A Bird-en Worth Having? Creepy or Majestic? The jury on crows is still out in Old Ottawa East

By Leslie Anne Michelson

Crows by the hundreds turned streets in Old Ottawa East this winter into sets for some Hitchcockian thriller.  Credit: Joel Karwatsky

Crows by the hundreds turned streets in Old Ottawa East this winter
into sets for some Hitchcockian thriller. Credit: Joel Karwatsky

Old Ottawa East residents are baffled by thousands of crows that have descended on the city – and the neighbourhood – this winter. The birds have left the community divided: either impressed or unnerved by their numbers and behaviour.

For longtime residents George and Michelle Vandewaetere, the crows are a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.

The couple have watched all winter as the birds gathered in astonishing numbers in Springhurst Park behind their house. Roosts which provide crows warmth and safety from large predators such as long-horned owls left the couple in awe.

“In our 45 years of living of living here, we have never seen anything quite like it,” they said.
In contrast to the Vandewaeteres’ fascination, other residents are quite spooked by the fearfully majestic birds.

Katrina Petryk recalled early December when, “thousands of crows gathered by Greenfield Avenue, standing still in the snow, all eerily facing the same direction.”

The strange phenomenon occurring all over Ottawa is what bird and wildlife experts characterize as communal roosting. Although a recent occurrence in OOE, large communal roosts which can involve hundreds if not millions of birds, have been well documented all over North America for close to a century.

Thanks to Hollywood and horror stories, crows are often given a bad rap. The highly intelligent birds travel upwards of 40 kilometers every morning in search of food and return at night to the same roost.
Michael Runtz, a bird expert and professor in ornithology at Carleton University urged people to look past the crows’ reputation and embrace their presence.

“In a time when many bird populations are diminishing, I think it’s important to take advantage of their presence,” Runtz said. “It is quite wonderful to see birds in these numbers gathering and thriving.”
For people looking to catch a glimpse of the birds, they have been most recently reported in Centretown around 4-5 p.m.

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