How a fog that smells like grape Kool-Aid is keeping crows from making mess in Arlington

An influx of crows in the Shirlington area of Arlington, Virginia, has been causing a mess for some area businesses. But here’s something to crow about: Officials say they have figured out a solution.

Posted on the window of Busboys and Poets in Shirlington is a letter from Federal Realty, the company that manages The Village at Shirlington. The letter states that “to mitigate the nuisance issues and property damage due to the flocks of roosting crows, we have partnered with Xceptional Wildlife to implement a Passive Deterrent System.”

The deterrent is a fog that smells like grape Kool-Aid, and it’s believed that the crows can’t stand it. The solution has been deployed since March 28 and will continue through Monday.

Luis Ferrer, general manager of Busboys and Poets, said the mess the birds leave behind is something the restaurant has grown used to.

“They tend to use the bathroom on our tables, our guests — it has fallen in food before,” he said.

Ferrer said his team likes to make customers aware of the possibility before they sit outside.

“We always let guests know when they sit outside, it is something that comes with the territory,” he said.

The note posted on the restaurants window went on to say “this method is a quick and easy bird repellent as well as humane and nonlethal means to relocate these specific flocks.”

Leaders in the community believe the issue goes beyond messiness.

“The influx of crows has created real problems for our community. In particular, twice-daily cleaning costs by understaffed businesses just recovering from the pandemic. We hope this science-based treatment with a food-grade fog works,” Shirlington Civic Association President Edith Wilson told WTOP.

Ferrer said he has seen a decrease in the amount of crows in the area. However, he said he has lost some revenue because now he can’t seat anyone outside while the fog is deployed.

He said although the chemical is harmless, they do not want it getting in anyone’s food.

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