CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s been some 20 years since then-local veterinarian Russell Anthony stumbled on the idea of placing crow coffins in tree tops to scare away hordes of crows from downtown Greene Square Park.
On Tuesday, city crews once again placed dead crows wired to boards in the trees after the crows descended on the park at night, leaving a mess behind in the morning.
Daniel Gibbins, the city’s parks superintendent, said Tuesday the crow coffins will be in place for a few weeks until the weather warms and the crows no longer need to seek refuge in the park.
Neil Bernstein, a Mount Mercy University biology professor and ornithologist, said that crows flock together in dense groups at night in winter for warmth, as well as help finding food and protection from predators.
The relative warmth coming off downtown buildings and pavement probably makes Greene Square Park something of a nighttime haven, Bernstein said.
He said crows make a lot of noise to help them gather together in the evening and when they leave in the morning.
Gibbins said city parks workers placed six boards in the park’s trees on Tuesday. Each board has two dead crows on it, one facing up, one facing down.
“They really do work,” Gibbins said.
He said the Police Department shoots the crows used in the park.
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Gibbins said he has been told by others that fake crows don’t work like dead ones. Even so, he may experiment and buy artificial crows next year to see if they can be as successful.
“They’re about $60 a pop, but we’re going to probably try that next year to get beyond this whole ‘shooting crows’ thing,” he said. “You know what, if it doesn’t work, if the birds are just too smart, then it doesn’t work.”
Bernstein said the crow ranks among the smartest of birds, with the ability to problem solve and to learn by trial and error.
For many of the last 20 years, the crow boards have gone up in Greene Square Park, though Gibbins said they weren’t needed last winter. From 2002 through 2005, the city didn’t use the boards because then-Parks Commissioner Wade Wagner didn’t like them.
The city is planning a major makeover of the park, turning it from Greene Square Park to Greene Square. Even so, the biggest trees — which the crows love — will remain, Gibbins said.