The Problem with Pied Crows

Crow

Pied crows are often seen looking out for roadkill.

By Christine Pienaar

Pied crow numbers in the Karoo, Kalahari and further afield have increased dramatically over the past years. They are opportunistic predators and adapt easily to a changing environment.

Crows are omnivorous and take advantage of many food sources: garbage dumps, abattoir waste,  roadkill, rubbish bins, prickly pears, even mielies and peanuts. There are also records of 160 small tortoise shells found under a single crow’s nest, and pecan nut farmers that have noted crows eating the crop from the trees.

Pied crows (Corvus albus or witborskraaie in Afrikaans) have adapted to life in towns and rip open rubbish bags in search of food. Farmers have complained that crows pester lambing ewes and that they pick out the eyes of recently born young.

Pied crows often nest on powerlines.

Pied crows often nest on powerlines.

They also chase away larger raptors and eat their eggs or fledglings in the nest.

All indigenous animals, including crows, are protected in the Northern Cape under the Northern Cape Nature Conservation Act (No 9 of 2009) and so they must not be disturbed unless the necessary permit has been issued.

It is strictly forbidden to use poison to kill crows. Not only is it illegal, but other animals die – including innocent raptors and smaller predators. Most raptors will feed on carrion, which is why they are so vulnerable to poisoned carcasses.

Crows nest in a variety of structures, including telephone poles, communication towers, windpumps, power lines and trees. They use sticks, wires, baling twine and sometimes line nests with scraps of wool or mohair.

If anyone wants to destroy crow eggs, please bear in mind that they are turquoise in colour. If the eggs are white or brown, then they are almost certainly kestrel, falcon or other raptor eggs. Where possible, keep the nest intact so that other raptors can re-use it.

Note that nests may not be destroyed without the necessary permits from the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Pied crows

Pied crows use sticks, wire and baling twine to create their nests.

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