15 November 2020
This was a big week for crows.
In early November Pittsburgh’s huge winter flock decides where to sleep for the next three months but no site is large enough to house 20,000 crows. Right now the roost is in flux as the sub-flocks collect and break apart, testing their options.
On Sunday 8 November they came to Oakland from all directions — eastern suburbs, north+west suburbs, and Allegheny Valley — raising the overnight total to 17,000 to 20,000 crows! The next night fewer groups arrived so Oakland’s overnight population dropped to 9,000.
On Thursday the 12th I saw the flocks prepare to roost in Schenley Farms so I called my contacts below and told them to start smacking their “crow clappers.”
It worked. Thousands of crows levitated over the neighborhood then wheeled south to perch on Webster Hall, eventually moving elsewhere. They didn’t roost in Schenley Farms that night.
Some of them are sleeping in the trees at Pitt but even that location is in flux. I’ve seen sidewalk evidence near the closed section of Bigelow Boulevard …
… but they were avoiding the trees at the corner of Bellefield and Fifth after a predator — peregrine? — ate a crow after yanking off the head and wings. The crows stayed away from that warning for weeks. (If you’re curious about the head, click here.)
Eventually the flock will pick a winter roost. I hope it’s one that doesn’t bother people so we can coexist in peace.
(photos by Mike Fialkovich, Alex Toner, Kate St. John)