Crow Situations & Solutions

American crow © Michele Moore
American crow © Michele Moore

People are often concerned when noisy flocks of hundreds to thousands of crows gather to sleep at night in what’s known as a "roost." But there's no need to worry! Despite Alfred Hitchcock’s portrayal of crows in his movie The Birds, crows are not dangerous.

Other species that roost include European Starlings (late summer), House Sparrows (fall), Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Common Grackles, and Chimney Swifts.

Roosts & Roosting Behaviors

During non-breeding season from November–March, large groups of American Crows can often be found roosting at night in a stand of trees (deciduous or coniferous). The places crows select for their nightly gatherings can be located anywhere—including within densely populated, residential, or industrial neighborhoods.

Crows will travel up to 50 miles to their night roost, which can contain anywhere from 100–10,000+ individuals. They may also gather in "staging areas" along the route before flying to the roost site just before sunset.

When in the vicinity of a night roost, anyone looking skyward an hour before sunset may see hundreds of crows arriving at the site from all directions. At morning's first light, the birds begin to nosily communicate with one another before dispersing to their respective foraging areas for the day.

In late February or March, these large roosts begin to break up and the mated pairs disperse to their home territories to begin nest-building. Unmated birds may continue to use the roost for several more weeks.

Evicting a Roost

Crows roosting in trees 50 or 60 feet high do not scare off easily. If a roost is causing problems, don’t bother with fake owls or odor repellents—crows are not intimidated by these nonthreatening statues and they don’t have a well-developed sense of smell.

Your best bet to ward of roosting crows is with loud noise. When crows or starlings first arrive at a roost location (usually starting an hour before sunset), a loud, persistent noise might persuade the birds to move on, especially if it is a new roost. Try banging on metal pots and pans or slapping two blocks of wood together.

There are companies that sell recordings of bird distress calls, which may frighten the birds when played. The theory is that when the call of an alarmed crow is played nearby, the crows flying in to roost will be frightened off. You will need to change the location of the recorder every few nights so the birds do not get used to it, and it must be played for several hours each evening when the birds begin arriving at the roost site. The success of these devices is questionable, and they are unlikely to discourage a large, long-established communal roost.

Crows & the Law

All birds are protected by federal laws under the "Migratory Bird Act of 1918," as well as by Massachusetts state laws. It is illegal to destroy, relocate, or possess birds, their nests, or their eggs.

Crows may only be hunted during hunting season with a license in specified areas. Many towns do prohibit hunting them and the state law does not allow hunting within 500 feet of a building except with permission. Contact the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for regulations.