Hawk takes care of Charlottetown man's crow problem

Charlottetown resident Carl Lafford had hundreds of crows on the trees near his home until a bird of prey moved in as well, offering a rare glimpse of natural selection.

'I was very happy for that actually because shortly after that we had no crows'

Carl Lafford found this red-tailed hawk feasting on crow in the backyard of his Charlottetown home. (Supplied by Carl Lafford)

It was a murder most foul but certainly not fowl.

Crows — hundreds of them — were dotting the trees near Carl Lafford's Charlottetown home.

"We were being plagued by them," Lafford said. "I had contacted the city and talked to a number of people how to effectively get rid of them and basically there was no solution." 

A large group of crows, also called a murder, is a common sight around the city during the winter months, especially around Victoria Park. Their early morning caws and the droppings they leave behind on cars and sidewalks have been a bane for residents for years.

Then, a few days ago, the crows messed with the wrong bird —  a red-tailed hawk.

"I saw the hawk on a number of occasions in the trees just perching around my backyard and then the crows would always taunt the hawk and the hawk seemed pretty cool about it, not worrying," Lafford said.

He noticed a few crows down in his neighbourhood and the hawk feasting, but didn't think much of it until he found the scene right in his own backyard.

Nature's solution

"I gently put my groceries in the house, grabbed my camera and came out because I didn't want to miss the shot," Lafford said.

"He ended up eating as much crow as he could handle and I was very happy for that actually, because shortly after that we had no crows."

Lafford took this picture in January to show the leafless trees covered with hundreds of crows. (Supplied by Carl Lafford)

Red-tailed hawks can often be seen hanging around crows but they usually aren't the predator to take them down, said Dwaine Oakley, the learning manager with Wildlife Conservation Technology at Holland College.

Owl the top predator

"A crow can be quite a task for a red-tailed hawk to actually try and catch and consume because they [crows] do actually have a fairly large, heavy bill that they can defend themselves with," he said.

"They're looking for more of a sure thing. They prefer small rodents and small birds as opposed to something larger like a crow."

Lafford says thanks to the hawk, there aren't as many crows in his neighbourhood anymore. At least for now. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Oakley said a different bird of prey above the Charlottetown region is also hunting the crows.

Their top predator is the great horned owl and that's at the very top of the food chain.— Dwaine Oakley

"Their top predator is the great horned owl and that's at the very top of the food chain and it's one that you typically will find the carcasses left behind because they like to decapitate their prey, feed on the head and then there's a large portion that's left behind for many of those animals that come behind and can consume afterwards."

Lafford is just thankful there doesn't seem to be as many crows in his neighbourhood anymore.

"I thought it was certainly nature looking after the problem that we were having in the neighbourhood," he said.

Caws and effect

He may have a quiet spot now but probably not for long, Oakley said.

"If it was a spot that was fairly popular for the birds to be there, stay tuned," Oakley said. 

"They'll be back once they think that the coast is clear, they'll definitely return."

With files from Tom Steepe