Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fish Crow - next Ohio species

Fish Crow, Corvus ossifragus, cavorting at Cape May, New Jersey. If my hand were forced, and I absolutely had to lay odds on the next new species of bird to turn up in Ohio, my money would be on this nasal-sounding beast.

In fact, it seems rather remarkable we've not yet had Fish Crow in the state. They're on a tear, and turning up all around us Buckeyes - we are nearly hemmed on by the clever shoreline-dwelling critters.

A map, as is plain to see. But not just any map - this is a map of the Fish Crow's turf, courtesy the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It's a nice map, and depicts the U-shaped distribution that characterizes a huge number of coastal plain animals and plants. Atlantic seaboard, down along the Gulf, and a hard right northward up the great Mississippi Valley. There we are, the hapless and fishcrowless Buckeyes, stuck kind of right in the middle. Fish Crows are on either side of us. But not here. Not yet. 2010 could be the year that all changes, though.

Actually, our fishy corvid has recently come that much closer, and appears to be well on its way to colonizing the Great Lakes, at least the lower lakes. There have been about 16 records to date along Lake Erie's north shore, in Ontario. They come from the stretch of shore between Point Pelee and Long Point - basically all across from Ohio, and separated by a mere 50 miles or so of water.

One turned up last spring in western Pennsylvania, not too very far from Ohio. And Allen Chartier spearheaded a crow campaign in Berrien County, Michigan and adjacent Indiana - the southeastern corner of Lake Michigan. They found a number of individuals over there, and that's an easy flight to Ohio.
All of the data suggests Fish Crows are colonizing the Great Lakes, and following a distributional pattern shared by scores of other flora and fauna. It stands to reason Ohio is next on the list of territories to be conquered by the crow. In fact, it would be remarkable if they didn't turn up here soon. Conventional wisdom here has always been that Fish Crows will appear along the Ohio River, and maybe they will. But my money is on Lake Erie.

So, next March and April, keep an eye peeled for crows, and listen for THIS ODD SOUND. You aren't going to confirm this species by sight alone; they must be heard to be understood. The funny nasal caws of the Fish Crow will catch your ear, I'll guarantee it. Toledo, the vicinity of Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Sandusky Bay - maybe even the fabled lakeshore Lake County "yard" of John Pogacnik - one of these places MUST produce Fish Crows!

Here's hoping it's in 2010.


Anonymous said...

You poor "fishcrowless" buckeyes should keep your eyes and ears alert at landfills too.

Allen Chartier said...

Jim, Finding the Fish Crows in Michigan should be credited to Tim Baerwald and Matt Hysell, not me, as they found these birds on 16 May 2009. My only role in this was in persisting with the birds on 4 June in order to obtain audio recordings, which quite accidentally resulted in my finding multiple individuals. I believe there were 6 of them, and that they may have been nesting (they were last reported on 25 October 2009, but MBRC has yet to rule on this.

Jared said...

A few years back in May, I had a single crow fly overhead at West Creek Reservation in Parma. It appeared noticeably small, and it gave out a few nasal calls before continuing out of sight. Since then, I, too, have felt that somebody soon will confirm a Buckeye Fish Crow.

Cathy said...

I'm listening to one of them at the moment.

But not for long.

Headed back to Toledo Friday.

Goodbye sun, warmth and fish crows :-)