Birds

Crow Goose Pigeon Turkey Woodpecker

About Crows

The common crow is a large, blue-black bird that grows up to almost two feet long. Crows can be found living in almost every state and are year-round residents in New England. These highly adaptable animals are commonly identified by their “caw-caw“ cry. They live in multiple habitats ranging from farmland to suburban neighborhoods, as long as they can find shelter and suitable trees for nesting. Crows are omnivorous and eat grains, insects, carrion, eggs, reptiles, fish, vegetable matter and young birds.

Crows breed in the early spring, and can often be seen carrying building materials such as bark and twigs back to their nests. The nests are lined with soft materials like cloth, feathers and grass. Nests are usually built 15 or 20 feet high in a tree, although on rare occasions a nest is made on the ground.

The female lays between four and six eggs, which are then incubated by both the male and female for approximately eighteen days. The young are cared for in the nest for a month before they are ready to leave the nest and feed with the adults. The family unit stays together during the summer and joins other families as the fall approaches.

POSSIBLE CONFLICTS & SOLUTIONS

Common problems regarding crows include: noise, and damage to gardens, agricultural crops, and trash. Crows are also known to bully other birds at feeders and prey on nestlings belonging to other birds. However, most people encounter these intelligent animals in their yards or neighborhoods and they don’t cause any problems.

If you are experiencing a problem with crows getting into and making a mess of your garbage, know that crows usually feed during the day. If your garbage is being raided at night, other animals are likely the culprits.

If you see crows around your garbage, the following are humane solutions:

  • Contain all loose garbage and garbage bags.
  • Use trash containers with tight-fitting lids.
  • Use bungee cords to secure loose lids.
  • Store garbage inside between collection days.
  • Put garbage out only on the day of collection.

If you are experiencing a problem with crows gathering in your yard, the following are humane solutions:

  • Using noisemakers and distress calls.
  • Install bright lights on motion sensors.
  • Install a motion sensor on your garden hose.
  • Affix scarecrows and mylar balloons throughout your yard.

Go to our links and resources page to find vendors that sell the items and tools listed above.

PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS

The most important public health concern associated with crows is the accumulation of fecal droppings at roosts. Histoplasmosis spores can be inhaled at roosting sites of birds and bats. There are five forms of histoplasmosis that are clinically recognizable, ranging from a mild hypersensitivity to a disease that mimics chronic pulmonary tuberculosis. Children and people with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to the disease, and if contact is suspected should seek immediate medical care.

MSPCA CROW FACT SHEET

About Geese/Waterfowl

The general term waterfowl is used to describe birds—including geese, swans, and ducks—living in freshwater habitats. All species share the characteristics of webbed feet and flattened bills. Waterfowl are commonly associated with lakes and ponds, but most species spend time on land foraging and nesting. Although all are migratory birds, many remain present year-round in ideal locations. Man-made environments like golf courses, office parks, artificial ponds and lakes, and municipal parks often provide waterfowl with irresistible grazing surfaces and an ideal habitat that can support them all year long.

The Canada goose is the species of waterfowl that often causes the most conflicts with humans. Canada geese are distinguishable by their large size, white cheek patch, and black bill, head and neck. They weigh about twelve pounds and have an average wing length of twenty inches. As a strongly monogamous species, geese pair at about three years of age, have strong family ties, and often vigorously defend nests and goslings. Canada geese can often be seen and heard flying overhead in a “V” formation, which allows each bird to fly in the wind draft of the bird in front of it, thereby saving energy and taking turns as the leader to break the wind.

POSSIBLE CONFLICTS & SOLUTIONS

Waterfowl primarily cause conflicts with humans when landscaped areas and maintained lawns are affected. When grazing, geese do not permanently disturb or physically damage turf. Conflict usually occurs from fecal deposits and the aggregation of numbers of birds. Read about a local solution to this problem.

Tolerance, vegetation management (the use of tall grass or other naturally occurring vegetation to deter geese and ducks), fencing, harassment techniques (including the use of trained border collies), repellents, and oiling eggs are among the many solutions available in dealing with waterfowl. An integrated approach using a variety of these techniques is the best way to solve conflicts.

