How do we get rid of crows at our cottage?

Do you have any solutions to get rid of crows? They usually start cackling at 4:30 a.m. and are very noisy.
—Peter Bogart, via e-mail

Crows, unfortunately, “don’t do anything either alone or quietly,” says Kevin McGowan, an ornithologist with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY, who has studied the birds for 25 years. They’re especially loud during the nesting and breeding season (April to July), when it’s important for them to advertise their ownership of territory. They’re not as noisy in the fall or winter, but they do gather in large roosts overnight. “It’s like a big slumber party,” says McGowan. And things can get raucous, even in the wee hours of the morning (pillow fights, Truth or Dare, and so on).

Crows are also “extremely smart,” says John Marzluff, a professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington who has written several books on crow behaviour. And unlike other critters, “crows are more mobile and a little more flexible. These guys learn quickly and remember for years.” This means that through consistent, long-term efforts, you may be able to convince them to leave.

Modify your property to make it less crow friendly: Remove any food sources—pet food, garbage, or compost—and water sources close to the cottage, and consider getting rid of your lawn, if you have one (crows eat grubs, caterpillars, and other grass-dwelling bugs). If you use bird feeders, change the seed to something crows don’t like as much, such as safflower seed. And keep in mind that, for habitat, crows prefer forest edges—where a wooded spot meets an open area, such as a meadow.

Of course, you can also repeatedly shoo the crows away when they wake you, since, as McGowan points out, “you’re up anyway.” Or get some earplugs, and remind yourself that while a bunch of birds that won’t shut up is irritating, the situation could certainly be worse. Just ask Tippi Hedren.