Solving Problems with Corvids

In the UK, Corvids refers to Carrion Crows, Hooded Crows, Magpies, Jays, Jackdaws, Rooks, Ravens and Choughs. The species most likely to come into conflict with households are Carrion Crows and Magpies who are regular, confident garden visitors. They tend to be bird marmite – many love and appreciate them for their intelligence and willingness to develop relationships with humans who are kind to them. But some find them noisy, messy, or are upset by their predation on other species.

Common Issues #

Corvids sometimes attract criticism for “stealing” eggs and chicks from the nests of other birds. Of course this is very distressing to witness but it is simply part of nature in the same way as when a osprey takes a fish, a kestrel takes a mouse, or a hedgehog eats a beetle! Predation is a natural part of regulating species numbers. Yes, they will sometimes take birds who are threatened such as song birds but these birds aren’t threatened because of natural predation. They are threatened because of habitat destruction and the introduction of unnatural predators such as domestic cats.

Larger birds may sometimes “hog” food left out for other garden visitors and, since what goes in must come out, can be a little messy.

Corvids can also be quite vocal and some may object to their noise, especially during the baby season. At this time of year, parents birds can also defend their nests and babies with considerable passion, including ‘dive-bombing’ people and pets.

The problem with lethal control #

Essentially, the issues with traditional methods of pest control, which rely largely on killing, are

  • in most cases, lethal control of corvids is illegal other than in particular circumstances when non-lethal methods are impracticable or have been ineffective
  • methods of killing often cause considerable suffering
  • methods of killing are indiscriminate which can lead to young being left without a parent and then suffering a slow death
  • some methods of killing, such as poison, also have an impact on other species
  • removing individual animals is not a successful long-term solution. Animals are attracted to an area by territory availability, food and shelter. If all these things remain in place and individual animals are removed or killed, animals in surrounding territories will soon move in to take advantage of the available resource.

These issues are covered in more detail here –

The Alternatives #

Integrated Wildlife Management is a more intelligent, science-led approach to ‘pest-control’. Rather than simply shooting or poisoning the ‘offending’ creature, which will only bring about a very temporary solution, it uses an understanding of wildlife behaviour and ecology to find a holistic, humane and effective long term solution.

The most effective method of resolving a wildlife conflict is to remove what is attracting the animal. These basic tips will help to make your garden less interesting

  • Clear up any food such as pet food, spilt bird food or fallen fruit
  • Feed birds in hanging feeders, not on a flat table. Choose versions with small holes which larger birds can’t access
  • Place your composting in a secure compost bin
  • Place all refuse in wheely bins
  • Tidy up any overgrown trees which might be providing shelter or nesting sites (outside of nesting season only, otherwise you risk breaking the law)

If that proves ineffective, the next step is to actively deter the animals. To do this, you need to offend as many of their senses as possible. Birds rely more on sight and hearing than taste and smell so that’s where to focus your approach.

  • use brightly coloured wind spinners or CDs hanging from string to create random movements
  • drive stakes into the ground and fix plastic bags or sheets of tinfoil to them. As they flap in the wind the birds will find these quite daunting and avoid the area
  • commercially available silhouettes of cats or birds of prey can help to deter them
  • sonic deterrent devices or wind chimes create unpleasant sounds which may deter them

Keep in mind though, it’s almost impossible to deter selected species of bird – what scares a corvid may also scare away many other species.

There are also growing number of humane pest control companies using the same holistic principles as us. You can find details of some here.

Updated on May 28, 2024