As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Marcia Davis: Crow patrol works bird feeder beat

Got hawks? Get crows. That's Mike Kean's answer to hawk problems.

Mike's 30 seed feeders, 15 nectar feeders, and six heated birdbaths attract many small birds to his three-acre New Market yard. But so much food can concentrate unnaturally large numbers of birds in one place — pay dirt for prowling predators.

"The down side to all these wonderful birds was that my house became a bed-and-breakfast for every lazy hawk in the area," said Mike. "Convinced I could solve this issue without taking down my feeders, I read everything I could on the art of warfare with hawks. Over the next year or so I attempted everything suggested to exit the hawk feeding industry. I moved feeders to sheltered locations under trees, close to the house, and even brought in large hollies to protect the feeders. This didn't slow down the hawks at all. I protected all feeders with domes without much improvement."

One afternoon Mike observed a family of crows chasing off a hawk that had intruded while four of the crows were at the birdbaths. American crows are notorious for working together to defend their turf by harassing and chasing predators like hawks, owls, and domestic cats. "I decided to see if I could hire the crows as protectors of songbirds and enlist them in my war on hawks," said Mike. "My quest became to turn my property over to the crows."

Mike succeeded. He persuaded crows to move into his yard by offering food and water. Crow requirements include shelter in the form of trees, a steady water supply, and calcium from dead animal bones and songbird eggs during nesting season. Mike wanted "full time crow protection power" but he did not want crows robbing eggs from songbird nests to fulfill their calcium requirements. So raw chicken eggs and calcium-enriched dry dog food are offered at the crow feeder every single day.

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