OTSUCHI, Iwate Prefecture–Since the “crows do not enter” signs went up at a university research center here, the pesky birds have quit raiding it for nest material.
Katsufumi Sato, a professor of ethology, put up the first set of signs in 2015 after taking advice from his friend Tsutomu Takeda, a researcher of environmental medicine and “crow expert.”
Takeda suggested putting up the warning signs at the International Coastal Research Center (ICRC) of the Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, the University of Tokyo.
Sato first thought his friend was kidding, but he gave it a try. In no time at all, the crows stopped targeting the research center in northeastern Japan.
The professor expected the lull was perhaps temporary and down to luck, but, no, the crows continued to stay away.
In mid-April, Sato was hanging the new warning signs for the spring that prohibit crows from coming into the building that were written on sheets of paper. They were hung on broken window frames and pipes on the ground floor of a research center building that was inundated with water after the tsunami spawned by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
This year was the third “round” of his so-far successful war against the bothersome birds.
The foul avians target the insulation material covering the pipes, tearing it off and flying away with their “loot.”
“Crows take it for their nests,” said Sato with a bitter smile.
The predecessor of the current research center opened in 1973 as a base for international marine research, but on March 11, 2011, the tsunami hit, reaching even the top floor of the three-story building.
The third floor was later repaired for temporary use, but the first and second floors were not and after debris was cleared, they became warehouse space.
The crows’ first full-on invasion took place in the spring of 2015, according to Sato.
The insulation material on the pipes along the exposed ceiling of the first floor were torn away but there was tell-tale evidence of whom the guilty party was–crow feathers and bird droppings scattered about.
The houses around the research center were all destroyed, and the residents have moved to other areas.
As the ICRC building’s windows and doors had been left without glass panes on the bottom two floors, it was easy pickings for the airborne marauders.
Sato was consulted by research center staff, but could not provide a decisive solution.
In a flap, he turned to Takeda, who works at the Center for Weed and Wildlife Management at Utsunomiya University.
So, have the crows been reading books and studying written Japanese? Not quite.
Takeda said the crows are actually scared off by ICRC staff and students looking and pointing their fingers at them after seeing the strange signs.
“People gaze up at the sky (looking for crows), you know,” said Takeda.
This year, Sato put up a few dozen signs. There are few crows flying around. People coming to and going from the center see the signs and look up to the sky.
“The effectiveness will increase if there are more people looking at the crows,” said Sato. “So please feel free to visit us!”
TV news was a little more forthcoming with information in that wild crows don’t like being pointed at or stared at – gosh, they’re just like me – and will avoid areas where they a the centre of unwanted attention.
Avian psychology wins!