How to Get Rid of Backyard Crows

Updated on November 30, 2017
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KA Hanna is a retired engineer who enjoys gardening and conducting performance tests on garden products.

The American Crow

American Crow
American Crow | Source

When Unwanted Crows Invade Your Yard

There is a reason they call it a "murder of crows." A noisy gang of 100-300 crows in the neighborhood is not pleasant, nor is it a mild nuisance. It turns the neighborhood into a virtual dead zone, unfriendly to songbirds, lizards, and other benign garden influences. Crows noisily call to one another as soon as the sun rises (unless you have particularly lazy crows) until sunset. They perform what I call "drive-bys"—dive-bombing unsuspecting humans and their pets. They attack and kill smaller creatures just because they feel like it and often leave the remains on patios or in birdbaths.

When our neighborhood—particularly our backyard and the adjacent neighbor's—became invaded by hundreds of crows, we had to do something, but we didn't know what, exactly, to do. Crows are protected in our part of California. We are not allowed to trap them or harm them in any way (nor would we want to). We were advised by the good people with the city that the most we could do was to make our garden and neighborhood "unpleasant" for them. This meant that we could be noisy; we could distract them visually using scarecrows, lights, or streamers, or we could "shoo" them away with our arms, hands, and voices.

None of those methods worked very well. As anyone who has ever been harassed by crows can attest, crows are smart. If they know you can't reach them or that you don't have the stamina to keep after them, then they will simply wait you out until you get tired and go away. So I set about to find smarter ways to humanely get rid of my backyard crows.

Killer Birds Audio

Killer Bird Audio: The YouTube Solution

I found a few "killer bird" audio tracks on YouTube, but simply playing them outside did not work very well. The crows just flew around, squawking and calling to one another. They quickly figured out that the audio was coming from my small iPad, and so they were not the least bit intimidated.

Then, I was given a gift of a Bluetooth speaker. I could position it in the crook of a tree branch so that it pointed straight up to the sky. Once positioned, I played the YouTube killer bird tracks at a relatively low volume so that I could hear it, but my neighbors could not. (About a 4-5 on the volume scale.)

To my surprise, the crows went silent. Many of them even flew away. Playing the tracks over and over for about an hour sent most of them packing, but about 6 crows remained behind to watch and wait. Occasionally, they flew by to look for the source of the killer bird sounds, but they never figured it out. Clearly, it was not just what I played, but how I played it.

Crow-Be-Gone CD

Since the YouTube audio seemed to work, I set out to find an audio solution that would be easier for me to use. The YouTube solution, while pretty effective, was hard to keep up. I had to play the track over and over in order to get rid of the crows and to keep most of them from returning. Since the running time of the YouTube track was about 15 minutes, this was a time-consuming activity.

An internet search brought me to the Crow-Be-Gone CD, which is a commercially made CD consisting of a compilation of calls made by birds of prey at random time intervals. The directions were clear and easy to follow. I positioned my bluetooth speaker up towards the sky, and played the CD at a level that was just barely audible to the human ear, about a level 3 on my speaker.

The Crow-Be-Gone solution was highly successful. Within a few minutes of play, the majority of the crows took off. A couple dozen continued to stand sentry in the tallest trees that overlook my garden, but they were silent. Occasionally, one flew overhead to try to find the speaker, but they were not able to figure it out. They also never got used to the audio, which I played every day for just over 2 weeks, at different times each day, in the mornings and again in the late afternoons. After the initial couple of weeks, I played the CD twice a day, once in the morning and once around twilight. This seemed to keep most of the crows from roosting in the tall trees behind our property. It also kept most of the crows from "hunting" in our garden in the mornings, and from invading our birdbaths, though this did remain an occasional problem.

My neighbors, who also love to garden but were forced indoors because of the crow problem, commented to me one day that whatever I was doing about the crows seemed to be working. They reported that the crows "seemed further away" and that they were able to get out to their garden and plant a few tomato plants and flowers.

The CD was so successful that we actually enjoyed a summer free of backyard crows. Then, we made the mistake of going on vacation for a few weeks. We came back to hundreds of crows yet again, and had to start all over.

