If you have a problem with crows in your back yard, there’s an easy way to discourage them.
“Buy a ‘dead’ decoy crow and put it in your yard,” said Julie Hansen, owner of the Santa Monica Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in Santa Monica, when she spoke at the Palisades Rotary Club on January 16.
She said that crows are smart and when they see the decoy crow laying on the ground, “They sense danger, and ‘say’ danger to everyone else and to stay away.”
Hansen’s topic was “How to Create a Bird-Friendly Habitat,” but she also answered questions and provided tips for dealing with rats and squirrels.
“According to the Journal of Science, we have lost three billion birds since 1990,” said Hansen, who noted that it was largely because of lost habitat. “Backyards become critical habitats. Yards provide little stopover places.
“With the recent local fires, birds flee looking for water,” said Hansen, who graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in international affairs. She attended graduate school in environmental geography at Indiana University and wrote her thesis about the deforestation in the Yucatan Peninsula. Then she served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon, working in agroforestry.
Hansen grew up in the Pacific Northwest outside of Portland. “I always loved nature,” she said, and found her Wild Birds Unlimited store was a perfect way to combine her interests. “We partner with Audubon and Cornell Lab and are working with people to bring birds back.”
As McMansions occupy more and more of the yard space in Pacific Palisades, developers (and homebuyers) might stop to consider environmental considerations, because “Green spaces have advantages for humans, too,” Hansen said. “It has been shown to improve mental and well-being. Birds are an easy way to connect to nature.”
Currently, Los Angeles County is considered the “birdiest” county in the United States, because there are coastal, mountain, city and desert birds—more than 500 species.
Hansen said homeowners need four elements to make one’s front and back yards a stopover for birds: 1) food, 2) water, 3) shelter and 4) a place to raise the young.
Birds have various diets and basically fall into three categories of what they eat.
SEEDS. Those eating sunflower seeds might be the house finch or sparrow. The California scrub jay likes peanuts in a shell. Millet eaters are the towhees and the dark-eyed Junco.
INSECTS. Insect eating birds include the woodpeckers, the warblers and the wrens. “Do not use pesticides in your yard,” Hansen said, noting that the birds will look for worms and other insects on the ground.
What if you have squirrels or rats and are worried that they might eat the bird food? “You can put hot peppers in some of the food, which is a deterrent to squirrels,” Hansen said. Rats also avoid peppers, but “birds are fine.”
NECTOR. Nector-drinking birds include hummingbirds and hooded orioles.
Raptors such as hawks and owls will eat songbirds, but “we want to try and get away from rat poison,” said Hansen, who noted that raptors help reduce the rodent population. “We need to work on sustainable practices and reduce chemicals.”
At her store, there are different feeders, including those that prevent squirrels from eating the bird food. She also encourages bird baths because “If you put out water, this will automatically attract birds. They need to clean their wings every day.”
One Rotarian was worried that a bird bath could become a place for mosquitos to breed. “The baths have a water wiggler that moves the water, or a dripper mist,” said Hansen, who offers solar and battery-operated water sources.
Her store, located at 12433 Wilshire (across from Armstrong Nursery), has several events planned, including a talk by Ian Kimbrey on western bluebirds at 2 p.m. on January 25.
Kimbry, who has been called funny and entertaining, will talk about how to bring bluebirds into your backyard. He will bring some of his own CheepCheep Homes bird boxes to show.
On February 1 at 2 p.m., Pacific Palisades residents can attend a half-hour class to learn how to certify a yard as friendly to wildlife. The certification includes a free one-year membership to the National Wildlife Federation and a subscription to National Wildlife m. magazine.
Hansen invites all residents to stop by the store whenever they have a bird question. Contacts: (424) 272-9000 or visit: wbu.com/santamonica.