Birds Cause Havoc in Tacoma

Jaxon Owens, Website Editor

Over the past three years people have walked up to their cars to find holes in their windshields in Tacoma. What was it? Vandalism maybe? No it was birds, crows who were dropping walnuts on people’s cars to open them the nut.

Tacoma city official Dana Brown explains what the situation is.

“Every fall, over the last three years, crows have taken nuts from a local tree and they are dropping them on to hard surfaces. One of those hard surfaces is a parking lot that I manage and when walnuts are dropped from a great distance, they dent car hoods and they break windows,” Brown said.

Brown has come up with a number of options to stop this ongoing problem.

“We have talked about a number of solutions including noise out [at the parking lot], noise that humans would not hear, so ultrasonic noise up to extermination. Which extermination would not be very acceptable in the downtown community,” Brown said.

Anita Gallagher, a victim of this bird nutting, shares her emotion to when she found out that there was a hole in her windshield.

“I was angry, but not altogether surprised. I know a couple of co-workers who have had their windows broken by the crows earlier this year. Of course, I was hoping it would not happen to me and I was not happy about it,” Gallagher said. “Thankfully I have glass replacement on my auto insurance policy, so the replacement of the window itself was covered. However, I did have to have the window tinted to match my other windows, which cost about $120.”

Brown says that cars are not the only way the birds use to open walnuts.

“On my way into work, I have seen these birds who take the same walnuts and put them on the road on Woodland Ave. right where the wheel hits the pavement and they swoop in behind to pick up the crushed nut because the car ran over it. They are using different ways to crack open the nuts to get their food,” Brown said.

Brown explains how they first learned about the problem.

“The first reports were broken windshields and we first thought it was vandalism that was occurring. So then we started watching the parking lot and we realized that it was birds. At that point it was just a small clan of birds, maybe three or four. They were using the hard surface as a tool,” Brown said. “It has become deadly over the years, so that leads me to believe that it is a learned trait. So they are passing it on to their youngsters and other birds are like ‘hey that is pretty cool, let us start doing that.’”

Gallagher had heard of this problem before this happened to her.

“I did [hear of birds dropping nuts on cars happening to other people]. I know a couple of people who had their windows broken as well. Since the time that my window was broken, I have learned of it happening to three other people as well. I was informed that my window was broken by a co-worker before I walked out to my car at the end of the work day. There were broken walnuts on the ground around my vehicle, so it became clear that the crows has broken the window,” Gallagher said.

Brown has seen another bird watching this project.

“They are all crows, there are some interested seagulls and they huddle around and watch. They remind me of the seagulls on Finding Nemo. They just sit there watch they try to swoop in and get some of the bounty,” Gallagher said.

Luckily for the city, the parking lot is park at your own risk.

“Unfortunately for the people who park there, it is park at your own risk. So there is no compensation, it is broken windshields. One guy ended up having 2800 dollars of damage between his roof and windows. Plus he had to have his car partially repainted. Windshields cost about $400-$800 a piece,” Brown said.

Brown expects unless they take action, this will go on for a while.

“I suspect it will be an on-going problem. The birds are being successful in what they are doing. I suspect that we will see more birds doing exactly heat this small group of birds is doing. Unless we take some measures to make them move on to a different place or take care of the food source,” Brown said.