Carolyn's Daily Posts: 2011

May 29, 2011

Intelligent Crows Flock to Pittsburgh



     About a week ago I looked out my porch screen door to see two great big black birds scavenging seed from the ground underneath one of my bird feeders. I tried to grab my camera, but as I did so the noise freaked out the birds and they flew. Several times since then I have seen these black birds flying between the upper branches of the trees surrounding our house.

     While sorting through my papers, I came to an article titled CROWS SET UP SHOP: Intelligent birds find Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) hospitable*. Henry Kacprzyk, curator at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, claims Large flocks of crows—thousands of them, in some cases—have taken up residence in Pittsburgh neighborhoods…

     We don’t live in Pittsburgh, but we live close enough—an hour southeast of the city. Kacprzyk continues: Crows are plentiful in Allegheny County and throughout our region, but until about two years or three years ago, it was pretty rate to see more than a handful of them in the city. Now I see dozens and dozens of them in my neighborhood (Stanton Heights).          

     Were the two black birds scavenging in my yard predictors of a greater population coming in the future?

     Margaret Brittingham, professor of wildlife resources at Penn State University, said that the crows are attracted by bright lights. Perhaps the hoards of crows are not headed into my community—we don’t have streetlights, only lights in private homes.

     She goes on to note that there are a significant number of large trees and green space in Pittsburgh with a good supply of food. Our community is very green, being covered with large trees and green pines.

     Hundreds of crows are seen in Union Dale Cemetery, perhaps seeking he acorns there. The only problem they create is their noise. A single roost of nine thousand crows was located in Homewood cemetery.

     Why are the crows so abundant? Perhaps it’s that urban sprawl has reduced the wildlife habitat in the region, replacing it with a habitat that caters to certain species, such as crows.

     According to Erin Estell, assistant director of animal programs at the National Aviary on the North Side, Some scientists believe (the crows) are nearly as smart as chimpanzees having exhibited behaviors such as working together and using things like sticks as tools to gather food. She said they will team up in a behavior known as ‘mobbing’ and harass predators such as hawks and owls until they leave an area, which allows the crows to boost their population. A 206 study by a University of Washington researcher determined that crows are able to remember facial features. They also have the ability to speak, or mimic, human language as do parrots and myna birds.

     I guess the best we can do if the crows do invade our area is to capture a few and train them to be entertainers in the hopes of creating a financially viable circus act. Or we could work to capture them on camera and hope for a prize-winning photograph. Orperhaps wecould learn to eat crow.

     But hopefully, it won’t come to that.



CROWS SET UP SHOP: Intelligent birds find Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) hospitable, Greensburg Tribune-Review, February 22, 2010



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