More than just a Murder of Crows? Help!

Ok Mrs.Phlosphr and I were driving over a bridge yesterday in Eastern Connecticut. I know a group of crows constitutes a Murder of crows - like a pod of whales, a warren of rabbits etc…etc…- but I have never in my 33 years seen more than say 20 or so crows at one place at any given time. Yesterday, however, we say maybe 4 - 6 thousand all roosting next to the river, in a large grove of white oaks. WTF!! Then as we drove past them on the highway, we saw hundreds more flying towards the huge gathering…

Do crows migrate? I don’t think they do… what about the season…anyone ever seen this many crows at one time. I couldn’t get Hitchcock’s “The Birds” out of my mind…

Whats going on, anyone know? I know there are some ornithologist dopers out there…

They are plotting to take over the world!

This is the second winter now that we have crows in the trees outside our condo complex, there are probably 3000-4000. I don’t mind that much except for all the poop and the infernal cawing in the morning.

Why they’ve chosen to spend the nights around our building I do not know.

It could be worse. According to Reuters, a farmer near Loerrach in southwestern Germany is claiming that ravens killed nineteen of his sheep. Full story is here:

American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) are partial migrants, meaning that the most northernly populations (those from Canada) are the ones on the move. The birds that are here in the NE during the summer are also here during the winter. So, the large roosts you see are composed of not only migrant crows but resident crows as well.

These resident American Crows are pretty unusual as far as year-round birds go: there are few birds that use winter communal roosts and still maintain a territory. The territories are used by family groups consisting of Mom, Dad, older sibs and young-of-the-year. Occasionally there will be a totally unrelated crow in the group that has just joined up and been accepted. Sometimes kids will pick up and leave, disappearing either entirely (and possibly dying in the process) or returning weeks to months later. Again, they are usually accepted back.

Neighboring territories may be made of related or unrelated groups. The related groups here at Cook College can often be found foraging on the same field but in separate areas. They seem to be more tolerant of each other. Unrelated groups tend to yell at each other, perhaps reinforcing the territory boundaries. Territories are a precious resource. You don’t have a territory, you don’t reproduce. And if you don’t have a territory that can maintain a family, then you’re less likely to reproduce as well as you potentially could. But a territory during winter might not be as well stocked as during the spring, summer or fall.

Crows from these family units can roost on their territory at night or fly to use the communal roost. (The crows here in central NJ use the Staten Island roost, one that has been in use since the 1860’s [not a typo]. Prior to Fresh Kills Landfill, the roost was over on the Jersey side but now it is between Foster/MaGuire/Brookline Rds past the tolls on 440.) This seems to be an individual choice situation but we suspect that on-territory food availability plays a big role. If a territorial crow joins a winter roost for the night, the rest of his or her family might still be on the home territory. The advantage of going to a winter roost (and obtaining food from superabundant resources) is likely balanced with the increased exposure to predators. But if you’re part of an enormous group, maybe you won’t get snagged by a hungry Great Horned Owl looking to feed her kids.

As far as the ravens are concerned, it’s possible I guess to take down sheep. But nineteen? I’m thinking perhaps something else got the sheep. Ravens, like many crovids, are scavengers when a carcass appears, and they settle down for a lunch when humans are most likely to see them. Ravens on a carcass doesn’t necessarily mean killers. An unkindness maybe…

btw a group of Ravens is an “Unkindness”

Good catch, Boobka. :slight_smile:

Yup, all the time. There is a huge number of what I was told were Fish Crows that roost around Lake Jessup (northeast of Orlando) that mosey down the I-4 corridor every morning and then back again just before dark. I don’t know the exact number of crows but it does take them several minutes to pass over. I don’t know where they go but I suspect since they head southwest that they are grazing at the theme parks.

Maybe a really big flock of crows is a holocaust. or a Genocide.

All I know for sure is that four and twenty blackbirds is a pie.

A group of eleven Ravens, in a certain season, is a team. This is true at Anderson University and in Baltimore.

Why not call such a large conclave of crows a “Hitchcock,” “Hitch,” or even an “Alfred”?

[hijack]The exercise of naming animal groups dates back at least half a millennium. These groups were named, often whimsically, in the medieval English “venereal game” played among the hunting classes, which resulted in “terms of venery” or “venereal terms”–collective nouns for animal groups. See generally James Lipton, An Exaltation of Larks (1991). For some lists of venereal collective nouns, see:

Melissa Kaplan, “Beastly Garden of Wordy Delights,”

Christchurch City Libraries, “Animal Group Names (Collective Nouns),”, “Names of Males, Females, Babies, and Groups of Animals,”

Fun With Words, “Collective Nouns,”

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, “Animal Congregations, or What Do You Call a Group of . . . ?,”

Or a “du Maurier,” since Daphne du Maurier wrote the short story on which the movie was based.

I get dibbies on a “Slaughter” of crows.

I hate the little bastards…

re. “du Maurier” – ooh, I like that! :slight_smile:

Thanksbrachyrhynchos. I had never seen that many crows in one place at one time. A bit scary…
MonkeyMensch - so does Mrs.Phlosphr. I should have never given her the little 22. pistol. She hates guns, but she hates crows more… :slight_smile:

However, note- in most cases- such as a “crash of rhinos”, they were just that- a “game”, and not meant to be used seriously. A general rule of thumb- if the collective noun is “cute” or a word not usually used for a collective (such as an “exaltation of larks”), then it really isn’t "the proper collective noun’.

However- Pod, gaggle, and such are definitely original, and not just cute “game” terms. “Murder” is doubtful- the usage is old, but “murder” is not generally a collective term. My dictionary does not list “a group of crows” as any meaning of “murder”. But “pod” includes " a school of whales…".