Crows are native to North America with other related species around the world. They are common in urban and suburban areas and are often mistaken for their larger relative, the raven, which lives in more rural, forested areas. Chances are, you have crows that live on or near your property.
Crows serve as natural pest control, play important ecosystem roles, and eat waste. In a negative light, they can cause damage to your garden or crops, often get into your trash, or spreading droppings throughout your yard.
Crows are amazing creatures in many ways, and most people have divided opinions on their presence in their yard or around their home, and today – we’re going to talk about all of it! Read on to find out more about the good and the bad of having crows around, and a couple of tips on how to repel or attract the crows.
What Are Some Benefits Of Having Crows Around?
Crows are a part of our ecosystem, and like any other animal, play an important role in the ecosystem balance.
They are intelligent omnivores, who feed on everything from fruits, seeds, and nuts, to insects and even small animals. There are many benefits to having crows around your home.
Crows Are Beautiful To Look At
The first pro of having crows around is simply that they are beautiful birds. They congregate in family groups, of a few in the warm summer months, and up to hundreds or thousands in large winter roosts.
Crows are large birds, with males tending to be slightly larger than females, and have glossy, black, iridescent feathers. They have strong black feet and slightly hooked beaks that are strong enough to crack through hard nuts and seeds.
Crows have a serious, refined look, with their dark color and smooth feathers. Their beauty has inspired many literary allegories and folklore.
Crows Can Eat Fallen Waste In Your Yard
Crows are scavengers. They mainly eat by scavenging around the ground, turning over leaves and rocks to find tasty insects or seeds. They are opportunists though, and capitalize on abandoned prey and even trash.
A benefit of having crows around is that they will eat waste in your yard. They are known to dine on roadkill and will pick clean prey that was hunted by another predator.
As well as scavenging carion, crows will eat food scraps and even your yard debris including weeds and old flowers. If you have fruit trees, crows will not let the fallen and overripe fruit go to waste, dining on fallen apples or berries in your yard.
Crows Act As Natural Pest And Predator Control
Although crows tend to scavenge much like a vulture, capitalizing on the hard work of other predators to score a meal, crows will also do some of their own hunting when they get the chance.
According to the University of Michigan, crows will prey on small mammals like mice, rats, and even rabbits, which are all pests that can cause a lot of damage to your home and garden. Crows also eat a larger amount of insects than they do mammals. Crows will feast on slow-moving slugs, worms, and a bunch of other insects that do major damage to your crops!
Not only do crows predate unwanted pest animals, they also protect their territory from other, larger predators. Crows are territorial, and have been known to taunt and chase larger birds like eagles or hawks. They will drive these animals away from your home, acting as bodyguards for small pets.
Crows Play Important Environmental Roles
Another benefit of having crows around is that they play an important role in our shared environments. Crows are both scavengers and predators, reducing ecosystem waste and controlling populations of pest animals, which need predation to balance out their robust breeding success.
Crows also act as prey to larger animals like predatory birds and even larger mammals like coyotes or mountain lions. The crow is an important part of the overall food web, which relies on a balance between all species we share the planet with.
In this way, crows can actually be a good indication that your environment is healthy. Their presence suggests that there is enough food to go around, and that the environment has a lot of diversity between open and forested spaces.
Crows Are A Protected Species
Because of the role they play in the environment, crows are actually a protected species in North America by the Migratory Bird Act. The University of Georgia, states that although there are no listed threats to their species, their importance is recognized by the American government.
These protections prevent individuals from trapping or harming crows outside of the designated hunting season that exists in certain states such as Georgia. Otherwise, crows are protected from undue harm or take.
Crows Are Intelligent
More recently, scientists have begun to recognize just how intelligent crows are, and Yale University ranks them near primates in terms of intelligence. These smart birds are actually able to form bonds with humans and other animals.
Crows have unique social relationships within their family groups, and even help unrelated crows with their young, bringing food, chasing off predators, and engaging in allopreening, a behavior in which crows will groom other crow’s babies.
Crows have also been found to use tools to access food or other resources, fashioning them from curved sticks or rocks, even using problem solving techniques. What’s more is that crows will actually pass on these tools and behaviors to their young, highlighting an impressive social behavior once thought to only exist in humans.
Because of this intelligence, crows and humans have forged bonds over the centuries. Crows have been used as guard animals, and are revered in many cultures as important religious symbols.
What Are Some Negative Effects Of Having Crows Around?
Now that we have reviewed some of the positive effects of having crows around, we can move on to some of the negative impacts of these feathered neighbors. Crows’ intelligence and hunger can lead to many issues in the home and garden.
Crows Live In Large Family Groups (Meaning More On Your Property)
While crows have unique and impressive social structures, this does mean that crows tend to congregate and travel in large family groups. These groups can be anywhere from a few crows to a few hundred or even thousands.
