News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 18, 2010

No one knows for sure why the crows are here, but they’re certainly making a mess

TERRE HAUTE — On a warm winter day, some parts of downtown Terre Haute are a bit hard to handle right now.

Heavy concentrations of crow droppings on the sidewalks and in the tree rows create an odor that’s not exactly pleasant. And some sections of downtown look as if they were the scene of a minor war fought with paintball guns filled with – well, not paint.

“It’s nasty,” said Linda Durham, an employee of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum at Sixth Street and Wabash Avenue downtown.

The intersection of Sixth and Wabash seems to be especially popular with crows this winter. A few trees on that corner are a popular roosting place and the sidewalks and benches below have taken a dramatic hit.

“This is really bad,” said Sheila Westra of Rogers Jewelers, speaking of a thick blanket of crow droppings on the sidewalk outside the longtime downtown business at 530 Wabash Ave.

“It looks like [an] Alfred Hitchcock movie out there” when the crows are roosting in the trees outside the jewelry store, added Rob Robertson, also of Rogers Jewelers.

It’s not known why the crows, which number at least 32,000 in Terre Haute this winter, sometimes move around to different roosting places in the city year after year, said Peter Scott, an associate professor of biology at Indiana State University. Scott has studied Terre Haute’s annual crow visitation for several years.

During the day, the crows fly out of the city to forage for grains, seeds and even “roadkill,” Scott said. At night, they return to the city seeking trees in which to spend the night.

“It’s strictly an overnight roost,” he said.

It’s not totally clear what draws the crows to the city at night, Scott said. One theory holds that they are drawn to the relative warmth. Another theory holds that they feel safer from predators here. There may also be food sources in the city.

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    March 12, 2010