Forget the robin; crows are the birds of spring

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February 9, 2004 // UPDATED 2:52 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Marcia Holmberg
Marcia Holmberg

Those annoying flocks in Loring Park? A sign of warmer times ahead.

In late winter, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board often receives calls concerning large flocks of crows roosting in parks and neighborhoods. In past years, large flocks have roosted at Loring Park and the former Honeywell building (now Wells Fargo) at Stevens Avenue and 28th Street South.

While some may consider crows a nuisance or ominous presence, they are actually intriguing birds. Crows are considered to be "intelligent" birds; they are in the corvidae family, which includes blue jays and ravens. Corvids have a wide vocalization range and can mimic sounds made by other birds and animals. Crows raised in captivity have been known to mimic the human voice.

These late-winter gatherings of crows are another interesting aspect of crow behavior. Throughout fall and winter, smaller groups of crows gradually come together to form one large group in late winter. The large gatherings are seasonal in nature and break up when winter-like weather starts to end. As a flock feeds, it has been observed that crows post a sentinel to take watch.

American crows are found over much of North America. They are classified as Migratory Non-Game Birds and are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Crows can be controlled if they are found to be causing harm to ornamental plants or agricultural crops or if they pose a threat to public health (which these gatherings do not).

Changes in land-use patterns have impacted crow populations and their behavior. Increased urbanization has caused crows to become urban dwellers. Crows are opportunistic omnivores and have adapted well to the changes in their environment. Landfills, garbage and litter have become some of the food sources for urban crows, in addition to grains and insects.

Whatever your feelings are about crows, the fact is they are a native bird species and part of our environment. You may want to think of their late-winter gatherings as one of the first signs that spring is indeed coming.

Marcia Holmberg is Environmental Projects Coordinator of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.