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An abundance of bird poop sullies Shirlington, but some relief may be on the way

A murder of crows is set to fly from Shirlington soon, which may mean less bird poop around a shopping center and apartment complex.

Droppings are once again scattered over pavement patches, planters and awnings around the retail center. The yearly return of crows to Shirlington is partly to blame, but so are a number of other birds, like sparrows, pigeons and grackles, says Catherine Sevcenko, of Diva Crows, an organization in Northern Virginia that cares for injured crows and ravens.

Every winter, crows have flocked to the neighborhood, bombarding surfaces with droppings. The crows largely hang out around a CVS at 4060 Campbell Avenue, a Village at Shirlington parking garage at 2700 S. Quincy Street, and The Citizen at Shirlington Village apartment complex at 3000 S. Randolph Street, according to Sevcenko.

Around this time last year, Federal Realty Investment Trust — which owns the shopping center — tried releasing a grape-scented artificial fog to deter the crows from perching in the trees.

This concerned Sevcenko, who says that at this point in the season “the best mitigation measure is patience.”

“The crows will be completely gone soon, as they are in the process of dispersing to their home territories to begin nest-building,” she said. “The chicks hatch early — at the end of March — because they take a relatively long time to mature, about 6-8 weeks.”

Not everyone has patience for the persistent poopers, however.

“This is disgusting!” one anonymous tipster, who sent a photo above, wrote to ARLnow. “The entire sidewalk surrounding the property is covered in bird poop. So many complaints and they won’t do anything about it. What’s the point in having a sidewalk when you have to walk in the middle of the street to avoid getting pooped on.”

A representative with the Citizen at Shirlington Village apartment complex said the area around the building is power-washed twice a week.

“We can’t control the crows or the poop,” he said. “It’s all around, everywhere — the shopping center, the restaurants — all have crow poop. It’s not just Citizen.”

Yesterday morning (Tuesday), before most shops were open, flocks of sparrows could be heard chittering and seen perching in leafless trees. Our poop-shoe reporting found that a few people who work in retail there appreciate the regular power-washing in the early morning hours, with a CVS employee noting that he thinks the scat situation has improved.

Two staff members at the smoothie shop Robeks described how the crows perch in the trees at night and likened the sound of falling feces to rain. They say the excrement doesn’t ruffle the feathers of customers, but added that they aren’t sure how effective previous deterrent efforts were.

That’s perhaps because there are other birds inexorably drawn to the neighborhood, says Sevcenko.

“If you look at the droppings, they are all different sizes, which would suggest they come from different birds,” she said. “The streaks on the planters come from a bird perching on the edge, which a crow is unlikely to do because it would not feel safe perching that close to the ground with people around. A sparrow or pigeon are the more likely culprits. Which is not to exonerate the crows completely, but people have to learn to live with their urban avian neighbors.”

Power-washing and a product called Poop Off will clean surfaces but the birds are likely to keep coming back, she said. Like the humans who come to Shirlington, birds are likely also fans of the local eateries.

“I imagine that there will always be some crows around because of all the restaurants and thus dumpsters with food,” said Sevcenko.

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