Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Crows are a major pecan pest

A couple of crows high in pecan trees
    Every year crows from all over the upper great plains migrate south for the winter in search for easily-accessible, high-energy food sources. Unfortunately, that means they like to stop in our pecan grove right at harvest time to feast on pecans. Its hard to photograph crows (photo at right) because they are such wary birds. Or, maybe, they have come to realize that a man on foot in a pecan grove is often followed by shotgun blasts.
    It is estimated that a single crow can consume 15 pounds of pecans per month. Crows will knock nuts to the ground, hold the pecan between their feet, and crack open the shell with their large, heavy beak. After cracking the nut open, they pick out the kernel, leaving shell and packing material on the ground.

Pecan shells left after crow feeding
   If you walk out under your trees you can spot the shell fragments left by crows (photo at left). You usually don't see a lot of shells in one location but I gathered up a few examples and placed them all in one photo.
    Crows have become an increasing problem for pecan growers ever since they became federally protected bird--a result of the NAFTA treaty (the crow is the national bird of Mexico). Later this winter, we will be holding a meeting with Federal and State wildlife managers to develop an action plan for reducing crow populations. Watch this blog for further details as we make plans for this meeting.