Counting Crows: 15,000

Crows coming in to roost at Robinson Ext & Vera, 31 Dec 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

31 December 2023

Success! Last night, Saturday 30 December, our team counted 15,000 crows at their roost on Robinson Ext and Brackenridge Streets during the Pittsburgh Christmas Bird Count (CBC). It was a big challenge compared to last year when we could stand in one place and count 20,000 flying by in the distance. This year we had to chase them for two hours, texting each other with updates, until the crows finally picked a spot. In darkness and rain we think we were unable to see another 5,000 but we can’t count what we can’t see. So the official count is 15,000.

Carol Steytler, Sue Faust and I did a dry run on Friday night. That evening the western stream flew over the Allegheny River to stage at Cliff Street before moving on. My brief video shows how impossible it is to count them before they settle.

video by Kate St. John

That night we followed about half the flock to Wylie Avenue near Lawson, but where did the rest of them go? Fortunately it was just a dry run before Count Day.

On Saturday night Claire Staples joined us for the CBC and we split up to find the crows. Sue waited for them on Arcena Street but not a single crow came to the bluff above Bigelow. Carol found them staging near Wylie and Herron but when Claire and I caught up we could tell the crows were going to leave; there are no streetlights on that patch of woods.

By 5:30pm the crows had picked a roost and we gathered near Vera Street to watch them swirl overhead in the rain. We counted them in trees and on the Sports Dome but could not see how many were on nearby roofs and other places out of sight, so the official count is 15,000. Maybe next year we’ll count all of them.

Thank you to the intrepid team — Carol Steytler, Sue Faust and Claire Staples — who braved rain, cold, and darkness to count the crows. We were up for the challenge and we found almost all of them. And thanks to my readers for your tips and sightings. We’re done now until next year. 🙂

And we’ve learned a valuable lesson: If you want to count crows, don’t expect to find them in the same place or even flying the same route every night.

(photo and video by Kate St. John)

3 thoughts on “Counting Crows: 15,000

  1. Just taking a walk in the North hills of Pittsburgh pa and saw a massive (murder of crows) heading south. I wonder if you would have waited they would all be there today. Happy New Year!

    1. Kathy, in 2022 we counted them in the sky as they flew by. This year we had to wait until they settled & count trees-full-of-crows. Years of experience has taught me that a full tree holds about 250 crows.

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