Honors research leads to deterred presence of crows
Photo by Peter Bailley '74

Honors research by Elena Prado-Ragan ’18 offers an effective deterrent to the flocks of crows that arrive in Galesburg each winter and cover pavements and cars with droppings.

Prado-Ragan focused on crows because they congregate in such large numbers on and around the Knox campus. She based her research on a series of studies that had been published by John Marzluff of the University of Washington, which investigated how crows avoid areas where their dead are present.

While other methods to get rid of crows often involve poisoning, trapping, or shooting them, Prado-Ragan hung plastic crow effigies in positions that made them appear as if they were dead. She then tracked how many crows were present before the “dead” crow and how many were present 24 hours later. Her research ultimately revealed a 79 percent decrease in crows.

The Knox County Board put the idea into practice to save a tree located near the entrance of the Knox County Courthouse. The tree had been scheduled to be cut down because of all the bird droppings in the courthouse parking lot. Prado-Ragan’s faculty mentors, biology professors Jim Mountjoy and Jennifer Templeton, shared Prado-Ragan’s research with the board—and the effigies worked well enough to save the tree. Since then, crow effigies have also been placed on the Knox campus.

Prado-Ragan currently works as an assistant field ecologist to a Ph.D. student in Bocas del Toro, Panama, and hopes to pursue a master’s degree in ornithology.