Stone the crows!!!

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slevy's picture
Stone the crows!!!

Hi All!

I've just joined this forum in the hope that I can get some tips to bring the birds back into my garden.

My quiet neighbourhood in Dianella, a northern suburb of Perth, has been taken over by vicious gangs of crows. They carried out their thuggery throughout the nesting season, and for us the last straw was when they ripped to shreds a Willie Wagtail nest right outside our window, that we and our little granddaughter had been watching for weeks.

The area has gone silent. There is no dawn chorus. Gone are the willy wagtails, the little wattlebirds, the New Holland honeyeaters, even the magpie larks, the magpies and the kookaburras. The pigeons with their annoying "will someone please answer that damn phone!" cooing have also gone.

All we can hear is the disgusting gagging noises of the local murder of crows - and what an apt collective noun it is!

I'm open to suggestions about what might be done to drive them away. I'm sorely tempted to use the method employed by Bryce Courtney's main character in Matthew Flinders' Cat - he rolled bits of rat poison in bread and fed them to the pigeons he hated so much! But that's illegal and I wouldn't want anybody's dog to take the poison instead.

All is not lost though - recently my husband heard of a CD entitled Crow Away (available online), which consists of alarm calls of birds, carefully chosen to deter crows. We rigged up a speaker outside and play it morning and late afternoon, and it might just be working.

We have now had a couple of New Holland honeyeaters, a kookaburra, a magpie lark and a pigeon around. The yellow-rumped thornbills that come by at dusk are not bothered by the crows, neither are the flocks of various parrots that screech past. Having said that, the feral rainbow lorikeets have been away a while - maybe there's just nothing to attract them here right now.

Sorry folks, I know I've said an awful lot, but being among kindred spirits is giving me some hope.

If anyone has any suggestions, it would be good to receive them. Thank you!


---'s picture

Nice to meet you, I live in the western suburbs of Perth.

Are these actual crows, or the native Australian Ravens? Instead of deterring these corvidae, why not try to attract the smaller, friendlier birds? Species in the corvidae family are all relatively large and not suited to hopping about in thick plants, so if you plant lots of dense shrubs and small trees they will generally not be attracted to your area.

In my opinon - no offense inclined - you're much better off with these crows/ravens,instead of having the neighbour's cat on the prowl in your garden, like many others including myself do.

Woko's picture

Hi Sue. It's certainly dismaying when something happens to drive off or get rid of the native birds whose presence you've been enjoying so much. I'd be interested in learning about the plant structure of your garden & the neighbourhood vegetation to get an idea of the features which might be attracting the "crows". My hunch is that the structure of your garden &/or the neighbourhood vegetation has been altered to favour the "crows" you mention so what Nathan says makes a lot of sense to me. Michael Morcombe's Field Guide to Australian Birds tells me that Perth has the Little Crow & the Australian Raven. If you can get hold of a bird field guide you should be able, by careful observation, to tell which of these two species is upsetting the balance in your garden.

You might want to think about replicating as closely as possible the structure of the bushland that once existed where you live. This bushland would almost certainly have had a large community of native birds & would not have been dominated by "crows" as your garden seems to be. Is there a patch of natural bushland near you from which you could get a good idea of the composition of the various plants? (If so, take note also of the variety of bird species which might be present). Recreating this structure & composition together with planting as many of the bushland plant species as possible in your own garden will go some distance toward creating a similar type of environment that is home to a variety of bird species. By using plants indigenous to where you live you might be surprised by the variety of other bird species that might be attracted to your garden, species which you may not have seen before.

All the best with that, Sue. And may your "crows" soon be back in balance with the rest of your garden's creatures.

slevy's picture

These birds are definitely the Australian ravens - they are a perfect match according to my Simpson and Day.

It's been very interesting to read the comments my post has attracted - clearly some people consider I am mistaken in wanting the ravens gone. But when my garden has been populated by so many friendly species for so long, it's depressing that they're no longer around.

We appreciated the efforts of the willie wagtails and little wattlebirds in picking the spiders off our eaves and window ledges, and enjoyed the visits of the kookaburras from the nearby golf course. Okay, I know kookaburras are predators too, and I've watched in horror as one took a baby bird from a nest and ate it. But they don't have the same dark aura as ravens do.

Our garden is a mixture of native and other species. It is not what you would call manicured - we have a row of Grevilleas, two types, and Albany Woolybushes along our back boundary; three spectacular eucalypts; a very tall native frangipani that the little wattlebirds love; palms, ferns and a large paperbark tree. it's a very big block with a sprawling house and a large pool, and we're blessed to be able to live this lifestyle.

The problem could actually be with changes in our neighbourhood. In the last couple of years several houses have been demolished in our street and many more in the streets nearby, and I was practically in tears a year ago when two glorious eucalypts that grew on the verge a few houses down the road were removed. The owners' pretext was that branches might fall and hurt their children going to school, but this was clearly a total lie when the house was demolished shortly afterwards. When houses are demolished, so are their gardens, which removes habitat and concentrates the birds in the remaining greenery. I guess that also concentrates the population of ravens when the nesting season starts. And when new houses go up, they take up most of the block and have scarcely any garden.

So my critics could be on the right track when they ask if anything has changed. On our block, the trees and bushes keep growing larger and are generally unpruned because we're getting older and the garden is simply too big for us to manage. So we are happy to let nature take its course.

Incidentally, we used to have 3 species of resident honeyeaters - the Brown and the Singing as well as the New Holland, but I recently realized the first two species must have moved on quite some time ago. I wonder why?

Finally, we have nothing to fear from the cat next door. She is tortoiseshell, 18 years old, lazy and terminally stupid!!! But I take your point.


slevy's picture

Hi Mike

I've just responded to Nathan with some of the answers you are seeking. The birds are definitely Australian ravens, not little crows, which I don't recall seeing around here at all.

We recently visited relatives in Seattle, USA, and our brother-in-law who is a longtime member of the Audubon Society, has completely given his garden over to the birds. You can hardly move for trees and bushes, all carefully placed to attract the birds he wants. His bird feeders are specifically designed for the right birds and he keeps them stocked with their favourite foods. Get him talking about them and he doesn't stop!

When he visited here the first time, I gave him a copy of Simpson & Day for Christmas and he didn't surface until he'd read the entire book!

It was he who first interested me in birds, many years ago, and for that I am grateful.


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