I often see the scarecrows in private fields and gardens, with crows sitting on them.

Are they just a tribute to tradition or they really work in some way?

  • 4
    Simple. Direct. Very nice question. – Monkey Tuesday Oct 12 '11 at 20:41
  • Maybe one of these. – naught101 Nov 5 '12 at 7:28
  • The answer is time dependent; I have seen something scare-off birds for a day , and a couple days later they perch on it. – blacksmith37 Oct 19 '19 at 15:29
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    I don't see a notable claim, voting to close . Hehehe just joking. In all seriousness the proper way of using scare crows is once in a while replacing the scarecrow with a human that waits completely still until a crow is sitting on his shoulder, then he jumps up yelling "boo!" – daniel Oct 20 '19 at 12:55

The UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has a 2003 report titled Review of international research literature regarding the effectiveness of auditory bird scaring techniques and potential alternatives by J. Bishop, H. McKay, D. Parrott and J. Allan.

It reviews the evidence from a number of reports about bird-scaring and concludes:

Visual techniques (lasers, dogs, human disturbance, scarecrows, raptor models, corpses, balloons, kites, falconry, radio-controlled aircraft, lights, mirrors/reflectors, tapes, flags/rags and streamers and dyes/colourants) are thought to be of varied effectiveness ranging from extremely effective (human disturbance) to ineffective (most scarecrows).

[Emphasis mine]

Wikipedia suggests, without a relevant reference, that the scaring effect is species-dependent.

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    Anecdotally, I've seen many a murder sitting satisfied on a scarecrow. – Brian M. Hunt Oct 12 '11 at 18:36
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    @BrianM.Hunt - always loved that collective noun – Rory Alsop Oct 12 '11 at 19:27
  • Spending as much time in the American midwest as I have, I must agree with Brian Hunt. – Monkey Tuesday Oct 13 '11 at 0:31
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    For non-english, like me, confused by "a murder": "A group of crows is called a flock or a murder" – Suma Oct 13 '11 at 20:28
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    If I read this correctly, it leaves it open whether scarecrows could have been at least somewhat effective in the past. It's not too far-fetched to think that back when people manually farmed the fields (and thus driving off birds when they saw them), that a scarecrow would be more effective as birds would be used to getting driven off by a human. Nowadays, people barely if ever farm their fields manually, so the dummy (scarecrow) no longer resembles the actual obstacle (a human driving them off), leading birds to not associate one with the other anymore. – Flater Oct 21 '19 at 13:50

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