Thursday, January 27, 2022

Superior crow crowds something to caw about

Mineral Independent | January 12, 2022 12:00 AM

Alfred Hitchcock revealed on the "Dick Cavett Show" (1968) that 3,200 birds were trained for the movie "The Birds."

He said that the ravens were the cleverest and the seagulls the most vicious. The seagulls were fed a mixture of wheat and whiskey as it was the only way to get them to stand still.

We’re short on seagulls around here, but if you’ve felt that there are more ravens and crows this winter, you might be correct.

Both are native to Montana, and both are members of the Corvid family, which also includes jays and magpies. Corvids are known for their intelligence.

Crows have a fan shaped tail and ravens have a diamond shaped tail. Ravens have a larger body size and also have a heavier, more curved beak.

“They can also be told apart from their vocalizations: crows make a “caw-caw” sound and ravens make a deeper croaking sound,” explains Liz Bradley, FWP Biologist for Region 2. “It’s not unusual to see crows gather in large flocks, numbering hundreds, and even thousands, especially in the winter. Crows are more likely to flock up in large groups than ravens, which more often travel alone or in pairs."

Doug and Neva Cummings have lived on 5th Avenue East in Superior since 1966 and Doug says that he has never seen as many black birds in the Eva Horning Park as he has this winter.

“They are thick in the trees. Pretty sure they sleep there,” he said. “Squawking and hollering all day, but especially in the mornings we can hear them. Not as many magpies this winter as I only count six or eight, but plenty of cowbirds and the ravens seem to have the biggest increase in numbers I’ve ever seen.”

Cummings thinks he’s seeing more since the hunting season ended as most were farther in the woods chowing down on ungulate gut-piles, but they’ve now come to town ten-fold looking for food.

Bradley confirms.

“Crows are communal sleepers so they will roost together at night and are often found in urban areas because they thrive around humans where they can find plentiful food. They have a very diverse diet and can eat almost anything including small birds and eggs, small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, grain crops, seeds, fruit, carrion, and human food. They will often scavenge in landfills or other sources of human trash around urban areas,” she shared.

“Crows will partially migrate so the flocks of crows we get in Montana in the winter are likely a combination of migrants from farther north and our resident crows. Roosting together in large numbers is thought to provide safety from predators (hawks, eagles, owls, raccoons, and squirrels), heat, and better access to food sources during the winter.”

Ravens are federally protected, but crows are not. However, you cannot hunt them in Montana.

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