It's winter, and that means the return of thousands of crows to their urban roosts in Minneapolis. Crows have started to roost in great numbers in cities in the last several decades, in part because it gives them some extra protection from their major predator, great horned owls. It may be that they are breeding in the suburbs, where the habitat is ideal for them, with the unmated youngsters flocking to the urban areas. One year, they roosted near the crook of 35W and 94, which made them highly visible at about the time a lot of people were driving home from work. Another year, their roost was near the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and another was spotted at Wirth Park. I remember the year they chose Loring Park as their nighttime roost; walking at night with a friend under the trees chock full of roosting crows, we could hear a soft rustle-murmer, as if the trees were alive.
I'm not sure how many roosts there are this year, or where the biggest ones are, but I've seen crows flying in to congregate at the cemetery on Cedar and Lake around sundown (which has been about 4:30-5!) and so has another local biology observer. They haven't become a nuisance in the Twin Cities, as far as I know, the way they have in some other areas, probably because we have large stands of bare trees in areas like parks, by the river, etc, so their droppings are not bothering people the way they do in some smaller cities. I have also noticed that several trees on our block are serving as a staging area; smaller groups of about 20-30 crows show up at around 4, and fly and yak between a few trees, as they congregate before heading for the big communal roost.
Mark Westerfeld has created Crows.net Project, collecting information from amateur observers, like these stories of small groups of crows folks observe while walking their dogs. Crows are smart and adaptable, like coyotes: opportunistic, scavengers, and very entertaining.
Is this not the most gorgeous painting of a crow roost by Chicago artist Diana Sudyka?
Some great photos on Flickr include this series near Chicago Ave (not far from the Lake street area).