year, the USDA does its best to scare away the crows that
flock to Albany
Every winter, it looks like Albany is playing host to a live-action
remake of Hitchcock’s The Birds.
from the United States Department of Agriculture did their
best last week to frighten off the American crows that roost
annually in the neighborhood of Hackett Boulevard, Academy
Road and New Scotland and Holland avenues.
crows show up at this time of the year and become a nuisance
for residents,” says Castleton-based USDA wildlife specialist
Bryan Haslun. “It’s been an ongoing problem probably for 15
years or more now. We have, in recent years, been getting
more and more complaints where it’s a financial issue. There’s
so much ammonia in their droppings, it can damage the paint
on vehicles. We have cars completely whitewashed with droppings
because they parked underneath a tree. When you have 17,000
crows in a very small area, the smell is very repulsive. It
is the noise as well.”
are one of the relatively few species that have adapted to
civilization and thrived within it, Haslun says. The species
is doing better than when New York was blanketed with forest,
not possible to drive off the birds altogether. Instead, workers
disperse huge masses of crows into multiple smaller groupings.
can deal with 10 or 15 on their block, but when it’s 10,000
or 15,000, it’s a serious issue,” Haslun says.
and his colleagues use scare tactics ranging from high-intensity
lasers to fireworks.
lot of birds are considered neophobic,” he says. “They’re
very scared of new things in their environment. When they
see the laser beam being projected through the branches, it
scares them into flight. We also shine a powerful spotlight
into the trees and use an electronic crow-in-distress recording.
It usually gets them up and circling. That’s when we shoot
a pyrotechnic. It’s very similar to a bottle rocket. It has
a steam of light behind it. It makes a very loud whistling
noise as it projects upward. It kind of concentrates them
and pushes them out of the city. . . . For a period of a month
or more, there will be no birds in that location. It’s all
non-lethal. There is no harm physically being done to any
intelligent, these raucous black birds are corvids—cousins
to ravens and jays. Their only natural predator is the great
horned owl, which doesn’t typically venture into urban environments.
of crows swoop in nightly from a 20-mile radius once the trees
are bare. There’s safety in numbers. But that’s not the only
reason they congregate.
are a very communal bird,” says Haslun. “They like to associate
with one another.”
attracts these social birds to urban areas?
not entirely known, but, Haslun explains, there are several
reasons why crows head into cities during the winter months.
“They are a few degrees warmer than in the neighboring countryside
because the vehicles, buildings and blacktop are putting out
heat. There’s also lots of ambient light from buildings and
cars to help them detect predators and loved ones. It gives
them a sense of security.”
one more thing that draws the crows—the smorgasbord of tasty
morsels that cities have to offer.
very opportunistic,” Haslun says. “They’ll eat anything from
scraps from trash cans, dumpsters and restaurants to a deer
carcass on the side of the road. They’ll use the local landfills.
Some people do put out bread and other food. There’s nothing
a crow won’t eat, given the opportunity.”
USDA has been playing scarecrow in Albany for at least a decade,
and does the same thing in Troy and other cities.
is paid for by the city experiencing the damage,” Haslun says.
“This is a not-for-profit program. Last year we received three
quarters of our funding in New York State through private
leaders call for Albany County legislator’s resignation following
racially loaded remarks
No stranger to controversy, Albany County Legislator Brian
Scavo (District 7) is under fire again, this time for using
a racially charged phrase in a comment made on the Times Union
The blog thread concerned the uncertain future of the Albany
City Democratic Committee, which Legislator Wanda Willingham
is angling to chair. However, Albany County Democratic Committee
Chairman and Albany County Legislator Daniel McCoy (District
10) insists that the committee technically no longer exists,
because nobody called a reorganization meeting following the
September primary. McCoy has refused to convene the committee,
even though signatures from 30 percent of the committee’s
membership would be enough to revive it.
Commenting on the conflict between Willingham and McCoy, Scavo
wrote in his Nov. 12 blog comment: “. . . back of the bus
sister, so sayest king MC coy, let us bow before master MC
Although Scavo was targeting McCoy, Willingham found the rhetoric
Scavo, she said, “has taken on the Tea Party mentality, Democrat
that he is supposed to be.” She suggested that voters might
feel the same way.
district that he represents is now clearly grown to be quite
diverse,” she said. “I know, for some of his constituents
that they are not pleased with some of his antics on the floor
of the Legislature. I think it’s time for him to end his constituency.”
Willingham and four of Albany County’s other black leaders
held a press conference Nov. 19 to condemn Scavo’s comments
and call for his resignation.
At the press conference, one TV reporter asked Willingham
about Scavo’s reputation for forward conduct toward women.
think he should keep his hands to himself,” Willingham answered,
who alleged that Scavo conducts himself similarly in chambers.
But racism, not sexism, was the issue Friday at the GWU community
center on Washington Avenue.
Willingham said she was born in Waynesboro, Miss., when Jim
Crow laws were still in effect. She was a little girl when
her family moved north, but whenever they visited their Southern
relations, the family could stay only in motels and hotels
designated for African-Americans.
remember being in a department store and getting into the
long line,” Willingham recalled. “I was underneath the wrong
sign. It said, ‘Whites Only.’ I did not have an understanding
of what I was getting into,” she said, but was hustled out
of the store nonetheless.
Now Willingham is old enough to get it, and the Third District
representative won’t stand for racism on her watch. She said
she is looking into a formal process for disciplining her
McKinley Johnson was among several clergymen who condemned
Scavo at the media event. “Jim Crow is dead, but maybe Jim
Crow, Jr. is still alive,” he said.
Ann Pope, Regional Director of the NAACP, accused Scavo of
“immaturity,” claiming she was “outraged” by his choice of
metaphors. “It brings up the hurtful time of slavery,” she
said. “It reminds us of how Rosa Parks was arrested because
she would not go to the back of the bus.”
has no right to represent African-Americans as he does in
his district, nor is there a place in the legislature for
people such as him,” added Pope. “My suggestion is that he
goes to the front of the bus, gets off, goes to the Legislature
Asked about the allegations of racist and chauvinistic behavior,
Scavo declared them “character assassination and hearsay.
This is all slander,” he said.
And asked whether he’ll step down, Scavo responded, “Never.”
went too far with political commentary,” he admitted. “But
I broke no laws. I said no racist comments. I hurt her feelings
and I told her I apologize.”
Scavo apologized both in the blogosphere and over the telephone.
According to Willingham, however, during his phone apology,
Scavo invited her to a party and called her “hon,” although
Scavo flatly denies that allegation.
am not your hon,” Willingham added, chagrined.
Scavo said he wants to move on.
over,” he said. “I have no time for petty politics. It’s time
for healing. It’s a time for Democrats to start focusing on
helping people, regardless of race color and creed.”
Nov. 18, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings and Senator Neil Breslin
joined Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood President and CEO Patricia
McGeown and a crowd of supporters for a ribbon cutting that
marked the official opening of UHPP’s new facility. The new
space, located at 855 Central Ave., occupies 18,000 newly
renovated square feet. The move increases the agency’s capacity
by 50 percent over its former Lark Street location, which
provided reproductive services to more than 13,000 patients
a year, as well as community education programs and advocacy
work. The new facility houses the UHPP administrative offices
and offers a private entrance and parking, bus access, a spacious
reception area and private recovery spaces, as well as a teen
room and community meeting rooms. A recent study by the Alan
Guttmacher Foundation reported that 12,000 women living in
Albany remain in need of free or low-cost contraceptive services;
Planned Parenthood officials are hopeful that the expanded
facility will help the agency better serve that population.
loose ends this week-