Crow Coughing Up A Pellet

I periodically do segments on our local All Things Considered broadcast in the Twin Cities. I offered to show them the winter crow roost and the host Tom and his producer Sam were interested. You can listen here and they brought along a videographer who got some terrific footage of the crows, be sure to check it out. crows

We had to reschedule the recording at least once because of the cold weather. We are having the sort of winter that Ned Stark would be proud of up here and I didn't want to take them out to see the roost in sub zero weather. Yeah, I know birders are hardy and we can take it, but I find with newbies and casual birders that they really don't have as much fun and I'm not into sadomasochist birding for everyone (just a select few). I like to do it when it works with everyone's schedule and comfort level.

We finally found a day when it was in the 30s and it was a great time.


I joked with producer Sam by asking if that is how he keeps his microphone warm in winter. He said that this was for wind protection but it looks like a piece of Muppet more than a microphone.


I know crows are pretty common birds, but I do really enjoy their winter roost--thousands of crows coming in and swirling around at dusk, it's beautiful spectacle. Not quite a murmuration, but definitely lovely in its own way. And I love taking non birders out and see them be just as awed as I am (if not more so).

crows silhouette

As we did the interview, I tried my hand at digiscoping the crows with my iPhone. I can get some arty shots, but it's still can't quite capture the majesty of the roost. However, as I was grabbing footage, I managed to get a shot of a crow coughing up a pellet--just like an owl or hawk would. Watch the crow on the far right:

Several bird species cough up pellets, just not as regularly as birds of prey. I've seen gulls, shorebirds, robins and even a scissor-tailed flycatcher do it. In theory, any bird will cough up parts of food they cannot digest from scales, exoskeletons or even berry husks. But you don't often see other birds do it. Was fun to capture the footage.