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Something to crow about

GREENFIELD — Just before dusk hits the town some days, it looks like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 suspense horror film “The Birds” across the street from the hospital.

People have reported on Facebook and to local birders and birdwatchers that there are “hundreds of birds flying overhead” in that area later in the afternoon.

“I went over there last week and started counting,” said 32-year-old naturalist Ezekiel “Zeke” Jakub, who was visiting his parents in Greenfield. “I stopped counting at between 1,500 and 1,600.”

Surrounding the Sanderson Street medical office building across the street from Baystate Franklin Medical Center are close to 2,000 crows that have decided to roost there for the winter.

“I’m sure the poop they are leaving in parking lots there is kind of annoying and obnoxious, but it’s pretty exciting otherwise,” said Jakub, who is working on his master’s degree in resource management and conservation and has been watching and studying birds since he was 6 years old.

Jakub, who is writing his thesis on birds, said he is somewhere between a birder, who searches for birds, and a watcher, who lets birds come to him.

He said when he heard there were “lots of birds” on Sanderson Street, he went to see for himself.

“It’s a good spot for them to roost,” he said. “I haven’t seen them roost there before, though.

Jakub said the crows come back to an area just before winter each year. Some years these birds have roosted in the trees on the ledge near Poet’s Seat Tower and some years they’ve roosted in the meadows in Deerfield.

“My records go back to 1987 and I don’t have them on Sanderson Street ever,” he said.

Jakub said it’s difficult to say why the birds — probably about 2,000 of them — have decided to roost in the trees near the hospital.

He said it could be that they feel protected in the large deciduous trees around the medical office building or that food is easy to find there.

“It could be the view,” he said. “They may actually like looking up at the tower. Who knows why — it could simply be preference.”

He said barred owls may have chased the crows from their last roost.

“I’ve talked to people who said barred owls moved into the area of their last roost,” he said.

Jakub said the great number is not as apparent during the day, because the flock, which is actually called a “murder,” breaks up into small groups of 100 to 200 during the day to hunt for food. He said those smaller groups might travel to Deerfield or other parts of Greenfield, but come home to the “big roost” at night.

He said the birds have been there since fall began, so they have left a lot of droppings in that area.

Jakub said crows are very well known for their social behavior, so that’s why so many roost together, though some years there aren’t quite so many.

He said the area they are roosting in is perfect for them.

“It’s like a field of dreams or a candy shop for crows,” said Jakub. “We build urban habitats for these birds where there’s food and trees, which becomes shelter, and because of that, they’ll come — and this year, they did.”

A call to a couple of doctors offices in the medical office building were not returned after the reporter asked if the birds or their droppings are creating problems for employees or clients.

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