By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
An ongoing feud with hawks may be one of the reasons why large flocks of crows keep shifting their nightly roosting sites around the city of Bluefield.
Large roosts, also dubbed mega roosts, of crows have become a feature of Bluefield when the winter season arrives. Last year, local businesses like the Bluefield Daily Telegraph had to contend with great numbers of crows and their droppings.
“When we had the huge problem last year, they came in over the Christmas weekend,” Editor Samantha Perry recalled. “And over several weeks it had expanded to the point where we had thousands of crows on our property every evening.”
The crows that converged on trees bordering the Telegraph’s parking lot came not only from Bluefield, but from the surrounding area, too, Perry said. A variety of methods were used to discourage the birds from using the newspaper’s property as an overnight roost.
Both the newspaper’s employees and customers had to put up with the odor of crow droppings when they came to the parking lot. The crows also left large amounts of their droppings on the Telegraph’s new roof.
“Last year, we had to use a combination of methods including decoy owls, a box that broadcast crow distress calls, and others,” she said.
It seemed during this year’s Christmas weekend that the crows were returning to their Daily Telegraph roost. They roosted in the trees for several days, but then they suddenly departed. The crows may have been avoiding some new arrivals.
“We have had red-tailed hawks here before due to the abundant food source,” Perry said. “From my understanding, some hawks came onto our property over the New Year’s weekend period and were preying on the crows. The crows left our property around the middle of last week.”
Perry said she was aware of other large crow roosts along Bluefield Avenue and other parts of the city. They have been seen on the city’s north side and in the vicinity of Stony Ridge along U.S. Route 52.
Crows and red-tailed hawks are always competing with each other, said Wendy Perrone, executive director of the Three Rivers Avian Center.
“There’s a long-standing rivalry between the two,” Perrone said. “They’ll chase each other at the drop of a hat.”
Hawks and crows will pursue each other, and even try to steal each other’s food, she said.
Besides predators, crows are sometimes discouraged from roosting when plastic owls are placed nearby, but the results are mixed.
“It takes only a little time before they figure out that it’s fake,” Perrone said.
Sometimes the plastic owl method is more successful if they are hung up and allowed to sway, giving them some movement. Another type of decoy has had some success, too.
“You can get things, specially-made balloons, that have nothing but eyes on them,” Perrone said.
Keeping crows away will take multiple methods, she said. Crows are “highly intelligent,” and quick to counter the measures used against them.
Perry said she empathized with the city when it came to trying to control crows. Other municipalities have used multiple measures to keep the big flocks of crows away, and those methods have been expensive.
City Manager Jim Ferguson said he has not received any complaints about crow roosts since he became city manager.
“I haven’t. I just know from my own observations and living where I live, I see a lot of crows, and I’m sure they are at some other places more than others.”
Ferguson said he would bring the crows to the attention of the Bluefield City Board. “I’ll certainly bring it up in discussion because I know that it has been an issue,” he said.
Bluefield residents can offer their advice about possible solutions to the large crow roosts in the city, he said.
Mayor Linda Whalen said she had not received any complaints about crows, but she has seen them roosting near city hall.
“They have been a problem with the vehicles in the city,” she said. “I have them over my neighborhood. I don’t know if we have more of them or if they are diversifying where they roost.”
The city has contracted professionals on other occasions about managing the crow problem.
“I guess it’s an issue we will continue to pursue a solution to,” Whalen said.
— Contact Greg Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org