Dec 15 2008

Found Them… Almost

Published by at 11:44 am under Crows & Ravens

American Crow (photo by Chuck Tague)I've been frustrated by the lack of crows lately.  Every winter for the past four years thousands of crows used to fly over my house at dusk and dawn.  This winter after one spectacular showing on November 18th they've been absent from the area. 

This doesn't mean there are no crows in Pittsburgh.  Far from it.  They've just moved the roost.  But where? 

Yesterday I decided to find out.  I'd heard about a large flock of crows on South Side and my friend Karen saw hundreds in the Strip District a week ago.  Armed with two clues, my first move was to check out the South Side so I went up to Billy Buck Hill for a wide view of the Mon Valley, Downtown and Oakland.  There wasn't much crow movement but every flock was headed for the far side of the Hill District.  By 4:15pm it was obvious I was in the wrong place.  I should be on Polish Hill. 

As I drove out Bigelow Boulevard I found a huge flock gathering in the trees above the road.  What smart crows!  This site is inaccessible, there are no buildings, and foot traffic is impossible because the Boulevard has high speed traffic without sidewalks.  After a lot of maneuvering I managed to turn around and pull into Frank Curto Park.  From there I could see thousands of crows flying in from the North Side.  Behind me thousands more piled in from the East End.  The numbers kept building.  There was no end in sight.

Frank Curto Park is a creepy place, only accessible by car on a narrow one-way lane.  I didn't want to be there at dusk so after another time-consuming maneuver I parked on Polish Hill near the West Penn Rec. Center.

By then the distant hillside from Bigelow to the railroad tracks was covered in crows.  More were still arriving and they began to do The Wave, rising up in dense shouting circles that reminded me of snow geese at Middle Creek.  Night was falling fast but I could see the waves were not returning to the hillside.  Each flock landed closer to the valley. 

I crossed the 28th Street Bridge and I found them again, this time on the roof of Liberty Commons.  As I pulled into the parking lot I wasn't alone.  Another car followed me trying to take pictures of flying crows.  I jumped when the other car honked but the crows did not.  Birds continued to collect on the roof. 

By now the sky was so dark I couldn't see more than a hundred yards.  If the crows made a move I wouldn't be able to follow.  Besides, I felt confident I'd found the roost.  Then silently, in the dark, the crows streamed off the roof until all of them were gone. 

But where?

(photo by Chuck Tague)

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Found Them… Almost”

  1. John Englishon 15 Dec 2008 at 2:04 pm

    I used to watch crows every day from on top of Greensburg Pike in Wilkins Township. Now that I’ve moved into the city all I have are annoying pigeons. I could watch at least a 30 minute flight to the west every evening. They also hung around the Plaza Shopping Center looking for scraps.
    Once I watched a crow bury half a snake in my yard. It pecked a deep hole and jammed the garter snake into it. I was not aware that crows stored food.
    The crows and the bluejays also made excellent alarm clocks!

  2. Kate St. Johnon 16 Dec 2008 at 7:22 am

    Hah! As if they’d heard my complaint, three dense flocks of crows flew over my house before dawn on Tuesday. They even paused and circled when they got to my street. I’m guessing there were at least 300 of them. Go figure.

  3. doug cunzoloon 17 Dec 2008 at 11:15 am

    Hello Kate, I stopped by Uniondale Cemetary # 3 on Brighton road at 1:00 pm yesterday. I was just looking for some birds, because it seems as though there have been less around Brighton Heights this year. Anyway , I began seeing some Crows flying over. Not a lot of them at first , but more and more kept coming at a rate of about a hundred a minute. They were coming from the direction of the next cemetary over, Highwood. So I drove over there , and at the very back of the cemetary were still around 400 crows. It took me about 10 minutes to get from one spot to the next, so approx. 1000 birds had been at possibly a noon time roost. If I get the time I’ll check again over the next couple of days.

  4. Crowon 22 Dec 2008 at 10:28 pm

    Crows are actually quite smart. Love watching them at work.

  5. Kathy Saunderson 07 Jan 2009 at 6:49 pm

    On January 5, I stopped behind the Western Penitentiary (Manchester) to check the Ohio River, there were about 1,000 crows across the river. This was 4:20 p.m. and by 4:45 they were all gone and headed towards Pittsburgh. Probably to the Strip where you have observed them last week roosting. It is neat to see that many.

  6. Ed Shotton 10 Jan 2009 at 10:15 am


    A friend of mine who is an Allegheny County Police officer occasionally works the traffic light at the 31st Street bridge and Route 28. She said she saw 1000s of crows flying in and roosting in the trees on the hillside above 28 and Rialto Street. Thought you’d like to know.


  7. Moniqueon 27 Apr 2009 at 4:23 pm


    I discovered your site while looking at pictures of crows online, and wow–what a pleasure it has been!

    I too watch crows and ravens with fascination, and long for them to return in the Spring. (I’m in middle Canada–many corvids are too intelligent to spend their winters here!)

    The gorgeous pictures and your words made my day–thank you!


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