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It's a nightly ritual: spotting the crows flying east. But where are they off to?
If you don’t think that Vancouver is the murder capital of North America, you haven’t been paying attention. Because as dusk falls each night, the sky fills with screams…of thousands of crows, on their way home to roost.
Listen, I understand that using the word “murder” just now to describe a group of Vancouver’s favourite feathered friends is misleading at best and trivializes a devastating crime at worst, but if abusing collective animal nouns is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Anyway, as I was trying to say: it’s a beloved Vancouver pastime to look up in awe at the startling flood of crows that flies eastward like clockwork come dusk, and a rite of passage to run for cover (because, you know, poop). But where are they going? And why do they never invite me?
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It turns out, like many of us priced out of the Vancouver real estate market, they’re heading to the burbs. Through the fall and winter, up to 6,000 crows commute 30 to 40 minutes from their home base by Still Creek in Burnaby to the big city to do whatever it is crows do all day. (Eat garbage? Work as venture capitalists?) When the sun begins to fade, it’s quitting time, and the whole gang meets up to travel home again to their little piece of crow paradise near Willingdon Avenue and Highway 1. These critters have been congregating there since the ’70s, living in a loose social structure that’s kind of humanoid—they mate for life and even help raise their little brothers and sisters, which gives me an amazing idea for a sitcom.
At one point in time, Still Creek was bumpin’ with spawning salmon (collective noun: a “bind”! Isn’t this fun?!) and delicious industrial-area trash, which explains why early crow settlers set up camp. Today, the rookery has its own Facebook page (StillCreekRookery, of course), though it’s unclear which of the thousands of crows is running it as of press time. I’m hoping to get a sleuth on the case…by which I mean a group of bears! Ha! (I can’t stop. Please send help.)
First published in the October 2017 issue of Vancouver Magazine.