Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.


You are here

The Crows' Night Roost

What are those birds up to?
© Carl Cook View Large

Have you noticed groups of crows flying overhead in the late afternoon, wheeling and diving? These are American Crows with a purpose. They're headed to their night roost, a giant slumber party. Up to 40,000 crows in one space is not uncommon for a winter-time roost. Gathering at dusk, crows land in a tree, then scuffle and squawk, filtering down through the branches. 

Full Transcript


The Crows’ Night Roost
Written by Ellen Blackstone

This is BirdNote.

[Cawing of American Crows]

Crows stream by overhead in the late afternoon — rivers of crows. These are American Crows with a purpose. They’re headed to their night roost, a giant avian slumber party. 

Gathering in a park or woodland, they land in a tree, then scuffle and shuffle and squawk, filtering down through the branches. Birds arriving late force the early birds lower into the trees. Crow expert Bill Gilbert believed that the roost provides warmth, protection from predators, knowledge about food sources, and a chance to locate a mate. [Chortles and warbles of the American Crow]

Immature crows may spend the night in the roost year round, but adults of breed-ing age generally use the roost only during the non-breeding seasons. [Huge flock of crows builds]

And just how many crows are there in a roost? All depends, but one long-time roost in Danville, Illinois, boasts nearly 100,000 birds. Not that the folks of Danville are especially happy about that. Imagine the ruckus when the first few thousand crows leave in the morning, about an hour before sunrise. [Huge flock of crows] 

Follow crows to their roost some autumn evening, if you can, and watch these avian acrobats wheel in. Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds, might come to mind. And if you go, a word of warning: you’d better take an umbrella. [Cawing of crows]

For I’m Mary McCann.


Call of the single American Crow provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Orni-thology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.A. Keller.
Flock of roosting American Crows recorded at Foster Island, Seattle, by Martyn Stewart,
Ambient crow track recorded by C. Peterson
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2015 Tune In to     October 2014/2015   Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#092605AMCR roost-02b

Sights & Sounds