Sunnyvale appears to fight crow invasion in the center with lasers; Plan Faces Pushback – CBS San Francisco


SUNNYVALE (KPIX 5) – The city of Sunnyvale is set to launch a pilot program in late January that will use green laser pointers to deter crows from gathering in the hundreds in the center.

“We love our birds here in Sunnyvale, but having said that, it’s not good for our town to have so many gathered in one small place,” Mayor Larry Klein told KPIX 5.

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The birds apparently forage for food across the South Bay during the day. But it is unclear why they choose to return to downtown Sunnyvales at sunset to rest overnight.

Sunnyvale appears to fight crow invasion in the center with lasers;  Plan Faces Pushback – CBS San Francisco

Crows set over historic Murphy Avenue in downtown Sunnyvales. (CBS)

Klein said the city has been dealing with the crows for years, but the population boomed during the pandemic.

The flock, which is estimated to number over 1,000 birds, has grown into a significant nuisance, often cooing long before sunrise, and awakens local downtown residents. Customers have reportedly been “dive-bombed” during outdoor dining. And the birds have left wide shards of feces, which have required expensive, ongoing high-pressure cleanings and can be a health hazard, Klein said.

Over the years, the city has tried options such as reflective materials placed in trees, pictures and even contracted a falconer, all with limited success.

“We had a falcon hunter with hawks here several years ago. It kept the crows away a bit. But especially in the last two years, crows have really become an issue,” Klein said.

A flock of crows flies over Downtown Sunnyvale.  (CBS)

A flock of crows flies over Downtown Sunnyvale. (CBS)

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Back in November, city staff began studying the use of green lasers to scare the birds.

Both the city and the Sunnyvale Downtown Association have purchased the laser pointers, which are offered on Amazon for less than $ 20, and will hand them out to local residents and business owners to use before the end of the month.

“I heard from residents who have already started implementing it. And it actually seems to work. It makes them spread from the tree and we will try it for a few weeks and in the end we will see if it actually works, ”Klein said.

The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society opposes the idea and issued the following statement:

“The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society is deeply concerned about the welfare of our local bird fauna. American crows are a native species here, as in most of the continent, and should be celebrated. They are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Annually, the large flocks form in the winter and fall after they have ridden. Because they thrive in human environments, the growing population of our South Bay community provides a perfect environment for them. We have inadvertently facilitated their spread through our own growth. They enjoy our lawns, playgrounds and not least our active landfills. We do not see the use of lasers as a reasonable way to solve the problem of overpopulation among these intelligent birds. They may leave for a while but are likely to return. We question the legality of this tactic and believe that it requires a permit, if it is allowed at all. In addition, lasers pose a threat of blindness to the birds, which we can not tolerate, as well as a risk to humans and aircraft. This should be avoided as a tactic against the overpopulation of birds in our area. We advocate for continued exploration of solutions that do not involve potentially harmful use of lasers, and hope that Sunnyvale consults with the Department of Fish and Wildlife before using harassment or harmful methods. “People who use lasers should be aware that they are violating the law on migratory birds and may incur fines.”

Klein pointed to his own research, among others from the Portland Audubon Society who said “strategies such as the use of sound cannons, lasers, pre-recorded emergency calls and the use of falcons can be effective but will typically require professional assistance.”

The mayor also referred to the Humane Society of the United States website, which proclaimed the use of several techniques, including “lasers designed to harass birds” can succeed.

Klein also said that green lasers have been used in other communities. E.g, city ​​employees in Rochester, Minnesota have been using them to spread crows in their center since 2019.

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“No matter what solution you come up with, you always have a certain amount of opponents. We will study it and we will evaluate it more. But from what we have seen, from reputable sources, it is a valid solution to deal with the problem, ”said Klein.

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