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Staff archives: Crows swarm in Redwood City, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. (John Green/Staff)

DEAR JOAN: Our neighborhood is having a problem with a huge murder of crows.

They are ripping up the lawn looking for grubs. They are scaring children and we no longer see small song birds around. Is there anything we can do to encourage them to leave?

George W.

Cyberspace

DEAR GEORGE: The population of crows goes up and down, and right now, it's at a high and lots of people have murder on their minds. Just how desperate are you? Because I think you are going to have to be really at your wit's end to go to the expense and bother.

Crows actually are pretty cool. They have big inclusive families and they like to hang out together. The eldest bird takes on a leadership role, signaling warnings to the other birds.

One of the calls is an alert that one in the pod has been hurt and when sounded, the whole family comes rushing.

It is that cry, recorded and played over a loud speaker, that professionals use to get rid of crows. It takes time to accomplish the deed, and results aren't guaranteed. The first several times, you'll actually draw more birds to the area, responding to the call for help. Eventually, the birds get irritated and go some place quieter. You and your neighbors may want to join them by that time. Systems are available or you can contact a wildlife control company.

I know it's a pain, but you may have to find a way to coexist.

DEAR JOAN: When we first moved into our Menlo Park home in 1967, numerous robins munched on our ripe pyracantha berries during one migration or another. We still have ripe berries every fall, but have not seen a robin in years. How come?

Jim M.

Menlo Park

DEAR JIM: Well, it's certainly not because there is a shortage of robins in the area and it's not because they've all joined Avian Alcoholics Anonymous. The robin population in the Bay Area appears to be thriving, and robins still love pyracantha berries.

I suspect that something about your yard or neighborhood is keeping the robins away. Maybe, like in George's neighborhood, the crows are dominant. There are any number of reasons. Take a look around and see if there is something that might be pulling in the welcome mat.

Bird bath advice

Last week a reader asked why birds seem to be snubbing her new birdbath. She thought it might be the color -- blue and white -- or because it was made of a different material.

Here are some thoughts from readers.

  • In owning a Wild Birds Unlimited store for 20 years we heard many birdbath stories from backyard enthusiasts. We also learned a lot from them, such as that birds hardly ever bathe in hanging baths. I have surmised that they do not feel safe.

    Birds generally will not bathe in baths with smooth surfaces. The probable reason is they do not have traction on the slippery surfaces.

    Birds do not have depth perception. They cannot see how deep the water is. To help them, put a flat-topped rock or two in the bath. That will enable them to see the depth of the water and feel more confident.

    Mike Williams

  • Putting a large-size terra-cotta plant saucer inside of the birdbath seems to help. Small birds can sit on the rim of the saucer and drink or bathe without fear of drowning. It also cuts the glare when the sun shines on the water.

    Shirley

    Martinez

    Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.