Oct 24 2009

Counting Crows

Published by at 7:07 am under Crows & Ravens

American crows (photo by Chuck Tague)

1 or 2...  10 or 20...  100 or 200.

That's what it's been like to count crows around here this fall.

In August I could always find 1 or 2.  In September it was normal to see 10 or 20.  Now the winter crow flock is gathering in the East End of Pittsburgh and I see 100 or 200 fly over my house at dawn.

Why stop there?

Soon there'll be 1,000 to 2,000 and by the time we do the Christmas Bird Count in late December we'll have 10,000, maybe even 20,000 crows.  At that point they'll change their staging areas frequently, just to keep us on our toes while we're counting crows.

(photo by Chuck Tague)

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Counting Crows”

  1. Sharonon 25 Oct 2009 at 3:52 am

    Last year I would see HUGE flocks of crows gathering at twilight. I’d be waiting for the bus on Liberty in the Strip and I’d see this great mass of crows flying overhead to gather on the hillside of the busway. I’d see the same phenomena over on Center by the Giant Eagle. They were gathering on top of a couple of the apartment buildings. (and of course Alfred Hitchcock would be playing in my head)

    This year I’m carrying my digi camera with me to try and catch a few pics or videos of this.

    I asked at the Aviary and was told that this is called “mobbing”

  2. Kate St. Johnon 25 Oct 2009 at 7:35 am

    I am looking forward to finding the big flock this year. I’m no photographer but I hear that the crow flock is hard to photograph because they’re dark birds against a dark sky. If you get a good picture, let me know.

    Just a slight correction to the terminology…
    The word “mobbing” refers to a flock attacking a predator: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobbing_behavior
    When you asked the Aviary they may have thought – or you may have mentioned – that the crows were attacking something. All kinds of birds mob predators as described in the link above.

    The real name for a flock of crows may surprise you. It’s called a “murder of crows.” For more fun facts about crows, check out these Frequently Asked Questions: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/crowfaq.htm

    And are the crows we count in winter the ones who were born here? Probably not.

  3. Kate St. Johnon 25 Oct 2009 at 5:37 pm

    325 crows flew over my neighborhood at 5:30pm this afternoon (Oct 25).

  4. Anne Curtison 02 Nov 2009 at 1:30 am

    Hundreds (at least) have flown over Beeler St. in Squirrel Hill the past 2 evenings just at dusk. How do you estimate how many there are in those huge swirling swooping flocks?

  5. Kate St. Johnon 02 Nov 2009 at 7:40 am

    I count them by 5’s or 10’s when they aren’t swirling. If the flock is especially dense I try to estimate the size of groups (say 25 crows per group) and count the groups. It’s hard!

  6. andrewon 07 Nov 2009 at 9:13 pm

    I’ve been fascinated by the sky-filling crows in Pittsburgh for the past few years…I always assumed this was some centuries old population that I only now was noticing.

    I typically see a huge flock passing over my bus stop just before dawn on Penn ave. Although now reading through your blog I wonder if thatr’s just my recollection of last year, and perhaps this year I dont see them.

    The question of what they do during the day is compelling. I’ve fantasized about renting a helicopter for the day, hovering high above the city and filming the bands of their movement.

    Thanks for the notes – you provided more answers than I have seen anywhere.

  7. Zoeon 26 Dec 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Well, I saw this flock for the 1st time tonight, after living in Pgh for over a decade. I asked several folks simultaneously observing the phenomenon as to their estimate of the “Crow Murder”. and most conferred, it was about 30,000.
    What do you make of this?

  8. Kate St. Johnon 28 Dec 2009 at 9:31 am

    Your estimate may be right. When the crows get together they number in the 10s of thousands.

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