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Experts say Portland's peak roost of crows can number up to 17,000; they're set to flee the city in the coming days

PMG PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - Crows are quite a sight to behold in downtown Portland.The sun broke through the clouds before dusk Jan. 21, seemingly for the first time in a few days.

Clouds took on an amber color as sunshine cast the Big Pink building in hues of rose-gold on one side and sky blue on another.

So much rain had fallen in previous days that pools of standing water settled in low spots along the waterfront path, reflecting an upside-down Portland.

Bike commuters and joggers enjoyed drying sidewalks and what little warmth they could pull from the fading sun.

Moments before the dying of the light, it began with a few "caws" and fluttering wings.

The first crows of the night's roost swooped through the trees of Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park. They flew in numbers of six to 10, darting from tree to tree.

And then, more arrived. Enough that their caws and swoops paused the evening's waterfront walkers, joggers and cyclists long enough to take note, look up and view the hundreds of crows begin to buzz the Hawthorne Bridge.

Soon, the skyline went dark as the murder of thousands buzzed by KOIN Tower — creating a scene reminiscent of a superhero flick, or the beginning of a long, treacherous, Hitchcockian night holed up in a coastal home in Bodega Bay, California.

PMG PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - Some people like the crows, some people see them as a nuisance.The cacophony dominated the sounds of the early nightlife. The crows — at this point numbered in the thousands — perched in the trees, along the rooftops and on any piece of steel on the Hawthorne Bridge.

Gary Granger, who along with his partner, Rebecca Provorse, manage the website pdxcrowroost.com, have studied Portland's crows for the past couple years and have posted their findings on the site.

They estimate Portland's peak crow roost can number as many as nearly 17,000 crows. Earliest media reports in 2013 reported hundreds of crows roosting near Southwest Fifth Avenue and Salmon Street, according to the site.

The nightly spectacle repeats itself come morning, when the crows leave their city roost to forage and go about their day. They may travel several miles for food sources before returning to the waterfront and downtown to roost.

Portland's relationship with crows is not the most dramatic of the man-versus-nature conflicts.

But they're noisy. They're messy. In 2018, the Portland Tribune reported TriMet spent $1.5 million attempting to disperse the roost because of the damage caused to the transit mall by all the crows pooping … on everything.

So, they may not be to everyone's liking. But, love them or hate them, there's no denying the spectacle Portland's crows bring to the city.

PMG PHOTO: KEITH SHEFFIELD - The crows gather on trees near Waterfront Park and Hawthorne Bridge.Seasonal migration

Spring

March-April: Crows return to territories. Crows may migrate to our metro suburbs or fly hundreds of miles.

Roost counts decrease and by mid-month are reduced by 75% or more, from 18,000 to 3,500.

May: Crows continue to depart, and nightly roosts are limited to a few hundred by the end of the month.

Summer

May-July: It's peak regional breeding season.

The only crows remaining in the city center appear to be local residents (i.e. downtown is their territory or nonbreeding adults come into town at night).

Fall

Mid/late August: Crows return, and numbers roosting downtown increase to hundreds.

September-October: Crows continue to return to Portland at night. Numbers grow from hundreds to thousands. The pre-roost is spectacular.

Winter

November-February: It's peak urban roost time.

Source: www.pdxcrowroost.com


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