More and more crows in Saxony-Anhalt: “He has something Hitchcock about him”

The summer idyll of chirping birds in Wanzleber Cemetery is deceptive. “Autumn starts here again,” says Carolin Axmann, responsible for the cemetery at the construction office. He means hundreds of pairs of black wings circling above the treetops in the early morning hours. And the roaring cackling that wakes the locals before the alarm goes off. Axmann recalls: “Because of Corona, the funerals were held outside, so you could no longer understand the speaker.”

“He’s wearing something of a Hitchcock in a continuous loop,” says the inhabitant of the cemetery. The city has already received numerous complaints and videos. The first recordings are from 2019, when it all started here. Neither Axmann nor Stefan Fischer of the Steckby bird sanctuary can say why the rooks in Wanzleben and many other places in Saxony-Anhalt have multiplied so much.

Facts about towers
– songbird
– from 40 to 50 cm tall
– omnivores
– formerly migratory birds from Eastern and Northern Europe – native today
– Colony breeders create partnerships for life

Crows are under special protection

Fischer heads the rook counts of Saxony-Anhalt. The fact that in 2021 almost twice as many breeding pairs were registered in Germany as it was 20 years ago is not only due to better data collection for Fischer. The legal protection of animals is also important. The rook belongs to the species of European birds and therefore is under special protection. It must not be killed or disturbed during the breeding season. And for good reason, as the crow was thought to have almost become extinct for decades.

Ornithologist Axel Schonert told MDR SACHSEN-ANHALT: “The crow has been the subject of intense hunting during the last two centuries. For a time it was assumed that it was an agricultural pest that eats seeds. But the rook is so called because it is looking for food on freshly plowed soil and thus on seeds. But mostly on insects and small animals.

According to Schonert and Fischer, one of the consequences of this hunt is the escape of the crows from the city. Intelligent birds have learned that they are safer than firearms and raptors in settlement areas. In addition, they find less grassy areas outside the cities and fewer insects in the fields due to the use of pesticides. Since crows breed in colonies, groups of trees with many branches, such as in city parks or cemeteries, are especially attractive to them after migration through the city.

Crows disturb the peace of the dead in the cemetery

Return to Wanzleben. Where such a colony hinders the peace of the dead. “The excrement is eating away at the tombstones and, if not disposed of quickly, they cause damage,” says Carolin Axmann. Damage left to the city, even if nature conservation laws prohibit stricter measures against crowds.

How places deal with crows
– Move nests
– Prune trees to make it difficult to build nests
– Hang protective vests or dummy birds of prey on trees
– cover trees with nets,
– Hire a falconer whose birds of prey will scare away crows
– Calls or noise until departure

The city of Wanzleben has invested a lot of money and work in fighting birds. 30,000 euros alone went to the green waste, thanks to which the crows had less space for their nests. Axmann sums it up dryly: “They laugh at us.” From 2020, from 7 a.m., the sound cannon is also working with 120 decibels, which is the pain threshold of human ears. Again and again until shortly before the breeding season begins on March 25. The city wants to shoot longer, but state administration offices are citing protection guidelines. The court report is to explain the proceedings in the cemetery. According to the statistics of the State Environmental Protection Office, the number of active raven nests there decreased by more than half in 2020 (92) and 2021 (40).

Dead crows in the sandbox

However, Wanzleben now has a second rookie colony in the “An der Burg” Elementary School – possibly also as a result of the measures taken. It is not unusual, says ornithologist Stefan Fischer. Similar experiences are already taking place in Bavaria. There, deterrence led to the split of the raven colony and the multiplication of the problem. On the other hand, it was shown that the crow population stabilized over time in undisturbed colonies.

So you finally date crows? Karin Kühle, head of after-school care at Wanzleber, is not a good prospect. Bird droppings that are found in the sandbox or in the playground equipment in the morning are also a problem. The ornithologist Schonert cites research that proves that dirt is not harmful to health. In response to a question from MDR, the state administration admitted that faeces could “be a problem” in nurseries and hospitals.

Cooling told MDR SACHSEN-ANHALT: “At six in the morning on the school pitch, he’s completely black from all the crows. I can already hear the noise in front of the parking lot. This is a serious matter. We also regularly find dead animals in sandboxes here. The other birds ordered them to drive the crows out of here.

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