South Bay city turns to lasers to scare off pesky crows

Each day at dusk, a dark cloud descends on downtown Sunnyvale. Like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, birds have taken over.

"I’m no stranger to noise pollution. But the crows that come out every night rival the trains as far as how much noise pollution they put into our downtown," said Sunnyvale Vice Mayor Alysa Cisneros.

She lives downtown, close to where the birds roost. She said she’s gotten an earful, first from the birds and then constituents.

To be fair, this isn’t an anti-crow movement. But over the past few years, the murder of several thousand crows has become death for routine life.

"We’ve had crows downtown for many years now. The problem has gotten progressively worse, especially under COVID," said Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein.

Outdoor dining spots along Historic Murphy Area, are a lifesaver for businesses during the pandemic. They’ve also become a bulls eye for the birds, who defecate where ever they want.

"Customers get pooped on. Sometimes staff gets pooped on," said Irene Murphy, general manager of Irish pub Fibber McGees. "Poop happens. Is that a thing?"

It is, and it’s the last straw.

The city is considering mitigation measures. Reflective spirals have been installed in trees with little effect. Falconers, although expensive, are an option.

One man emailed the mayor with an idea of being hired by the city as a whisperer to, "teach the ravens where they can be without bothering human beings."

None of it will sour the foul’s love of the area, according to Matthew Dodder, executive director of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society.

"They select different areas. They look for certain types of trees that they like. And the group kind of decides together, where they’re going to spend the evenings," he said.

For now, another night of loud squawking and plentiful pooping, as these birds continue ruling this downtown roost.

"They’re very smart birds. I don’t know how good they’ll be at paying rent. And they haven’t been great neighbors so far," said Cisneros.

The city will start a green laser pilot program in a couple of weeks. That type of device has been shown to scare off murders of crow.

They’ll try it for two weeks and then assess conditions.