In the wintertime, crows will roost in huge groups, taking over trees, with a clear hierarchy of dominant crows toward the top and lower-ranked crows toward the base of the tree. This behavior starts in the fall and will continue until the weather warms in the spring.
This means that the presence of crows will always be magnified by their numbers. Crows will naturally be attracted to areas with other crows, which has the potential to lead to a snowball effect if the groups are not redirected.
Crows Can Eat Your Crops And Cause Garden Damage
One of the biggest consequences of having crows near your home or garden is that they can cause a lot of damage to your crops. Crows are omnivorous opportunists who will take advantage of yummy vegetable crops and fruit trees in your yard.
While crows will eat the scattered food waste that drops from the trees naturally, they will also go for many of the crops before they are even ready to be harvested. Crows are large birds that travel in groups, so you can imagine the damage they could do moving through your garden.
In their effort to eat through your garden, crows can also cause structural damage. They may peck holes into the soil, causing root damage. Crows may also pull at or pry open vegetable cages and garden boxes.
This type of behavior can be a nuisance, and you may find yourself struggling to protect your harvest. Luckily, there are many tips and tricks you can use to prevent this sort of damage (more on that later!)
Crows Can Spread Trash Around
Given the damage they can do in the garden, you can imagine the other types of trouble the intelligent crow can get itself into. Crows will eat almost anything, and as a result, they often mistakenly pick up trash.
Crows may bring this trash into your yard or property, or break into your own bins, spreading it around and causing a mess. They will also spread other food items, including garden scraps, unwanted seeds, leaves and other plant debris.
Crows Leave Droppings Everywhere
Another consequence of their dense social network is that crows will leave droppings all over your yard. If you’ve ever parked under a tree full of roosting crows, you will understand!
This is worrisome because crows can carry certain germs that can spread through their droppings. This waste can also cause damage to the finish on your deck or house, or to the paint on your car or home.
Other than the hazards of this waste, the droppings are just plain unsightly. This behavior will lead you to spend many hours cleaning droppings off of your fence or the areas where the crows are congregating, just for it to happen all over again.
Crows Can Over-Compete With Other Native Animals
Another negative impact of having too many crows around is that they can start to out-compete the other animals in the area.
Their large numbers and intelligence leads them to exhibit territorial behavior, often claiming a habitat as their own.
Crows will chase off other competing animals, threatening smaller birds and mammals such as squirrels. Crows will also eat the eggs of other birds, hurting populations of smaller native songbirds and other species.
Other populations that are impacted by crows are amphibians and reptiles. Crows will both predate and outcompete these types of animals, which play important roles in the environment such as pest control.
Crows Can Be Very Noisy
Anyone who has encountered a crow or group of crows will agree that they are noisy birds. Crows have a very distinctly loud and guttural caw. Since they are social animals, they call to each other often, and loudly.
This noise gets worse seasonally, as they gather in larger groups during the wintertime for warmth and safety. They will make their way to the roosting site, making pit stops along the way to cry out to each other.
This noise can become irritating if your home is the site of the roost, or even just if they are passing by. You may find yourself rudely interrupted in the middle of your evening show or yoga video.
Check out our article on how to stop crows from cawing for more info!
What Attracts Crows To Your Yard?
Whether they are welcome guests or not, there are a few sure ways to attract crows to your yard. You may want to address these items if you are trying to deter these chatty birds or keep them in mind to attract more crows and biodiversity to your property.
Open Trash Cans Attract Crows
An open trash can is sort of like a homing beacon for pest animals including, but not limited to, crows. Crows are scavengers by nature and will take any opportunity to sort through an open trash can for food or nesting materials.
They will be attracted to the site and smell of an open trash bin. Crows also have great memories and will come back time and again if they notice you have an open or unsecured trash bin in your yard.
There are so many tasty items in your open trash bin, including food scraps and the pests that get in to feed on them.
Natural Biodiversity Can Attract Crows
Biodiversity is a good thing, and something we should all strive for in our yards, but know that a healthy environment will always attract more wildlife than a bare grass or gravel yard. Biodiversity can range from the plants you grow to the wildlife that lives within them.
Having a variety of plant species in your yard will naturally attract more animals to it, including crows. Animals such as squirrels and birds will be the first to come, and depending on where you live and how close you are to other natural habitat corridors, bigger animals like raccoons, foxes, or coyotes may be attracted by the smaller animals.
Crows are no different, and will tend to congregate where there are more food options for them. This includes fruiting trees and shrubs as well as smaller prey animals, or even this Lyric Supreme Wild Bird Seed if you are feeling extra generous.
Crows Attract Each Other To Your Yard
Crows are incredibly social creatures and will be attracted to areas where other crows frequent. The University of Georgia states that you will rarely see crows alone and that they tend to group together.
