Posted on April 28th, 2020

Chanaka Bandarage

Sri Lanka is full of crows. A writer’s friend joked him that in Colombo there are more crows than people!

Crows live in groups; they work together. They thrive on trash; basically any kind of food waste.

Some think crows are good as they clean up the environment. This is a misconception.

The biggest problem with crows is that they are large scale waste carriers. A person who maintains an immaculate lawn would find spoilt food, rotten meat, dead rats etc dropped on it – by crows.

Crows form large roosts mostly on tall trees. Crows are known as ‘pooping machines’. It is somewhat fearsome to walk under Colombo’s big trees, lamp posts etc as it is quite possible that a crow would poop. There is hardly anyone who has not been treated with this offensive discharge. Whether they do it intentionally or not, only experts could say. Crows shoot their droppings upon vehicles uttering discomfort to vehicle owners.

Crows are omnivorous and eating plant material lead them to discharge greater fecal output. This is why one notices so much of crow droppings on Colombo’s sidewalks/pedestrian ways.

In early mornings the Galle Face Green is full of crows. It is difficult to stroll as their numbers are too many. The crows fly in to eat the leftover greasy/oily junk food thrown in the bins and scattered across the Green.

One could see crows gradually taking over the domain in Vihara Mahadevi Park which is home to so many other bird species. When they encroach as a group, other good bird varieties gradually become displaced. Crows are strong, they compete well and chase away the tender bird species.

The Problem at Vihara Maha Devi Park is that there are street/junk food outlets there, in the Children’s section. Like in Galle Face Green, crows are attracted therein to the waste.  As the Park is a permanent source of food, they are now permanent there. They live on trees closer to the food. At Vihara Maha Devi Park around the live food area, Rats (Mice) too have popped up in large numbers.

It is difficult to walk around the Beira Lake due to too many crows such as on Walkways around the Seemamalakaya.

Crows have encroached inside the Fort Railway Station.  The Station is well known for its Pigeons who live in nests formed under the roof.  It seems their day of exclusive occupation is numbered as crows too have got in.

Large, highly concentrated populations of crows can easily spread various diseases to humans directly/indirectly (eg. TB, Encephalitis, Meningitis). Being waste carriers, crows may be able to indirectly spread the Corono Virus (eg. carrying used masks, swabs etc).

As their numbers are ever increasing, we need a crow control program, especially in Colombo.

Many countries do this (Crow Control) by way of unmerciful killings. They use many tactics such as shooting, poisoning and gassing. We cannot do these in Sri Lanka. We are a Buddhist country.

We must adopt humane methods. In home environments, crows can be controlled by freighting; eg, lighting firecrackers, displaying crow feather, hanging something shiny across the yard (like aluminum plates), using bird (crow) traps etc.  But, as the problem is very big, we need a large scale, long term solution/operation.

One of the best methods is genetic engineering. Australia and New Zealand are world leaders in using gene drives to control species populations. If Australian CSIRO is contacted (through the High Commission here), I am sure they would assist.

We have well controlled the stray dog population in Colombo, through intent sterilization. We should be thankful to the hardworking staff of the Colombo Municipal Council for this. They roam Colombo streets on mornings in search of stray dogs, then subject them to humane sterilization. It is a very difficult job, but they do it very well. Thanks to them, Colombo’s stray dog numbers are controlled. In Puerto Rico they use a pill, Neutersol, as a method of non surgical stray dog sterilization. In regards to crows, we need to adopt similar methods. We cannot let the problem go unchecked; it is serious.

2 Responses to “Crows”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    CHANAKA !!! Long years back, Colombo Municipality was asked to cut down certain trees, as the Crows were giving trade marks on those who pass under the trees. When the Labourers checked into the nests, there were gold rings, Galle face hotel spoons with their engravings and many other things. Crows used to steal all that to strengthen their nests. I remember seeing an article in the srilankan papers that a Man had trained a crow to Rob for him.

  2. Chanaka B Says:

    Thanks Susantha! Magpies are the biggest thieves.

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