Learn more about the MSPCA’s Geese Peace Program.

PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS

Waterfowl are not a health threat to humans, however large accumulations of their droppings are becoming cause for concern in water quality control in municipal lakes and ponds. The botulism strain that affects waterfowl is not transmittable to humans.

MSPCA CANADA GEESE FACT SHEET
Watch “Resolving Conflicts with Canadian Geese” Part 1
Watch “Resolving Conflicts with Canadian Geese” Part 2

About Pigeons

Some folks consider them an endearing part of urban life, others see them as an aggravation, but everyone recognizes this familiar wild neighbor. Pigeons may have been the first bird species to be domesticated, possibly as early as 6,500 years ago. The Egyptians used pigeons to carry the news of the coronation of Ramses III—more than 3,000 years before the United States was founded. Pigeons were well-equipped for this job, as they reach flight speeds of 15 to 60 miles per hour!

Like so many Americans, the rock dove, as the species also is known, is a European immigrant: pigeons were introduced to North America by early European settlers. You’ll find pigeons in almost any city, town, or suburb on the continent. Their diet consists primarily of grains and seeds, along with insects and some greens – but pigeons aren’t terribly picky, and they’ll happily accept human food scraps and leftovers when available. From a pigeon’s point of view, city-living can’t be beat. Food and water are readily available. Predators are few and far between. Plus, there’s plenty of free housing – pigeons like to live in large groups on window ledges, rooftops, bridges, and warehouses as these offer room for whole flocks to rest or take shelter in close proximity.

Although most birds quench their thirst by dipping their bills and then tipping their heads so water runs down their throats, pigeons drink by sucking water into their bills.

Family Life

Pigeons live in groups called “flocks”. Each flock has an equal number of male and female members. A courting male pursues his intended mate on the ground, circling her, with his neck feathers inflated and his tail spread, bowing and cooing all the while. Pigeons mate for life, but if one partner dies the survivor generally will attempt to find another mate.

Pigeons show a strong affinity for human-built structures. Nests, a haphazard combination of twigs, leaves, and a few feathers, are built on window ledges, behind signs, and under bridges. Parents take turns incubating the clutch of one or two white, unmarked eggs for between 16 and 19 days. After the eggs hatch, both parents feed the baby pigeons, or squabs, a crop secretion called “pigeon milk,” which is produced from the lining of the crop, a sac-like food storage chamber located under the bird’s esophagus. The milk is a highly nutritious and an efficient way of feeding young. Squabs fledge at four to six weeks of age but remain dependent on their parents for as long as the adults will tolerate them – generally another one or two weeks. Individuals may be capable of breeding at six months of age.

Pigeons leave their nesting and roosting sites during daylight hours to search for food, but they return at night, as well as periodically during the day when raising young.

Found an injured or orphaned pigeon?

Wildlife rehabilitation centers provide care for injured and orphaned wildlife until the animal can be released back to the wild. In most states, wildlife rehabilitation can be practiced only with a state and/or federal license.

Adult pigeons may suffer from broken bones, parasite infestations, and diseases, some of which may present a human health hazard. Without proper intervention, these birds may die from their injuries or be permanently disabled. Rehabilitators receive the special training needed to assess these problems and offer appropriate aid.

Baby pigeons may be covered with sparse, fuzzy down or spiky, emerging feathers, and their beaks can look rather deformed. Like all other infants, squabs have unique nutritional requirements. Baby bird food available at pet stores may claim to be appropriate for all birds, but this is simply not true. Furthermore, squabs must be fed through a tube inserted into their crop several times a day – a risky procedure even for experienced wildlife rehabilitators. Problems that result from an inappropriate diet, such as metabolic bone disease (also known as rickets), can debilitate an animal for life.

If you’ve found a pigeon in need of assistance, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

Read more about Orphaned or Injured Wildlife.

POSSIBLE CONFLICTS & SOLUTIONS

At first glance, the arrangement we have with pigeons appears to be ideal: we provide room and board; in return the birds add a little warmth and color to our cold concrete canyons. So what’s the problem? In a word – droppings.

