There Will Be No Shortage of Crows

American crow in flight (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

6 November 2020

This week the Pittsburgh winter crow flock changed their habits. Last week they staged above Oakland at Sugar Top but this week they moved to the edge of Shadyside where they hang out on trees and rooftops before flying to the roost. Their evening flight is right outside my window.

On November 2 and 4 I recorded just a fraction of the 10,000 crows flying past my window.

Their abundance reminded me of my favorite quote from David Quammen in Planet of Weeds, Harper’s Magazine, October 1998. In it he describes what Earth will be like after the current great extinction. We won’t have many species and those that survive will be weedy ones that thrive in a broad range of habitats, especially human-altered ecosystems. He writes:

Earth will be a different sort of place—soon, in just five or six human generations.  My label for that place, that time, that apparently unavoidable prospect, is the Planet of Weeds.  Its main consoling felicity, as far as I can imagine, is that there will be no shortage of crows.

David Quammen, Planet of Weeds, Harper’s Magazine, October 1988

Fortunately, I love crows.

p.s. A week ago I estimated 10,000 crows in the winter flock but I need to recount. Last night (5 November) it seemed like a lot more than that!

(photo from Wikimedia Commons; video by Kate St. John)

10 thoughts on “There Will Be No Shortage of Crows

  1. Kate – for the love of all that is holy, how did you find & quote the crow comment from 1998? A. I too love Crows.
    B. I can’t remember breakfast, let alone an article from 22 years ago.
    C. I’ll give $100 dollars to your favorite charity in your name, if you share your exquisite filing system with us.

    Sincerely, MJ

    1. Mary Jo, the Quammen article deeply impressed me at the time. I easily remembered the crow quote because it made me happy to know that crows would do fine. (The big concept I remember was the paleontologist explaining that 10 million years after the extinction we will have great diversity again because evolution never stops.)
      Anyway, here’s how I did/do it.
      Back then I had a habit of cutting out articles that *really* impressed me and filing them in a special folder (magazines and newspapers were on paper). Now I read everything online so I have a folder in Google Drive called “Quotes” where I put quotes+links I want to remember. Big benefit is that Google Drive is searchable, a lot faster than consulting my filing cabinet! If you’re still inclined to give money, please donate to the National Aviary at

    2. Kate –

      Donation is on the way.

      There were Crow’s near my employers parking lot. They would squawk at me if I didn’t park in my ‘normal’ spot. Hilarious; true story.

  2. Because of you informing me all about crows over the years, Kate, I too love them. They are plentiful right now in my complex. I am feeling so sad for them. Developers CLEARED about 10 acres of woods that were behind my place about four months ago. All I see now, is foundations of new homes all over the area. As I walk to my car, there are crows everywhere, on the street lights, trying to figure out what happened to what used to be a wonderful place for them. There are two especially that talk to me as I walk to my car, but only when I wear my blue dress with the daisies on it. True! Have a wonderful day!!

    1. Kathleen, that is so cool that they talk to you if you wear your blue dress. Maybe they’re saying, “Love those daisies!” 😉

  3. The first time I saw the crows in Pittsburgh was when I got my current job and they would roost on the trees by the bank of the Allegheny River and flock in great numbers across the river to the Oakland hillside. Previous to that time, for decades, I lived and worked way on the other side of the Ohio River, closer to the airport. I was never aware the crows did this.

    So the first time I witnessed these huge flocks, it was awe inspiring. The wonder of it has never diminished. A beautiful sight.

  4. Hard to put into words how that impressed me and how in many ways it is beautiful really..thanks for sharing such a great look at our Corvids in such great numbers! Maybe I’ll take a ride back into the area just to watch them for a time…about what time do they start flying to their roost? Looks like it is still light but days are getting shorter, so wonder if that will change their timing or habits also? Bring on the crows!

    1. Marge, “when” is easy –> just before sunset and for 30 mins thereafter. “Where” is really hard to say. This week the crows changed their staging area every few days. It’s a good thing I filmed them on Monday & Wednesday because on Friday they didn’t fly past my window!

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