Video: Crows flock to downtown Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — If you’ve walked around downtown Middlebury at dusk this winter, you’ve seen them: thousands of crows streaming across the sky, gathering in trees, raucously caw-cawing. What are they doing? How many are there? Have there always been so many crows in Middlebury?
We got in touch with Ron Payne of the Otter Creek Audubon Society, to get the scoop on the flock. “I haven’t gotten a good count this year, but from what I’ve seen, the flock doesn’t seem larger than it has been in the past few years,” he admitted. “But big flocks in the village are still a relatively new thing, only becoming common in the past five or six years.”
The highest count on record in downtown Middlebury was completed by a college student in February 2017: 4,475 crows.
The birds roost together in winter for several reasons, Payne explained, including “reducing their exposure to predators, and to be able to follow each other to food sources in the morning.” Sticking together also helps them stay warm. Some say they congregate at dusk to find mates and socialize.
Payne tipped us off to a lecture that Bridget Butler gave at the Ilsley Library last year on this very topic. (Click here to watch the full video, recorded by MCTV) Butler, known as the “Bird Diva,” is a naturalist and bird lover who lives in St. Albans. She says that Middlebury-area residents had been contacting her, dying to know more about the crows they were seeing downtown.  
We used Butler’s lecture to create our own short video of the birds — with footage by Middlebury College animation studio producer Daniel Houghton and music by Middlebury College music professor and composer Matthew Evan Taylor.
Want to help Butler track and map crows? Record your sightings at her Crows in Vermont project.

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