The Murder of Crows

There are no crows in Austin. The grackles have chased them away. They have stolen the scraps of food in their tiny claws and their long, pointed beaks. They have taken the place of the crows at the dumpsters and picnic tables and supermarkets. They have replaced the ominous flocks of crows lurking in the trees or perching on power lines. The grackles have taken their spot on the branches, on the telephone poles, chirping and chittering away, filling the sky with noise. This city is not my home. My home is seventeen hundred miles away where cornfields whisper in the wind, fresh snowfalls blanket the world in silence, and booms of thunder shake the pictures on the walls. My home is crow caws announcing the dawn and carrying the world into night and, despite my fear of them, they are what I miss most.

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The crow that I am most familiar with is the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos). This is the one whose noise I long to hear. But there are forty-something other species of crows known to us and twenty-something other species that only exist in the fossil record. The family Corvidae contains crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, magpies, treepies, choughs, and nutcrackers, a group that’s often called the “crow family.” But the group of true crows (genus Corvus), the group I refer to when I use “crow,” consists only of ravens, crows, jackdaws, and rooks. You call a group of rooks a parliament, a group of jackdaws a clattering. You call a group of crows a murder, a group of ravens an unkindness.

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