Are crows launching a bird world takeover in Watsonville?

DEAR JOAN: Do you know what’s up with the crows this year? Many people are talking about how there are many more crows in their neighborhoods, sometimes to the exclusion of other birds.

I am noticing this in my own area, as well, every day now. Crows have always been part of the bird population around here, but only a few and more of an occasional fly-by. Now there are flocks of 20 to 30 birds at a time that arrive daily, hover and call for several minutes, then eventually fly off, to return later.

I like crows, but should I be concerned they may be staging a coup to take over the bird world?

Sandy, Watsonville

DEAR SANDY: What makes you think it’s only the bird world they want to take over?

Crows are among the smartest of birds, able to recognize faces and remember them, keeping track of those that have done them or their brethren wrong and those who have been kind to them. Always be kind to them.

They also are incredibly adaptable, probably much more so than I am. Crows once were denizens of the farms, gleaning corn, wheat and other crops in the fields. Just 50 years ago, it was rare to see a crow outside a farm.

Then we started plowing under farms and building homes and businesses to create new communities and expand existing ones.

Crows very quickly transitioned from country bumpkins to town squires, and they discovered they liked it better. Developed areas offer a wider variety of food, and it’s easier to find and get, thanks to garbage cans and backyard gardens.

The urban life also suits them better. Crows have never been fans of forested areas, preferring a few trees and shrubs in a more open area. Our buildings provide them with lots of places to shelter from the elements, and those landscape trees we plant in our front yard make excellent nighttime roosting spots.

In the early 1950s, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count saw a few dozen crows in San Jose and about that number in other areas of the Bay. In the Christmas 2021 bird count, 3,804 crows were tallied in the San Jose, Palo Alto, Mount Hamilton and Morgan Hill areas.

Sunnyvale is so fed up with the crows, they’re mounting a counterattack, using lasers to scare them away.

Right now, crows and other birds are in the midst of mating and chick-rearing season, which for the crows means the birds aren’t spending as much time together in a flock. That will happen in the winter, when hundreds will roost and feed together, using their numbers as a way to protect themselves from predators, improve their food finding chances and ward off the cold at night. So if you think you’ve got a lot of crows now, you’re going to have more in six months.

The crows that you are seeing now have likely found a new food source and are taking advantage of it. Or maybe their campaign for world domination has begun.

Come say hi

I’ll be at Wild Birds Unlimited, 692 Contra Costa Blvd. in Pleasant Hill, from 11 am to 3 pm Saturday, April 30, for the store’s grand re-opening. Lindsay Wildlife Experience will be there, too. Stop by, and we’ll talk wildlife.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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