Nov 12 2011

Black Ornaments

Published by at 7:30 am under Crows & Ravens

Where do the crows go to roost?

In Pittsburgh they really don’t want us to know.  They’re loud and obvious at their pre-roost staging areas but that’s not where they’ll sleep.  After the sky is dark they leave the staging area and fly silently to the roost.  Black birds in a black sky.

Wednesday evening Karen Lang noticed them near the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall around 6:00pm.  Though it was dark she could see their profiles against the city-lit sky and estimated 1,000 crows were on Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall roof and the nearby trees.

Peter Bell saw them, too, so he brought his camera Thursday evening.  From his vantage point on the 12th floor of Chevron Science Center, the roof looked like this while the crows were still arriving.

There were also on the trees.
Crows in a tree on Thackeray (photo by Peter Bell)

And perfectly lined up on the roof, a couple of crows per tile.


Last night I went to see for myself. Their dark profiles were visible from Fifth at Bigelow but when I moved up Bigelow for the same view as Peter’s pictures, the streetlights’ glare made the crows hard to see.

That’s how the crows like it. When things get too hot for them, they move their roost.

Some night we’ll discover that Soldiers and Sailors roof is missing its black ornaments.

(photos by Peter Bell)

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Black Ornaments”

  1. Kathyon 12 Nov 2011 at 8:00 am

    “Black Ornaments” does that Christmas song go? “Up on the roof top…” instead of reindeer sleigh you have “crows at bay”. I love how they are all lined up.

  2. Anne Marieon 12 Nov 2011 at 8:44 am

    Great photos Peter!! Thanks!

  3. John Englishon 12 Nov 2011 at 11:22 am

    That’s just awesome! Wish I could drive at night. Tempted to take a bus down in the evening.

  4. Peteron 12 Nov 2011 at 1:32 pm

    I’m hoping they still roost here until we get our first snow, interested to see their plan of attack then.

    It’s also worth noting that these are the only birds I’ve ever observed sitting on the roof tiles. Occasionally you get pigeons up on the white decorative (I’m sure there’s some architectural term for them) bits at the very top and at each corner, but they avoid the shingled areas.

    I showed up eariler yesterday for better light and also took some pictures of the rooftop in it’s natural state for comparison by the curious. .

    John, be sure to take a warm jacket if you go down. I find myself just staring at them until I start shivering. Supposed to be warm this weekend though! They have been arriving in noticable numbers around 5:15-5:30 each evening.

  5. Rob Protzon 12 Nov 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I saw the same thing in downtown Wilkinsburg back in 2004 just before election day. It had to be a couple thousand on the buildings, trees, everything. And they kept flying around after it was dark too. Of course, I have no idea where they went after that.

  6. Anne Curtison 14 Nov 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Have they moved on? I didn’t see them all weekend, nor did I see them when I drove home from Oakland a little after 5. Are they (or am I) confused by the time change, since it’s almost dark then?


  7. Kate St. Johnon 15 Nov 2011 at 6:34 am

    Anne, they’re still there. Karen Lang saw them coming in to Soldiers and Sailors at 5:40pm Monday.

  8. Mary Mazziottion 26 Dec 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Hey, Kate!

    Keith (Cochran) and I both have our offices/studio in Lawrenceville near the 40th St
    bridge. Just looked out the window to see what seemed like well over a thousand crows
    flying by. We’re used to seeing them this time of year, but I just thought to google “crows and pittsburgh” and found your terrific blog!! Many thanks for the great photos and the info
    on where they were roosting. They’re heading in the direction of the Strip District as I write this. Beeee-yu-tiful birds!!!

    Hope the holidays are swell for you and Rick. And here’s to health and
    happiness in 2012.

    All the best, Mary M.

  9. Ryanon 03 May 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I used to notice the large amounts of crows around October to November (maybe other months as well) up in North Oakland. They used to settle on a big tree between Melwood ave and Craig st. They used to swoop around the couple block radius, but the real sight was from the bridge right thre on Baum Blvd where they would swoop over into the neighborhood thats below the bridge flying over the usually empty railroad tracks. Its a cool sight as you can see the neighborhoods in the distance (east liberty or something, IDK) while they fly around by the hundreds, and if a train comes they seemed to get a little more excited. It seemed like they were there every night for a while, I always wondered where theyd go after wards, it seemed that everytime it turned dark at night, they would all take a final swoop loop around and fly away.

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