Thousands of crows gather in Burnaby

Crows gather on the wires at dusk. Photo: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG

Crows gather on the wires at dusk.
Photo: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG

Adapted from The Province
Level 2

In Burnaby, thousands of crows gather. Watchers say that 3,000 to 5,000 crows gather here every night. They stay for the whole night from sundown to sunrise.

You can see them at Still Creek at the corner of Willlingdon Avenue and Highway 1. They gather here every evening during the fall and winter.

They gather other places in the Fraser Valley too. The places they gather are called ‘roosts’.

Families of crows gather in large groups. A group of crows is called a ‘murder’ of crows.

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People are often afraid of crows
They are big. They are black. They are noisy.

We use pictures of crows for death, danger and other bad things.

Crows are smart. They remember humans. They remember who feeds them and go to that person for food. They remember people who harmed them and can attack that person.

They protect their young from people and other threats. They fly at the threat in groups. This is called ‘mobbing’.

“They are just being good parents because they see you as a threat,” says Rob Butler. Rob Butler is a retired professor from Simon Fraser University. He lectures about crows.

Crows fascinate people. Crows mate for life. They live in large family groups. Their young help raise their brothers and sisters. They can even make simple tools to help them get food.

Crows are scavengers. They will eat what they can find. Mostly they eat spilled grain, earthworms and other bugs. They also eat garbage.

Some people think crows cause problems
They make messes when they dig for beetles in the lawn and hunt for food in your garbage. They wake people up with their noisy calls at daybreak. Farmers must protect their crops. Crows love blueberries.

Others think crows are beautiful
“I try to explain to people who complain about them that they’re just like us. They’re not a gang they’re a family, raising their children, just like you,” says Derek Mathews, founder of the Avian Research Centre.

Crows crowd trees, power lines and street lamps before settling down for the night. Photo: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG, The Province

Crows crowd trees, power lines and street lamps before settling down for the night.
Photo: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG, The Province

Someone left this poem on a pillar at the SkyTrain station:

Each morning
We fly
To work
Steady steps
Spinning wheels
Till like the crows
We return
To roost.

Facts about crows
Species:  The crows in BC are a subspecies of a larger crow that lives in North America.
Size:  Adults weight up to 440 grams. They can be 40 centimetres long. Males are larger than females.
Breeding season: from March to July
Incubation:  The female sits on the eggs for about 18 days. The parents are protective. They will attack humans if you come close to the nest.
Life expectancy:  Crows live up to 12 years. The oldest crow we know of lived 30 years.
Diet:  grains, seeds, garbage, dead animals, worms, grubs, mice, fish, mussels and clams. They will steal eggs and babies from other birds.
Predators:  owls, hawks and eagles. Crows will mob or attack these birds when they come into their territory.

Vocabulary
Murder of crows = group of crows
Perch = a place for a bird to sit (n) for instance a branch or roof
the act of sitting (v)
Roost = a place where groups of birds gather
Scavengers = looking for food in garbage
Mobbing = groups of crows attacking by flying at an animal, bird or person

13 thoughts on “Thousands of crows gather in Burnaby

  1. I love crows, they are very fascinating and smart bird… and may I know if it is illegal to feed crows in the stores parking lot? I love to feed them and I feel sorry for the crows and other birds because they don’t have any clean drinking water and they have to drink filthy water on the streets. Please kindly let me know if it is illegal to feed the crows in Coquitlam (stores parking lot).

    • Hi Celia,

      I love crows, too. We have many here in the West End of Vancouver, but at least they have Stanley Park, a much nicer setting than a parking lot. With that said, we have a by-law in place on our property – whereby we cannot feed any birds/wildlife.

      The city of Coquitlam refers to crows as “pests” as outlined on their website: http://www.coquitlam.ca/public-safety/animal-pest-control.aspx:

      • Rodents
      • Wasps
      • Birds/crows
      • Insects
      • Nuisance mosquitoes

      My guess is that there would be a city by-law in place since they are considered pests.
      You can call City Hall at (604) 927-3000.

      Please let us know what happens,
      Nila

  2. I love crows and their extreme intelligence! They recognize faces very well, and yes, will return friendliness if treated as such.

    Just by giving two crows some ham once, they don’t attack me when I walk past their nest (when normally they’re so territorial to everyone else and would pretend to attack them). People sometimes get angered if they see crows digging up their lawns for insects, but it’s actually good to aerate the soil, as well as get rid of harmful insects.

    • Very intelligent creatures indeed. And they certainly have a good sense of humour – I see them teasing passersby quite frequently in the West End. I have had the honour of being swiped when my hair is up and might resemble straw for their nests.

    • Crows live all over the world. Burnaby is a popular spot for them to gather. They do gather in many other places. I had at least one hundred in my backyard cedar tree once in Delta.

  3. Pingback: A crow at play | The Official Westcoast ReaderThe Official Westcoast Reader

  4. I love them so much. I show respect for them when theya re foraging neer me. I leave treats for them. I set quietly and watch. They are adaptive and intelligent, if you spend time you can see trucks passed from parent to child over generations. Ways of using sticks to mark food stashes, ways of breaking into food containers, be they shells of boxes etc. See the one sitting on a perch who will NOT come down for the treats you are tossing? he is waiting for his mom, dad and an older sibling to come and watch over his antics. You crows are governemnt by their caregivers and dare not screw up, lest the become dead young crows. Life is deadly serious for them, a hard life.
    They do not act the way they do to bug humans, they are the way they are and are God’s children, as much as you or I.

    • Crows are interesting. One night a huge number of them landed in the cedar tree in my back yard in Tsawwassen. They made a lot of noice for many hours. It was fun to watch.

  5. Sometimes they are a lot and they make noises that is so scary. I saw a lot near BCIT ,Burnaby. Sometimes I feed them if I have extra bread,yes they are so smart .I love to be waken up with their voices, it is so lovely.

  6. Large groups of crows are amazing. I don’t know the locations of other roosts in the Fraser Valley. I looked on the internet. Still Creek is the only one I found.

  7. Re; Crows roosts.

    I have heard there are other roosts in the Fr. Valley i.e. 254th and around 8th, is this true? I would love to see this, could you provide me with other areas if any, around Aldergrove to Langley

    I feed and observe the crows at my home, and yes, they are very intelligent birds

    thank you

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