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Visit of 15,000 crows to Lawrence fascinates researchers, bird enthusiasts

by Terry Date, Eagle Tribune

So many crows. So many questions.

It's a bone-chilling sunset in January and 15 men and women, their boots anchored to the snow-covered riverbank, are taking in a spectacle.

They watch 15,000 cawing crows breaking into smaller groups and "leap frogging" among trees.

Why this knocking around in cliques before settling in for the night — all together — at a final roosting spot along the Merrimack River?

Christian Rutz, a biology professor visiting from St. Andrews University in Scotland, wonders about this.

And why do the Lawrence crows, on occasion, switch to a new overnight roosting spot?

And, more broadly, what brings the crows here?

The Lawrence winter roost has been going on for decades, back to the 1980s, says Craig Gibson, a Roman Catholic chaplain at Lawrence General Hospital and dedicated crow watcher.

In late fall, the birds start migrating here.

Before daybreak they take wing with a few friends and explore locations within about a 20-mile radius.

At sunset they return to Lawrence.

This natural phenomenon of crows roosting in cities for the winter plays out across the country.


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