Not only is pigeon poop unsightly, it can damage buildings, monuments, and automobiles and if allowed to accumulate, human health problems may arise. A little patience and understanding go a long way toward resolving these problems. Removing the animals in question may seem like an obvious answer. The truth is, however, results are short-lived with this approach because removal simply creates a vacancy that other animals quickly fill. Humane conflict prevention and resolution is less expensive and more effective in the long run. People can live in harmony with wildlife – you just have to know your wild neighbors!

Roost inhibitors, distress call devices, predator-shaped kites and scarecrows, and netting are effective and humane ways to prevent and/or solve most conflicts with pigeons. Go to our links and resources page to find vendors that sell these devices.

PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS

Pigeons are known carriers of cryptococcus and salmonella. However, there is little evidence linking pigeons directly to infections in humans.

Information about humane prevention of pigeon conflicts was prepared by Kieran Lindsey, Natural Assets Consulting, and reviewed by Richard F. Johnston, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Natural History Museum, University of Kansas.

About Turkeys

Wild turkeys have lived in most parts of Massachusetts since the time of the Colonial settlement. However, human development and hunting took their toll, and by 1851 no turkeys were left in Massachusetts. Restoration attempts started around 1911, but it took many relocation attempts before the population was successfully restored in the late 1990s. Today you can find wild turkeys living in most parts of Massachusetts.

The turkeys found in Massachusetts have a rich, brown-shaded plumage with a metallic or iridescent sheen, and white and black bars on their primary wing feathers. Males, called “toms”, can stand up to four feet tall and weigh more than 20 pounds. Females, called “hens”, are approximately half the size and weight of males.

Turkeys are social animals who live and feed together in flocks. They inhabit a wide range of habitats including forested, semi-forested and open habitat. Turkey habitat must have both trees and grasses for feeding, resting/roosting, and nesting reasons. Trees provide food (nuts, seeds, fruit, etc.,) resting areas, cover from predators, and a place to roost at night. Hens with young will roost on the ground until the young are able to fly. Grasses are important for both adult and young because they provide food for adult turkeys and an environment where the young can find insects.

Nesting season starts in late March or early April, during which time the hens build their nests on the ground, usually in tall grasses in fields or the forest. The hens lay one egg a day until 10 to 12 eggs have been laid. The average incubation time is 28 days, and in late May or early June the eggs will hatch over a 24 to 36 hour period.

During the first four weeks of life, baby turkeys, called poults”, are unable to fly and rely on their mother for protection. Hens hiss and ruffle their feathers to scare away predators and will only abandon the nest as a last option. When the poults are between four and five weeks old, they are able to fly 25 to 50 feet and begin to roost in trees with their mother. Turkeys learn from each other, usually by imitating older birds. Through this process they learn how to find food and how to navigate the boundaries of their home ranges.

Unlike the domestic turkey, wild turkeys can fly up to 55 miles per hour and run up to 25 miles per hour. They have several predators including humans, crows, snakes, skunks, raccoons, and opossums. The average life span for a wild turkey is three to four years.

POSSIBLE CONFLICTS AND SOLUTIONS

Wild turkeys are social birds who live in flocks, which are organized by “pecking order.”  Sometimes turkeys believe humans are part of the pecking order and will treat them accordingly. If a turkey views someone as dominant, they will act submissive or fearful. However, if someone is viewed as a subordinate the turkey will try to bully him/her. Turkeys may determine a person to be a female or a male, regardless of the person’s true gender. Those perceived to be male may be challenged by adult male turkeys or followed and called to by female turkeys. Likewise, those perceived to be female may be courted by male turkeys.

To prevent conflicts with turkeys:

  • Do not feed turkeys. Whether intentional or not, feeding wild animals can cause them to act tame and may lead to bold or aggressive behavior.
  • Clean up bird feeder areas. Birdseed can attract wild turkeys as well as other animals, so make sure you clean up spilt seed around bird feeders daily or use a feeder designed to keep seed off the ground.
  • Do not be intimidated by a turkey. Aggressive or bold turkeys can be deterred by loud noises, spray from a water hose, a leashed dog, etc.
  • Protect your garden. Turkeys looking for food in your garden can be humanely harassed by spray from a water hose, a leashed dog, and fencing that covers bulbs. Installing a motion sensor on a garden hose will encourage turkeys to look for their next meal elsewhere. Go to our links and resources page to find vendors that sell these attachments.
  • Cover shiny/reflective objects during mating season.  Male turkeys will peck windows and car bumpers during the mating season because they see reflections of themselves and think that they’re seeing a competing tom. Covering low windows and glass doors can help deter them from pecking the glass. Rubbing soap on car bumpers to make them less shiny can also help.