Crow Scare Methods and Test Results

Scare Method
Pro
Con
Killer Bird Audio from YouTube
Works well, crows go silent, many fly away.
Need to play track over and over for an hour or more. Not all crows left. Crows may come back after a time.
Crow Be Gone CD
Works well, crows go silent, most fly away. CD plays for an hour (approx)
Crows may return, but worked for a long time.
Scarecrow (homemade)
Fun to make, looks nice in garden
Did not work at all. Crows not scared.
Fake Crow Model
Works well. Crows leave. They may become used to it if not moved around.
A little pricey. Must move the model around from time to time.

Fake Crow

Fake crow after two seasons battling the real crows.
Fake crow after two seasons battling the real crows. | Source

Crow Model

Going on vacation also caused another type of crow problem for us: nesting. This was different from crows merely roosting at night, now we had to deal with expectant parent crows, plus crows that acted like a bodyguards. The Crow-Be-Gone CD kept them relatively silent, but they weren't going anywhere.

At this point, I decided to try a crow model—essentially a fake crow that you hang upside-down from a stick or from your patio cover so that is moves a little in the wind. Real crows are supposed to find fake crows to be so disturbing that they fly away. They may consider upside-down crows to signal danger.

I bought my fake crow around Halloween time, when realistic fake crows are in abundance at the party stores. I tied a string around its feet and hung it from my boysenberry trellis, facing the trees where the crows were nesting.

The crow model had some effect. The sentry crows came out and stood guard. The expectant parent crows stayed silent. All signs seemed promising.

Then, the crows came into my garden and plopped themselves down in my birdbaths. I chased them out, and moved the crow model to hang from my patio. This seemed to be better, as the fake crow blew in the breeze and really appeared to look as though a crow happened to die in this upside-down position. It screamed danger.

The patio-positioned fake crow, along with the CD, kept the real crows out of my garden until the babies hatched. Overall, while the crow model was effective, I felt that it was only a partial solution to the problem.

Ultrasound Pest Deterrent Next to Birdbath

Ultrasound pest deterrent flashes light when crows land in the water dish.
Ultrasound pest deterrent flashes light when crows land in the water dish. | Source

Ultrasound Pest Repeller

The birdbaths still seemed to be a lure for the crows. They couldn't stay completely away, and would dive in and harass the small song birds that we tried to attract. When it got to be too distressing to witness the small birds getting attacked by the crows, I decided to try an ultrasound motion-activated pest deterrent. I received one from a friend that has a light that flashes when it detects motion. It worked very well, too well, in fact. It scared all the birds and the crows, and it was a long time before the little birds learned to trust again.

Still, if you are trying to protect a particular area of your garden from crows, the motion-activated pest deterrent works very well. Just keep in mind that it is an indiscriminate solution, and will scare away all animal life.

Then the Trees Fell

I wish I could say that my humane crow deterrents worked 100 percent, but after two long seasons of battling the crows, someone in my neighborhood snapped. It began when my neighbor bought a trumpet, followed by an air horn. He blasted the crows and the entire neighborhood with sound. Finally, when he could stand no more, he called the city and received permission to hire tree trimmers to take down his tallest trees. The crows scattered, heading back to the open space areas where they are supposed to live. We still have some that try to roost at night, but not the hundreds that we had before. The dozen or so that are left are easily moved along by playing the birds of prey CD, or by moving the fake crow into their line of sight. Songbirds, lizards, owls, hawks, woodpeckers and other wildlife have returned. The neighborhood is wondrous once again.

What Crow Scare Method Works for You?

If you've used one of the following methods with success, let us know here:

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You Really Can Outsmart Backyard Crows

If you want to get rid of backyard crows, and you want to do it humanely and quietly, I'd recommend looking into an audio deterrent first, like a birds of prey CD, or audio tracks from YouTube. Be prepared to spend some time and energy in executing your plan. Be diligent and crafty. Most importantly of all - never give up. The crows will eventually move along, but they will not go quietly.

Questions & Answers

  • How can I get crows to move on from my backyard easily?

    It’s very difficult to get crows to move along, especially of they find your backyard to be inviting. What I do is to try to make my yard unappealing to crows. I have removed large sources of water and replaced them with small cups of water - large enough for finches and not much else. I play my hawk/birds-of-prey loop first thing in the morning and at dusk. I also clean up debris that can be used as nesting material - I have even replaced all shredded mulch with wood nuggets. Crows are very intelligent, and will stick around and try to outsmart you. Keep a close eye on your garden and try to figure out what might be attracting them, and remove it if you can. Also consider the time of day when automatic sprinklers come on, as they may be attracted to the water. I’ve begun watering at 4 a.m., before the sun rises.

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