SuperSon picked me up from the train station on Thursday and as we approached our street, we saw crows everywhere. There must have been at least 500 of them. It was a huge flock taking a rest before heading off to wherever this year’s roosting spot is.

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The racket was incredible. Basically sunset is happy hour for crows. They all get together and play, flirt, bicker, gossip, do deals, exchange stock tips, and whatever else you do if you’re the equivalent of a 20-something corvid. When they are in social mode, there can be dozens, if not hundreds, of crows in one tree. They also tend to congregate in adjacent trees and always in some kind of crowd. They start doing this in late fall, when the juveniles strike out on their own. They continue into the spring, when the flocks break up, as the birds either return to their parent’s territory to help raise their siblings or look for territory that they can take over and start nesting themselves.

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Then, at some appointed time, the entire group all go silent and fly off to some secluded spot for the night. No one knows how they decide when to shut down the bar and head out. But on Thursday,  I noticed this guy (sorry for the blurry photo): one crow, all by himself. That in itself was not so odd, but then he started calling, making a sound I’ve never heard from a crow–much more continuous and melodic than your average caw. After he started all the other birds started to take off, passing in front of him and heading for, presumably, the next rest stop. I wonder if he was the appointed master of ceremonies, tasked with keeping the rest of them on schedule to reach the roost just at dark. At any rate, within 5 minutes of his calling, the horde was gone. But maybe it’s just coincidence.

Which brings me to Lancaster Pennsylvania, one of the most enlightened places in the country, as least in terms of corvid awareness. According to an article on the Audubon website, How to Stop a Murder of Crows (Hint: Throw Them a Giant Party, Lancaster is a lay-over point for crow migration and for a while they engaged in the stupid, and ultimately futile, use of poison to try to get rid of them. Then a group of corvid lovers, the Lancaster Crow Coalition, decided to work with the birds to get them to roost in a more secluded space on the edge of town. Lancaster then embraced the crows and now celebrate the seasonal presence of the crows with a months-long festival. Cawsome!