MSPCA TURKEY FACT SHEET

About Woodpeckers

Twenty-two species of woodpeckers live in the United States. Although each species has distinctive plumage markings and lives in a defined area, they share several characteristics. Woodpeckers have a chisel-like bill and a long, pointed tongue that they use to drill and probe under tree bark. They use their strong claws and tail feathers to help support them while they are working on tree trunks or branches. Their brains are protected from the impact of drilling by a thick skull and dust is filtered away from their nostrils by special sacs and feathers found around their nostrils.

Most woodpeckers live in wooded areas and use their strong beaks to feed on insects living under the bark of dead trees. Depending on the species, they eat carpenter ants, beetles, moths, caterpillars, grasshoppers, nuts, fruit, berries, and tree sap. During the winter months, they can be seen feeding at bird feeders with suet and or sunflower seeds.

When it comes to building a nesting site, both the male and female woodpeckers use their beaks to excavate tree cavities. The eggs are laid in the spring and both parents care for the young.

POSSIBLE CONFLICTS & SOLUTIONS

Conflicts arise between homeowners and woodpeckers when the birds choose to focus their eating, drumming, and excavating efforts on buildings with wood siding or on chimney pipes during mating season. It is understandable that some homeowners become upset when their wood siding is drilled with holes.

Woodpeckers mate and nest in the spring. Consequently this is the time of year that most problems occur. The birds use rhythmic drumming on resonate objects as a territorial “advertisement” to alert other woodpeckers in the area to their presence. This persistent drumming activity results in shallow, clustered dents rather than the deeper holes that result from feeding and nesting activities.

A woodpecker’s nesting and roosting cavity is usually round and deep (up to two feet deep in trees) and is usually found in trees or in wood knots in wood siding. The most damaging woodpecker activity is caused when woodpeckers feed on insects under wood siding. Once a woodpecker finds a good food supply, they can be relentless in their feeding. Although this can cause a homeowner stress, it can also be viewed as an early warning sign that they have an insect infestation problem that should be addressed.

Because woodpeckers can be persistent, the key to humanely and effectively resolving problems with woodpeckers is to act promptly. Remember that persistence and consistency are necessary to dissuade woodpeckers from causing damage.

The following are easy, cost-effective ways to prevent and repair woodpecker damage:

  • Maintain the exterior of wooden buildings to prevent insect infestations.
  • After making absolutely sure no birds are inside, fill shallow holes with caulking or wood filler, and larger holes with wooden plugs or wadded window screen, and then use caulking.
  • Cover damaged areas with mesh hardware cloth or welded wire to protect them from further damage.
  • Secure loose boards and use filling behind ones that sound hollow to discourage drumming.

The following are simple and humane harassment techniques that can encourage woodpeckers to move on:

  • To exclude birds and discourage drumming, cover smaller boards with cloth or foam rubber padding.
  • To prevent access to the wood siding, hang netting, plastic sheeting, or screen from the eaves and suspend it several inches from the affected wall.
  • To scare the offending woodpecker away, hang aluminum pans, plastic streamers, wind chimes, Mylar® party balloons or strips of aluminum foil from the eaves so that they flutter in the wind. In addition, shouting, clapping, or banging on a pot out an open window/door may scare the bird away. To encourage woodpeckers to roost elsewhere, use roost inhibitors, distress call devices, predator-shaped kites and scarecrows.
  • Go to our links and resources page to find vendors that sell these products.

It is important to remember that nesting and roosting activities are temporary seasonal behaviors. If the woodpecker’s activity is not causing damage to a building, please try to exercise patience. If the bird is causing damage, please try the humane solutions listed above to discourage them.

PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS

Woodpeckers are not considered to be a significant source for any infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans.

MSPCA WOODPECKER FACT SHEET