even sleep comes easily to locals, who are often roused in the morning by the vocal birds.

To cope with this avian harassment, town officials plan on retaliating in the most humane way possible—by using laser pointers and boomboxes to scare their unwanted guests away.

The move comes after they had little success hiring a mercenary—in this case, a falconer—who had no luck scaring off the crows with a bigger bird. Nor did reflective material in trees dissuade the crows from assembling. The brightly lit town and its abundance of food sources makes it too attractive for them to ignore.

Using a strategy that’s worked in other crow-infiltrated cities, workers will now shine a green laser pointer into the skies and toward crows (which number roughly 1000) for one hour each evening. According to experts, the laser light may fool the crows into thinking a predatory animal is moving across tree branches. Meanwhile, a speaker blasting sounds of crows cawing and some crow effigies hanging in trees could lead the crows to believe Sunnyvale is no longer crow-friendly.

Corvid expert Kevin McGowan, an ornithologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, told the Times that the crow dispersal strategy would work better if townspeople aimed firecrackers at the birds to further unsettle them.

Crows, McGown said, are “like teenagers,” and enjoy congregating despite attempts to get them moving along.

Town officials have yet to see whether this nuisance approach will work. Some experts even suggest Sunnyvale and other communities like it learn to co-exist with the crows, creating green spaces for them to chill in.

If the extreme measures are ineffective, they might be in for even more problems: Crows have been observed to not only remember and identify human faces but nurse grudges against those who pester them.

[h/t The New York Times]