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Japanese company uses 'crow language' to keep them away from garbage

15 Comments
By SoraNews24

Over the years, people in Japan have been having an increasingly hard time co-existing with the sizable crows here. We mean “sizable” both in terms of population and the fact that they’re pretty big. They’ve been known to cause trouble for everyone, but they’re especially problematic on trash day.

When everyone puts their garbage bags curbside it becomes a paradise for the scavenger birds, who tear through the bags with their large beaks and pluck out whatever they want, leaving a huge mess in the process.

The standard method of prevention is to put a special net over the bags that makes it hard for crows to get into the bags. However, being the clever birds they are, they’ve been learning how to pull the bags out from under the nets through the sides.

▼ We caught these guys having a garbage party the other day. We're not sure if they lifted the yellow net right off themselves, or if the person just forgot to put it on.

Screenshot-2024-03-29-at-9.14.10.png
Image: SoraNews24

In Adachi, Tokyo, this has been an especially pressing problem, and local officials have been hard at work finding alternative countermeasures for these big birds.

Studying crow behavior, it was found that they have a high regard for personal space and don’t like things coming in contact with their bodies. So officials tried hanging objects like brushes to dangle just above the trash piles. Initially, the crows were hesitant to bump up against the obstacles, but over time got used to them and it was back to business as usual.

This is where CrowLab, a crow damage consulting firm in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture, was called in to help, with their CrowController system. Developed by studying crows for 20 years and collecting over 10,000 of their voice samples, CrowController is a shoe-box-sized speaker that literally tells the crows to go away in their own language.

CrowLab was able to isolate the specific cries that crows use to communicate when a threat such as a cat or hawk is nearby. If a crow comes close to CrowController, a motion sensor triggers an audio recording of that cry to tell the real crows that the area is not safe. In a trial period from June to September of last year, Adachi found that CrowController had immediate effects in some of their most crow-ravaged garbage collection points.

▼ CrowController in action: It’s the little gray box off to the side.

Not only that, but it seemed to have improved human behavior as well. Since people also trigger the CrowController sound, they also think crows are nearby and become extra careful about putting the garbage more properly and securely under their nets than before.

While the results are very promising so far, readers of the news online are skeptical that crows can be fooled forever.

“Crows are smart! It works for now…”

“I hope it works for a long time because crows have a lot of intelligence.”

“That’s impressive, but I’m worried it’ll lead to an ecological imbalance.”

“I want a crow-translation machine too!”

“I’m sure they’ll learn soon.”

“Caw! Caw!”

“It would be nice if the crows never got used to this.”

Perhaps the effectiveness would boil down to how sophisticated CrowController’s design is. If the motion sensor and audio files are always the same, the birds might be able to recognize the patterns eventually and find a way around them. But, if there’s an element of randomness when, where, and how the crow cries are played, it could keep them on their toes for a while.

Ultimately the proof will be in how prevalent CrowController becomes across the country. Adachi has already purchased five units and if they continue to work as well as they have been, one of these boxes may come to a street corner near you in the future.

Source: CrowLabYomiuri Shimbun OnlineTwitter/@livedoornewsMy Game News Flash

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Osaka resident follows Twitter suggestion and befriends neighborhood crows with shocking result

-- Fed-up Japanese city hires a hawk to chase occupying army of crows away from city hall【Videos】

-- Crows in Japan spotted playing with Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, may have exploitable bias in deck-building

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

15 Comments
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sensor triggers an audio recording of that cry to tell the real crows that the area is not safe. 

Need sophisticated tech, motion sensor and such? No, just need to play that same voice over and over again during morning time at garbage collection days.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

I needed this story...to remind me about the Japanese character...so inventive, so bizarre, so detached from the world.

What can one say but...Caw, caw !!!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Or, they can mandate the use of hard sealable garbage bins, like, um, most of the rest of the world uses.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I remember one morning watching a big desert raven flapping madly as it used its beak to lift the lid on a big plastic trash bin. Once open the raven began dispensing the contents to its buddies in its murder (a group of crows is called a "murder", not a flock). Plastic trash cans like those used by most side loading trash trucks do not keep a determined raven out. Some neighbors will put a brick or a large rock on the lid to secure it. The brick or rock falls off when the trash truck dumps the contents.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Once open the raven began dispensing the contents to its buddies in its murder (a group of crows is called a "murder", not a flock).

A group of ravens is called a "conspiracy".

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A group of ravens is called a "conspiracy".

...or an "unkindness".

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Crows are really clever birds. They will get used to it. They are worth watching, as they have a number of distinctive behaviours. They are very delicate feeders and will take dry bread or bits of dead things to the birdbath and soak it. Birds are not 'bird brains'. The pigeons ninja-kick my bird feeders to get seed out of them. A couple are more tame and follow me around the garden until I feed them. The resident robin watches me dig, diving in and eating any bugs I dislodge.

Is there any reason why Japan doesn't have wheelie bins?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In our countryside/seaside location, the garbage is placed in large metal cages with sliding doors. Keeps all the animals out including pigs and bears.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A group of ravens is called a "conspiracy".

I see ! A group of crows is called a "murder" but a group of ravens is called an "unkindness" or a "conspiracy". Interesting. I also learned a group of owls is called a "parliament".

https://birdfact.com/articles/what-is-a-group-of-owls-called

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In our part of Hyogo we have to use lockable bins to stop the crows and wild boar getting to the wet trash.

They must have a great sense of smell because garden waste bags we put out (not in bins), never get touched.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Since people also trigger the CrowController sound, they also think crows are nearby and become extra careful about putting the garbage more properly and securely under their nets than before.

I would not be surprised this accounts for a very significant part of the benefits obtained.

That’s impressive, but I’m worried it’ll lead to an ecological imbalance.

Then again why to protect a "balance" that depends on the garbage in the first place?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

We have a similar problem in my town with European Herring Gulls, and their population is continually growing, not helped by tourists feeding them. They have become unafraid of humans, snatching food from your hand by flying from behind and swooping over your shoulder. They are a protected species here in the UK and are large birds too.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Is there any reason why Japan doesn't have wheelie bins?

They take up too much space.

They'd also spoil the fun of your neighbourhood busy body with nothing else to do but go through your garbage and then complain to the council about it.

The council would then have to fire a third of their workforce for being too efficient.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Crows are soooo funny, lol

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

To put this story in perspective, I think another language should be used, too. Chirp chirp bacaw.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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