Pitt is waging a war on crows with audio CDs and holiday laser lights

“Crows are like monkeys with wings” … and they’re invading Oakland.

The Cathedral of Learning where University of Pittsburgh officials are waging their annual war against a massive influx of crows using audio recordings of birds of prey.

The Cathedral of Learning where University of Pittsburgh officials are waging their annual war against a massive influx of crows using audio recordings of birds of prey.

FLICKR / YISONG YUE
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A group of crows is called “a murder.” That may be reason enough not to want 10,000 of them around at once.

But there are other reasons, too. Just ask officials at Pitt, where, after years of contending with hordes of migrating winter crows, there have been no bird-perpetrated homicides but plenty of smelly and slippery messes left on sidewalks.

It’s a visual fitting of “The Birds.” The school’s response has been more “Home Alone.”

Defense starts around sunset, with the steady, cacophonous cawing of birds unseen. Outside the Cathedral of Learning on Friday, the sound was powerful enough to be clearly detected from inside a moving vehicle. It evoked mental images of a bar fight between seagulls.

Joe Miksch, director of media relations at the university, said it’s actually the recorded sound of owls and hawks — known predators of crows.

For several years, Pitt has dusted off CDs each fall — when murders begin to roost — that contain the adversarial avian voices. The discs are broadcast using CD players wired to speakers and positioned around campus as needed. (Apparently Spotify has yet to fill this niche.)

Here’s what that sounds like: