Common Crow and Magpies Vandalize the Garden

Dressed in Black and blending with the shadows, the figures boldly advanced across the yard. Reaching their defenseless target, they struck with a vengeance. Over and over they attacked their victim. Suddenly a rescuer appeared. Arms waving, shouting words that she wouldn’t normally utter, the heroine bore down on the villains. With barely a backward glance, the cowards retreated into the anonymous shelter of dusk.

This morning I went out into my yard to view the damage caused by last evenings Vandals. (If you are disturbed by scenes of violence, you might not want to look at the following photo.)

4-tulipdamageOne of my Tulip Plants had been beheaded. Torn and shredded flowers littered the ground around it. I felt like crying, because I know I am powerless to stop this senseless violence.

Of course, I know the vandals, but not by name. There are so many of them, and I can’t tell if it is Joe, or Caw or Cecil who attacks tulips. They run with a gang, and they are very swift and cagey – almost impossible to photograph. Besides, they all look alike. I know that sounds like an insensitive thing to say, but that is just how it is when it comes to a Murder of Crows. It is very hard to tell one from another. And Murder – yes, that is what I felt like doing to the crow that attacked my plant…
4-crow
I’ve only met one of their Species who was willing to talk to me and attempt to explain why some of his mates are so violent. He was a kindly old Raven in Arizona, who had grown fat and happy from the treats he got by posing for tourists. “Crows”, he said, “engage in complex social interactions that range from group play and hunting to gang-style killings.” My tulips – that was a gang-style killing if ever there was one.

4-magpieThen there is the Magpie Gang. Around here we call them rats with wings. They are as noisy as the crows, and are notorious for stealing and eating other bird’s eggs. Also very cautious and camera shy, they construct elaborate domed stick nests that can be several feet wide and tall.

This spring, I observed the magpies nibbling at something in the lower branches of the Double Flowering Plum bush in my yard. I thought they must be finding bugs to eat, and thought nothing more of it. Until the bush bloomed.

The bush has far fewer blooms, especially in the lower branches where the magpies were feasting. Did the magpies eat the flower buds? Perhaps.

I hereby give fair warning to the crows, magpies, rabbits, deer, Red Lily Beetles and whatever is digging holes in my newly planted vegetable garden – I bark and I bite. Be wary…

The Feather Files
Name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Alias: American Crow
Migration: Some populations migrate, others are resident, and in others only some of the crows migrate.
Date Seen: May, 2013
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The Feather Files
Name: Pica hudsonia
Alias: Black-billed Magpie
Migration: Resident, with some regional winter movements
Date Seen: November, 2016
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

24 comments

  1. I know how frustrating pests can be. It ashame about your flowers and such being mauled by birds. Our garden and yard is fairly well protected by our cat and we’ve not had any real problems with birds or rabbit since came to live with us 2 years ago. However, my sister had problems with birds around her grandchildren’s outdoor play area. They’d steal the little toys and roost above it and potty on the toys. She solved her bird problems when she put up pin-wheels across the jungle-gym and in a couple of the trees, she also put a fake rubber snake in one of her trees and that keeps the birds away real well. Maybe one or both of these ideas may help you too.
    I wish you the best of luck with scaring off the pests. Your blog is fun and interesting. Your photos are lovely too. 🙂

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  2. Hi Margie,
    I didn’t realize the damage that these birds can cause, and they certainly made a meal out of your beautiful tree, I hope you can find a way to stop these pests before they can wreck more of your garden.

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  3. Oh, Margie. I feel for you. I’ve been battling voles for almost 4 months now. They are winning, so far.

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    • Hi SDS. I feel for you too! The voles in our part of the world aren’t much problem, but we have pocket gophers. They are very similar to moles, in that they burrow. Some years we have a few here, and then some years we have none. Nature sure does send challenges to us all!

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  4. Our vandals are deer. Even the flowers which deer reputedly won’t eat aren’t safe. For the young deer will try anything once. Or twice or three times. Bill

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    • Hi Bill. We had deer problems last winter, but so far this spring we have had fewer deer hopping the fence. My husband ringed our property with 6 deer repellant sticks ( Wireless Deer Fence). Our test period for this product is too short to say for sure they are doing all the work, but we are a cautiously optimistic that they are reducing the incursions by those four footed browsers.

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  5. You could resort to vigilantism, but that might bring reprisals from the vandals’ families, and then it’s just back and forth, back and forth, a regular feud, ya’ know? This cracked me up, Margie!

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    • Hi CE. I’ve heard of those feuds, and I just don’t think I want to go down that road. Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds, depicts the wrath of several types of birds, including crows. Seriously scary…

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  6. Oh, I feel for you. I’m typing this with a smile on my face because your blog was so darn funny but at the same time I feel your frustration. The only time I have been a supporter of a Magpie was when one of them chased the neighbor’s cat home. This cat was nortorius for coming over to our yard and doing his “business” in my flower bed. Ev

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    • Hi Ev. Gee, if I could train the magpies to chase the cat that poops in my flower beds, I would do it… No wait, it is my cat. Well not my cat any more, but it still thinks it is mine sometimes…

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    • Hi Gislinde. My German is pretty rusty, but I believe you said “Beautiful pictures dear, Greetings Gislinde.”
      Thank you for the compliment, and welcome to Canada!

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  7. I’ve had similar goings on in my garden.

    1. I think the fewer blooms has more to do with the super late Spring and warm weather. At least that is what I am hoping for. I have had this problem and for the plants that require flowers for fruit, well you know how that will go.

    2. The marauding birds, I also have. They are keeping my lettuce very low to the ground. Not that there is any danger of bolting. It is hard to believe that there is a heat wave in the East!

    3. Unique to my garden, are the West Coast SUPER weeds. I’ll never stand straight again after pulling 3 hours worth of buttercups from one small section of the backyard. Jenny was out here one time helping me pull weeds and just couldn’t believe how big we grew them!

    -CW
    http://cwestermark.wordpress.com/

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    • Hi CW. We had a late spring, but not particularly warm weather so far. My other trees and bushes seem to have a normal number of blossoms. It is just the Flowering Plum that has been denuded in the lower regions!
      Saw a jack rabbit on the road tonight, so will have to watch to make sure he doesn’t eat the garden again this year. I lost everything last year except the potatoes.

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    • Hi IMT. Yes, Mother Nature does have her own plans and they sometimes are at odds with mine! I’m fairly tolerant of invaders, but with all the open land that surrounds me, I wish they would leave my little piece alone!

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