Observation Logs, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. The American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos.
Pennsylvania Crow Observation Logs
This section includes reports of various observers from the State of Pennsylvania.
La Salle University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.: January 17 & 21, 2001
Location_Description: University Campus, Near by inner city park, heavily wooded, inner city residential area, Girl's High campus and Einstein Medical Center. Birds have been congregating in this area to roost since early December, 2000. They gather on the playing fields and then in the tree tops. They move through the evening. Their first roost seems to be on the lower Campus of La Salle. then they move to Girl's High and the surrounding residental neighborhood. Finally in the late envening they move to La Salle's Upper Campus. Local residents told me that they move constantly all through the night.
Hanover, Pennsylvania: February 20, 2000
Location_Description: I live in a small town in south central Pennsylvania, population about 15 thousand people, about five hundred (city-dwelling) crows, give or take a few. The observed behavior took place in the area surrounding my back yard, which is in an urban setting. I place food for the crows on the flat roof of my carport.
>Behavior: Around 8 am on this morning (2-20-2000), I overheard a crow check-in net in progress. The 5 crows involved were stationed in the trees and on the telephone poles in about a 150-yard radius of my property, taking turns uttering one quick caw, in a round-robin fashion. The leader, with the deepest voice, would bark once, then the others would respond, always in exactly the same order, ending with the crow wth the highest pitched voice. There would be a pause of about 5 seconds then they'd begin again. This lasted for about 4 minutes, until I tried to imitate one of the crows, disrupting their routine. After trying to locate the source of the odd caw, one of them called a series of three caws and all began circling overhead. When I stepped into the clearing, all five began cawing loudly. They were soon joined by crows from a nearby arboretum, all crying loud caws and circling overhead. I counted 17 crows, more than I usually see in my yard. I had stopped imitating the one crow long before the first five began flying overhead.
Comments: My intent in imitating the one crow was to lure them closer so I could observe them. I think I committed a faux-pas of the first order, something I will not do again.
Were the first five establishing a territory of sorts, with my carport feeding station in the center? (That's more or less how their calls seemed to be coming in, with my yard about center of their calling area.) Or were they just conversing, perhaps reinforcing their connection to one another? My husband is an amateur radio operator and his club occasionally holds what they call "fox hunts," where one ham will begin broadcasting from an undisclosed area and the others try to locate the source of that call by triangulation, based upon the fox's signal strength. It seemed to me that's what the five crows were trying to do when I called, because they kept shifting position and calling in response to me...that is, until the one let lose with the three caws. Is this how crows locate enemies, in a team effort? The first one to spot the intruder gives the alarm?
I have been watching this one group of crows for over two years now, a bonded pair and their offspring. I've learned a good bit about crows from watching them. I can tell the juveniles from the yearlings and the older adults by their coloration and their mewing calls. Last spring--early summer--I saw a blue-eyed crow, one of the new ones that were with the older pair I call Hector and Mabel. Is it normal for a young crow to have blue eyes, or was this youngster suffering some eye disease? Whatever the cause, I noticed that its eyes were dark a few weeks later.
Also, I observed that the newly fledged and flying crows had either bald batches or white feathers near their wing-pits. For a while, that's how I knew they were the "kids." Do all young crows have these light patches on the undersides of their wings? How long does that last, if it is normal? Besides putting out food for them and keeping my mouth shut when they're around, what else can I do to attract them to my yard? (Martha McLemore)
Plaza Blvd, Lancaster County, PA: 1/25/00
Plaza Blvd courses through a large complex of shopping centers, car dealerships, and an aluminum manufacturing plant, all partially surrounded by farm land. A line of trees between the mall and the aluminum plant appeares to be a roost, with thousands of crows noisily collecting at dusk, and quieting down for the night to "sleep". On some nights, especially stormy ones, the crows appear in reduced numbers, shift the exact location of the "general assembly" by a few hundred feet to a grassy field or roof top, or do not roost here at all. I have not yet investigated whether they have stayed in the immediate area, out of my sight, or have indeed left the area. I do not know how long the crows have been using this area. I have seen groups of crows roosted in other areas of the county, but never in such large numbers.
Comments: The crows have pecked through the roof at the mall, causing thousands of dollars in damage. The mall purchased four sound cannons to be fired repeatedly throughout the night in an attempt to disrupt the birds' sleeping patterns. This was hoped to drive them out of the area without harming them. At first this tactic was partially successful, but now the crows do not seem to notice. Representatives from the local government and industries have met to discuss the situation, but I do not know what was decided, if anything. I am concerned that an attempt will be made to poison the crows, a solution I do not find acceptable for ecological and ethical reasons. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to get the birds to go somewhere safer for them or how to fight a decision to poison them? (Jennifer Kready)
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