"The dusky bird is a notorious mischief-maker, but he is not quite so black as he has been painted" (William L. Dawson, 1903)
At the conclusion of a long day of birding in the remote hills of northern Jackson County yesterday, Heather, Nina and I found ourselves heading back north on route 35, not far south of the Ross County line. As twilight's gloom settled in, we glanced up to a distant ridge and saw some American Crows. Well, not just "some". Oodles, actually. "Stop! Turn around"! shouted your blogger, and we soon jagged off the highway onto a rural lane, and motored to a spot that offered a commanding view of the spectacle.
Crows have long had a big roost in this area. We were down there to participated in the Beaver Christmas Bird Count, and I've done nearly every count since its inception many years ago. On my yearly crack of dawn drives, I'd often see massive numbers of crows radiating out from their hilltop roosts on the high ridges just southeast of Chillicothe. This year, they've apparently relocated the party several miles to the south, and in our count circle. So, Nina, Heather and I watched the day's closure along with an estimated 6,000 crows, although we weren't nearly as loud.
Here's a brief video of a small portion of the roost. It can be really hard to pinpoint exact numbers of birds in roosts such as this, but 6,000 was our best shot and it may well be low. The din created by this pack of birds was impressive. Seemingly every one of them had a report to give on the day's activities, and the birds even drowned out the drone of the eighteen-wheelers passing by on the interstate.
Crows are highly social, and large winter roosts are a regular occurrence. Although 6,000 birds seems like a lot, it pales in comparison to some of the larger Ohio roosts. Long-lasting roosts in Springfield, Cambridge, and other Ohio locales have hosted 25,000 or more crows.
I imagine the spectacle of thousands of loudly cackling, cawing crows streaming in and bedecking the trees is a bit unnerving to some of the citizenry. To me, the birds are totally impressive and a thing of beauty. And just to be clear, a "murder" of crows is just an odd term for an assemblage of these wily mischief-makers.