Albuquerque’s Mega Murder of Crows

A river of crows flowed across Menaul Blvd. in the north valley as I drove east in the late afternoon. They were headed to their night roost in the bosque along the river. I knew that when I traveled a couple of miles further east, crows would be starting to funnel into staging spots near Coronado Mall.

There are two groups: crows that congregate in the natural habitat along the Rio Grande, choosing the tall barren cottonwood trees, and those that prefer the bright lights of a shopping center. Hmm…

I don’t walk along the river after dark so haven’t had the opportunity to observe the roosting behavior of the ‘valley’ crows. However, I am fascinated by the ‘heights’ crows and often make detours by the mall in the late afternoon and evening to observe them.

The crows begin to funnel into staging areas in the vicinity of Menaul and Louisiana, picking different areas to gather each night. One afternoon they might forage in a vacant lot near a restaurant in the vicinity of Pennsylvania and Menaul, on another evening they might be found in a Winrock parking area, along Uptown Blvd west of Louisiana, or on the rooftops near Staples on San Pedro. One evening I saw them gathering in the trees in the median along Menaul between San Pedro and Louisiana.

Before dark settles in, they start leaving the staging area and begin settling into trees at Coronado Mall – in what might be called mega murders of crows (a group of crows is called a murder). This year they seem to prefer the area near Sears. While they don’t always occupy the same trees, there is evidence of areas that are frequently occupied.

white wash under roosting tree

white wash under roosting tree

One evening I parked near the roosting spot and lowered my window to listen to the gathering corvids. The earliest arrivals secured the prime to branches and their calls seem to dare others to displace them. Late arrives complain as they jockey into place lower in the tree. The photo above clearly demonstrates the benefits of an upper perch.

Communal roosts provide a number of benefits during the cold winter season. Crowding hundreds of birds into one tree provides more warmth than perching independently. Since crows do not have good night vision, there is more protection from nocturnal predators – yes Great Horned Owls are found in the city. Some have also speculated that the cawing chatter as they arrive is also exchange of information about food sources and the opportunity to find a mate for the upcoming nesting season.

Coronado Mall roost tree

Coronado Mall roost tree

By March the nocturnal roosts will have dispersed. There are already signs of crow testosterone kicking in, e.g. harassing hawks and eagles.

If you haven’t already done so this winter, there is still time to head to mall to observe the mega murder of crows.


9 thoughts on “Albuquerque’s Mega Murder of Crows

  1. Whew, when I first saw this post’s title, the word murder had me worried that a governmental or otherwise entity had executed crows. Thank goodness not for I really enjoy their daily travels south to north (I live in the valley north of Alameda Blvd). Judy, do you ever wonder about why some birds follow in a line and others, like crows, follow in a non-linear, non-row pattern? Their pattern reminds me of black pepper sprinkled.

    • Larger birds tend to fly in a pattern to take advantage of the lift caused by the wing beats of birds in front of them. These birds take turns being in the lead, since that is the hardest. If you watch the cranes migrating, often you can see the one in the lead peal back and the one behind it take over. Crows don’t fly as high and aren’t dependent on the same aero-dynamics. I also have seen the crows heading north in the area – not sure where they end up.

      • Thank you for this, Judy, had not known this before. I wonder whether this behavior sticks with cranes and geese, and other row-flight birds whenever they fly, though, because cranes will also be in a row when flying low as well.

        We have seen the mega roosts sometimes along the stretch of bosque just south of the Sandia Pueblo boundary, south of where diversion canal lets into Rio.

      • Thanks. I have a huge flock that visits for peanuts in the North valley. Many of them roost in Corrales for the night. Sad to see them leave & migrate north. Privileged to see such brilliant & magnificent modern day dinosaurs!!!!!

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