LISTEN: The Downtown Crows and Portland's Relationship to Nature

This week we talk about the annual winter crow roost and the conflicts that have emerged.

By Gabriel Granillo February 19, 2021

For more than a decade crows have been roosting in Portland. During the fall and winter months, American crows will congregate in numbers from a couple dozen to tens of thousands, and make their way to urban and rural landscapes around Portland where they chat it up and camp out for the night. But by far the largest congregation takes place in downtown. At its peak, the crow roost in downtown Portland can exceed 15,000. 

The spectacle, beautiful though it may be, presents a problem for downtown businesses that have often complained about the noise and the fecal matter. The city has deployed numerous efforts to combat these problems including the Poopmaster 6000. And for four years, Downtown Portland Clean & Safe has worked with Integrated Avian Solutions, a group of urban falconers, biologists, and bird management professionals, to conduct something known as hazing. Avian Solutions works with a small team of trained Harris Hawks to assist with the moving the crows out of the downtown area toward other parts of the city. But hazing has not gone without it critics who contend the method is ineffective and potentially harmful to the crows.

Today on Footnotes, we dive into this yearly phenomenon in Portland, talk a little bit about the conflicts that have arisen during these roosts, and explore this convergence of wildlife and city life and what that says about our relationship with nature.


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