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Oh, those pesky crows

Oh, those pesky crows

Each winter, thousands of visitors flock to downtown Rochester in search of the bright lights and an abundance of dining options. They're a rowdy bunch who travel in large groups and dirty the streets, never taking responsibility for the mess they leave behind. To say they are unwelcome would be an understatement.

I am, of course, talking about those pesky crows.

The city has invested tens of thousands of dollars in recent years to chase the birds out — with mixed results. Now, park officials are more conciliatory. Rather than trying to rid the downtown of crows, the focus is on shrinking clusters and minimizing their impact.

"Over the last four years, there's been a noticeable difference downtown," said Mike Nigbur, head of Rochester's Park and Forestry Division. "They're still around, but in different locations."

In 2011, according to Nigbur, there were as many as 30,000 crows downtown. At one time, as many as 500-1,000 could be lurking in a single tree. Central Park was plastered with bird feces. 

To address this public nuisance, falcons and hawks were brought in to dissuade crows from settling in. That didn't work. The USDA set up on the outskirts of town with aerial rockets in an attempt to disrupt flight patters. Those efforts had limited success.

"These are very bright birds," said Nigbur.

Parks officials continue to use noisemaking equipment and commercial-grade laser pointers to disperse crows from trees. The goal is to reduce concentration downtown by encouraging them to take up shelter in other parts of the city. 

According to Nigbur, the efforts seem to be working. "There are still issues, but there are significantly less of them," he said.

The seasonal influx of crows has been going on for decades, though there have been periods when the birds stopped showing up. 

"They seem to come in waves," said Nigbur.

So why do they come downtown in the first place? Light protection, a reliable food source (garbage) and safety in numbers, said Nigbur. They usually arrive in November and hang around for the winter before heading back into the countryside for the start of spring.

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