How Many Crows Make a Murder?

Have you ever wondered why a group of crows is called a “murder”? And how many crows does it take to form a murder? In this article, we explore the mysterious world of crow gatherings and shed light on these intriguing questions.

Nature often gives unique collective names to its animals. Cats come in clowders, fish swim in schools, and eagles gather in convocations. But when it comes to crows, their collective name is a murder of crows, befitting their ominous appearance.

How Many Crows in a Murder?

Three crows, a murder, together on a backdrop of snow
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Contrary to their eerie reputation, crows are actually highly sociable birds. They enjoy chit-chat sessions as much as they enjoy food. So, to spot a murder of crows, you need to observe at least three crows. Anything less, and it’s just crows casually chatting. But as soon as you see a congregation of three or more crows, that’s a murder of crows.

Now, you may wonder why some people count crows. Counting crows has an ancient and superstitious origin that can be traced back hundreds of years.

Why Do People Count Crows?

The act of counting crows is rooted in superstition rather than simply identifying a murder of crows. One popular rhyme, “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy,” was initially used to count magpies. When you spotted a single magpie, it was customary to spit over your shoulder and say, “My regards to your wife.” This gesture was believed to ward off bad luck. Over time, the superstition extended to counting all blackbirds, including crows, magpies, and ravens.

Origins and History of a Murder of Crows

The term “murder of crows” dates back to 15th century England, a time when naming and classifying everything was in vogue. The reasons behind this specific collective noun are somewhat elusive. One theory suggests that crows, known for their intelligence, might play a role in deciding the fate of ostracized members within the murder. Another reason links their association with death, which has long been tied to crows.

Interestingly, modern scientists no longer use the term “murder” to refer to groups of crows. Instead, they prefer to call them “flocks.”

How Many Crows in a Flock?

While you need at least three crows to form a murder, a flock of crows can vary in size depending on the season and location. Typically, a flock consists of two to eight birds, but during colder weather, you may observe even larger numbers.

There are a few reasons why crow flocks tend to grow in colder months. Cooperative roosting is one explanation. Some young crows choose to stay with their parents and even their aunts during subsequent nesting seasons. They assist in providing food for the nesting females, ensuring their survival.

Safety in numbers is another factor. Though crows have few natural predators, animals like raccoons, red-tailed hawks, and great horned owls pose a threat. By staying together, crows increase their chances of survival.

Lastly, flocks of crows grow in size to conserve body heat as the year draws to a close. You’ll often find them sleeping in clusters on tree branches, with three crows perched closely. This arrangement offers protection from all sides and allows them to fit comfortably.

Crow Hierarchy

Crows possess impressive memories and can remember various locations, including places where other crows have died. However, there is no designated leader within a crow flock. Leadership is determined by factors such as flight strength, speed, memory, and navigational skills. The crow with the best combination of these traits takes the lead during communal flying trips.

Although there is no leader, crows do form smaller family units within their flock. In these units, male and female crows share equal responsibility for nest-building, and everyone takes turns feeding the nesting females.

Words for Groups of Crows

While “murder” is the most commonly known term for a group of crows, there are other collective nouns as well. Some alternatives include “hover,” “horde,” “mob,” “parcel,” “parliament,” and “storytelling” of crows. Interestingly, some of these terms can also apply to other animals, such as owls.

Final Thoughts

With an estimated population of over 28 million crows worldwide, there’s no shortage of these fascinating birds. They have adapted to various environments, making them resilient in the face of changing conditions. So, the next time you come across a crow, remember their rich history and the intriguing dynamics of their gatherings.