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A grouping of scarecrows in a rice paddy in Japan

A scarecrow is a decoy or mannequin that is often in the shape of a human. Humanoid scarecrows are usually dressed in old clothes and placed in open fields to discourage birds from disturbing and feeding on recently cast seed and growing crops.[1] Scarecrows are used around the world by farmers, and are a notable symbol of farms and the countryside in popular culture.


A scarecrow wearing a helmet (Japan)

The common form of a scarecrow is a humanoid figure dressed in old clothes and placed in open fields to discourage birds such as crows or sparrows from disturbing and feeding on recently cast seed and growing crops.[1] Machinery such as windmills have been employed as scarecrows, but the effectiveness lessens as animals become familiar with the structures.[2]

Since the invention of the humanoid scarecrow, more effective methods have been developed. On California farmland, highly-reflective aluminized PET film ribbons are tied to the plants to produce shimmers from the sun. Another approach is using automatic noise guns powered by propane gas. One winery in New York has even used inflatable tube men or airdancers to scare away birds.[3]

Cultural impact[edit]

Circle of scarecrow children at Joe's Scarecrow Village
  • In the United Kingdom, where the use of scarecrows as a protector of crops dates from time immemorial[timeframe?] and where there are a few different languages and several different dialects, there are a wide range of alternative names such as:
Name Locale
Hodmedod Berkshire
Murmet Devon
Hay-man England
Gallybagger Isle of Wight
Tattie Bogal Isle of Skye
Tattie bogle[5]

Bodach-rocais (lit. "old man of the rooks")

Mommet Somerset
Mawkin Sussex
Bwbach Wales


Urchfont Scarecrow Festival, Ali Baba
  • In England, the Urchfont Scarecrow Festival[6] was established in the 1990s and has become a major local event, attracting up to 10,000 people annually for the May Day Bank Holiday. Originally based on an idea imported from Derbyshire, it was the first Scarecrow Festival to be established in the whole of southern England.[citation needed]
  • The festival at Wray, Lancashire, was established in the early 1990s and continues to the present day. In the village of Orton, Eden, Cumbria scarecrows are displayed each year, often using topical themes such as a Dalek exterminating a Wind turbine to represent local opposition to a wind farm.
  • The village of Blackrod, near Bolton in Greater Manchester, holds a popular annual Scarecrow Festival over a weekend usually in early July.
  • In the US, St. Charles, Illinois, hosts an annual Scarecrow Festival.[13] Peddler's Village in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, hosts an annual scarecrow festival and presents a scarecrow display in September–October that draws tens of thousands of visitors.
  • The "pumpkin people" come in the autumn months in the valley region of Nova Scotia, Canada. They are scarecrows with pumpkin heads applied to them doing various things such as playing the fiddle or riding a wooden horse. Hickling, in the south of Nottinghamshire, is another village that celebrates an annual scarecrow event. It is very popular and has successfully raised a great deal of money for charity.[14] Meaford, Ontario, has celebrated the Scarecrow Invasion since 1996.
  • In the Philippines, the Province of Isabela has recently[when?] started a scarecrow festival named after the local language: the Bambanti Festival. The province invites all its cities and towns to participate for the festivities, which last a week; it has drawn tourists from around the island of Luzon.[citation needed]
  • The largest gathering of scarecrows in one location is 3,812 and was achieved by National Forest Adventure Farm in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, UK, on 7 August 2014.[15]

Scarecrows in popular culture[edit]


  • In Kojiki, the oldest surviving book in Japan (compiled in the year 712), a scarecrow known as Kuebiko appears as a deity who cannot walk, yet knows everything about the world.
  • The Scarecrow is the alter ego of the Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn, the smuggler hero in a series of novels written by Russell Thorndike. The story was made into the movie Doctor Syn in 1937, and again in 1962 as Captain Clegg. It was taken up by Disney in 1963 and dramatized in the three-part TV miniseries The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh starring Patrick McGoohan; this was later re-edited and released theatrically as Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow.
  • The Goosebumps series features a story called "The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight" which details a bunch of scarecrows that are brought to life by a spell.

Film and television[edit]


  • The song "Scarecrow People" on the XTC album Oranges & Lemons is a cautionary tale about the evolution of mankind to 'scarecrow people' who 'ain't got no brains' and 'ain't got no hearts' and are the result of humans destroying their world with wars and pollution.
  • Melissa Etheridge recorded the song "Scarecrow" for her 1999 album Breakdown. The song is actually about Matthew Shepard. The title makes reference to the bicyclist who found Shepard murdered and tied to a fence, and mistook him for a scarecrow upon first glance.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lesley Brown (ed.). (2007). "Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles". 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-923324-3.
  2. ^ Hartshorne, Henry (1881), The Household Cyclopedia of General Information, New York: Thomas Kelly, Machinery of various kinds, such as wind-mills in miniature, horse rattles, etc., to be put in motion by the wind, are often employed to frighten crows; but with all of these they soon become familiar, when they cease to be of any use whatever.
    Additionally, the humanoid frame of the traditional scarecrow was thought to aid in deterring the birds. The most effectual method of banishing them from a field, as far as experience goes, is to combine with one or other of the scarecrows in vogue the frequent use of the musket. Nothing strikes such terror into these sagacious animals as the sight of a fowling-piece and the explosion of gun powder, which they have known so often to be fatal to their race.
    Such is their dread of a fowling-piece, that if one is placed upon a dyke or other eminence, it will for a long time prevent them from alighting on the adjacent grounds. Many people now, however, believe that crows like most other birds, do more good by destroying insects and worms, etc., than harm by eating grain.
  3. ^ Kamp, Jon (29 November 2013). "New Scarecrows for Vineyards: Car Dealers' Inflatable 'Dancing' Tube Men". Archived from the original on 2013-11-29 – via Wall Street Journal.
  4. ^ "Camilla's Beastly Bulletin #1: Scarecrows, Ax Murder and Aliens, Oh My!".
  5. ^ Warrack, Alexander (1982). "Chambers Scots Dictionary". Chambers. ISBN 0-550-11801-2.
  6. ^ Council, Urchfont Parish. "Urchfont Parish Council – Scarecrow Festival".
  7. ^ Travis, Jo (2008). "CUTTING-EDGE OF HISTORY; DOWN YOUR WAY Jo Travis reports on a rural idyll that was once a world capital of industry". Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd.
  8. ^ Scarecrow Committee (a subcommittee of Belbroughton Parochial Church Council). "Belbroughton Scarecrow Festival".
  9. ^ "Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival draws in crowds". 2011-08-14. Retrieved 2012-07-12.
  10. ^ Tiger Woods and Homer Simpson Appear at Village Scarecrow Festival, archived from the original on 2011-01-14
  11. ^ "Tattie Bogal – Home".
  12. ^ "Scarecrow Trail".
  13. ^ "Scarecrow Festival".
  14. ^ "Village hands over £13,500 – Local". Melton Times. 2010-02-09. Retrieved 2012-07-12.
  15. ^ "Guinness World Records". 7 August 2014.

Further reading[edit]

Scarecrow Fact and Fable, Peter Haining, 1986

External links[edit]