30 August 2023
In August in the East End of Pittsburgh we get a taste of November dusk. It isn’t the weather or the clouds or the time of sunset. It’s a flock of more than 100 crows, a hint of the thousands to come this fall, that gather on rooftops along Neville Street before flying west to roost.
This year in early August the crows were absolutely silent but as the month progressed a few spoke out, telling me they were in a mixed flock of American and fish crows. American crows (Corvus brachyrhyncos) say “Caw.” Fish crows say a nasal “Uh-oh” (Corvus ossifragus). It’s the only reliable way to tell them apart.
American crow: “Caw Caw Caw.”
Fish Crow: Nasal “Uh oh”
I wanted to count by species but the crows remained silent and unidentifiable through most of the month. I tried to tell them apart by sight but my focus on appearance made it impossible to count. So I stop trying. My August eBird checklists place all of them as “American crows” with an X for “Fish crows present.”
Then suddenly last Saturday they were all “talking” and about three quarters of them were fish crows. The flock continued on Sunday evening but I was too busy to count. I shouldn’t have assumed they’d be here on Monday. They were gone and they haven’t been back.
The big flocks will arrive in late October, comprised of 90+% American crows.
For now we’re in the Calm Before The Crows.
(credits are in the captions)