A good friend of my mother’s back in my hometown of Saugerties, New York, is having a problem. She and her coworkers have had their cars besieged by Common Ravens. The ravens rip apart their windshield wipers and destroy the rubber seals that keep their cars waterproof. Now, this is not an unknown problem. In south Florida, Black Vultures attack cars; in Australia, it’s Black Crows; in Canada, American Crows.
No one can figure out why, exactly, birds are attacking and dismantling cars. Theories include it being a reaction to their reflection in the window, but that doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve seen birds react to reflections and they attack their reflections, not random rubber things near their reflections. Some think there must be some mineral in the rubber items that the birds want to eat but observations indicate that the birds, at least in Florida, don’t seem to eat what they rip off of cars. They play with it. This might mean that boredom is what is causing the problem. Much like teenagers, birds with nothing to do end up getting themselves into trouble by acting like delinquents. But that doesn’t seem like much of an answer to me. In Florida, a study is underway that is attempting to determine exactly what is going on, but that is only likely to help figure out if it is a small number of birds doing the damage or a bunch and is unlikely to figure out why they are attacking.
What does this raven have against this car?
So, readers, what do you think is going on here? Why are birds of a variety of species attacking cars and what can be done to stop them? While this may seem funny it isn’t to those who have had their cars attacked; the damages can run to the thousands of dollars. What would you do if your car was being attacked by ravens?
Hungry bird or juvenile delinquent?
The top and bottom images in this post are by Jean Kings. The middle one is by Kerry Baran. All were sent to me by Cathy Fuller. Thanks, Jean, Kerry, and Cathy!
This is a fun post; although not for the people getting their cars damaged! We had a fish camp in Bristol Bay, AK that was unattended all winter. One year a bear broke into our cabin and exited through a wall near a big mirror. When we returned, we found the mirror had been pecked and the wood under it was really wrecked. There was bird poop and feathers everywhere. We figure a Raven had spent a lot of time in front of that mirror!
In New Zealand, it’s Keas.
The solution would be to include chili powder in the rubber mixture. This worked for me in Namibia: if you don’t want your campsite destroyed by a gang of baboons, put out a plate of chili con carne without the carne.
Jochen, I don’t know why your chili worked, but it wasn’t because it was too spicy. Birds aren’t sensitive to capsaicin, the active ingredient in chilis. In fact, chili seeds are dispersed by birds, who will consume large quantities without any apparent discomfort. In fact, scientist believe that chilis load their seeds with capsaicin because it prevents them from being consumed by mammals and insures their dispersal by birds.
I’m not sure if birds would be affected by the chili powder. For example, one solution put forth to discourage mammals from getting into bird seed is to pepper the bird seed. The birds don’t mind, the mammals do.
Road salt on the wipers? Boredom?
I have caught Ravens pecking on my truck twice on the bed cover on the mirrors even pecking at my front door my husband thought someone was knocking until he went to the door and saw the Raven doing it
The ravens here were pecking holes our hot tub cover and the soft top of the car. Then they went after the inflatable pool. I first thought it must be because they go in the garbage and are rewarded with food after poking the trash bags but?? I dont know what their deal is with weather stripping.
During a Health Safety Environment audit at a Christine Lake Site in Alberta, Canada, site workers who parked a truck for tasks returned to the truck and found a window ajar with gasket pulled away and discarded nearby and food items scattered everywhere in the truck. There was no evidence of human presence other then the driver and passengers, and then it was reported on another occasion that the ravens, almost twice as large as a cat, were seen dissecting another site truck windshield gasket to probably pry the windshield to access food.
Big, smart devious, and once there is one example that works, it is passed down the line.