As we previously discussed, crows tend to travel in large flocks, especially in the winter. In the colder months, beginning in fall and continuing into early spring, crows will congregate at dusk, picking up more individuals as they make their way to a central roosting site.
Even in the warmer months though, crows can usually be found in small groups. They work cooperatively to raise their young and collect food and resources for nesting. If a crow has made your yard their home, you can bet on more of them to follow shortly.
Large Trees Attract Crows
Large, dense trees are the preferred roosting and nesting site for crows. Up in the trees, they are sheltered from predators and camouflage from prey and potential competitors. These trees usually come with a food source as well, making them an ideal home.
Planting large trees or even just living near existing ones will increase the likelihood that crows will visit your yard.
How To Repel Crows From Your Yard
We discussed the downsides to having crows in your yard, from harassing other animals, creating a mess, or simply just being noisy.
For these reasons, you may be looking for some methods to prevent crows from seeing your yard as the neighborhood hangout like the coffee shop from Friends. Read on to discover some effective ways to keep crows out of your yard.
And remember – never tackle any pests alone! We always recommend calling professional help to help eradicate any pest control problem, especially with super-intelligent animals like crows.
Check out our latest article on how to repel crows for more information!
Secure Your Trash, Recycling, And Compost To Repel Crows
We mentioned that crows will be attracted to an open trash, recycling, or compost bin, so this first tip might seem obvious. Nevertheless, securing any open waste bins will help to keep crows from digging through them.
Keep in mind that crows can be quite industrious, even learning to use tools to gain access to food sources. Because of this, you will want to secure these bins with heavy, tight fitting, or locking lids that they will not easily be able to pry open and gain entry.
Set Up Bird Tape, Widely Spaced Lines, Or Netting To Repel Crows
There are many helpful products that you can purchase to deter crows from your yard. These products range from irritating visual deterrents to physical netting that keeps them out.
Bird tape is a helpful product that you string from a line, or from trees, shrubs, patio awnings, or anything else that is visible. Bird tape, such as this De-Bird Scare Tape, comes in shiny, reflective strips and deters birds by reflecting and refracting light, and blowing in the wind, creating a crinkling sound. Both of these things work to scare birds away.
Lines and netting, like this Feitore Bird Netting work in the same way, by creating a physical barrier between the crows and where you don’t want them to go.
While it is probably not feasible to cover your whole yard, this is a useful tool for covering your garden. The widely spaced lines won’t hurt the birds, but it will encourage them to move on to another food source.
Thin Roosting Trees To Repel Crows
If your yard has become a popular roosting spot for crows, you may want to think about thinning any large trees to deter the birds. Crows look for trees with plenty of space to congregate and a dense canopy in which they get a sense of safety and security.
Thinning the tree will create more open space and discourage crows from becoming too comfortable there. As a bonus, there won’t be enough branches for those huge winter roosts!
If you are doing any significant pruning to a large tree, you should always consult a professional to do so safely and correctly.
Use Predator Decoys To Repel Crows
Fear is a very useful tactic in deterring crows from your yard. Predator decoys like this Galashield Owl Decoy are an excellent way to deter crows and other pests from your yard because well, they mimic owls which are predators of crows!
Place a decoy predator in your yard, such as an owl, hawk, or eagle, and make sure it is prominently visible in the yard. Crows will see this decoy and move on, preferring to spend energy finding food and mates rather than competing with another large bird for territory.
You can also play loud predator bird sounds, which will trick the crow into thinking there are predators nearby.
Check out our full list on the most common predators of crows for more information!
That’s A Wrap!
Crows are intelligent and fascinating birds. They play an important role in our ecosystems, and are even acknowledged throughout human history as cultural and religious symbols. There are many good reasons to have crows around, but also some drawbacks too.
The pros of having crows around are:
- Crows can eat fallen waste in your yard, including trash.
- Crows are a natural pest deterrent.
- Crows are an important part of our ecosystem.
- Crows are extremely intelligent and social.
The cons of having crows around are:
- Crows live in large groups that can be noisy and disruptive.
- Crows can eat your crops and cause significant garden damage.
- Crows can be messy, leaving droppings in your yard and spreading trash around open bins.
- Crows can over compete with other wildlife in your yard.
I hope this article has helped you understand these complex animals a little bit more and given you some ideas on how to deter or attract crows to your yard, whatever your goal may be!
Emery, Nathan J., Clayton, Nicola S. (2004) The Mentality of Crows: Convergent Evolution of Intelligence in Corvids and Apes. Science. SCIENCE. 306, 5703, 1903-1907.
Hunt, G. (1996) Manufacture and use of hook-tools by New Caledonian crows. Nature 379, 249–251.
J.C.Holzhaider. (2011) The social structure of New Caledonian crows. Animal Behaviour. 81, 1, 83-92.
Kenward, B., Weir, A., Rutz, C. et al. (2005) Tool manufacture by naive juvenile crows. Nature 433, 121.