American Crow (pgc/public domain)

A Murder of Crows – What does it mean?

American Crow (Jack Dingle/PGC/public domain)
American Crow (Jack Dingle/PGC/public domain)

It is cold in Philadelphia. The day was sunny, clear and 19°F. As I look out of the window, I watch the thin gray-brown branches of deciduous trees sway gently with stirring of the air.

No birds sit in the branches. At midday, they forage in the woods, meadows and at bird feeders scattered throughout the area. I often see a murder of crows gathering and flying together.

I marvel at crows. Then again I marvel at everything on Earth. Crows are stocky, black birds with thick bills and rounded fan-shaped tails. Ravens have wedged-shape, rather pointed tails. Crows form large communities in the winter, a murder of crows.

Crows reside year-around, across all the forty-eight states continental United States. Canada is the summer home of crows. Canada’s oh-so-cold winters, drive the birds south into the United States and Mexico.

Crows often eat refuse. A word which sounds much more gourmet than garbage. Imagine saying, “We dined on refuse accompanied by a distinctive Beaujolais”.

Refuse. Garbage. Carrion. Wasted grain. These are human discards, but a hearty meal for crows.

Corvus brachyrhynchos is the scientific name for crow. Corvus is Latin for raven. Brachyrhynchos means ‘short beak’ from Greek. Corvidae is the family name and brachyrhynchos is the species.

And a ‘murder of crows’? Why a ‘murder of crows’? Because if an unfamiliar and sickly crow should wander into the home territory of the flock, the members of the home flock will join forces to kill the intruder.

Don’t be alone or weak in crow country.

In winter, so much seems to be about death. About bareness and barrenness. About bleakness and starkness. About eating the leftovers and a murder of crows.

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