By Avtar Mota
What is “ Kaaw Yenivol “ or evening time assembly of crows?
As night falls, about two hours before their scheduled sleeping time, crows start assembling close to their roosting place.
This period is a noisy time, with plenty of crows cawing as they jostle each other. Playing, fighting, and foraging for food are all activities that occur during this period.
Bird watchers the world over have explained that crows are communal sleepers. They sleep in large groups . Usually two to three thousand crows will sleep on a huge tree. Before going for sleep, they assemble, communicate and select the place . Accordingly , they gather in massive groups to roost together at night .
At sunset time, crows fly in from long distances to a central location. At this location , they share warmth, safety from predators, and even exchange information relevant for survival.
I have read that being intelligent, group roosting helps the crows to exchange sources of bulk food locations especially during winters after the earth gets covered with snow. Crows roost in the same location for many years unless something changes in the environment. At morning time or dawn, I have seen them moving out in groups making rapid flights .The need for food brings speed to their flight .
In daylight, crows can elude or gang up on most predators generally owls, hawks , eagles and many others You might have heard the noisy cawing when a single crow is in trouble or a predator is suspected . At night, they are almost defenceless, so they gather in large flocks to roost in a spot where they have good visibility and reasonable shelter. Crows can’t see in darkness.
Inquisitive, clever, and charmingly curious, crows are one of the rare bird species to not only recognize humans but form relationships with them. I have personally observed some traits of crows as I feed them early morning. Groups of crows assemble at the place where I keep food for them at about 7AM every day. If I am late, they make noise and alert us. The food space is on second floor and in the event of my being late, they come down to my bedroom window and start pecking the glass pane possibly seeking reasons for the delay. As I go up with their food, they come close to my shoulders. Once I place the food on the spot, they start cawing inviting other crows. Fifteen years back, we had a huge vacant field close to our house that had some tall mango ,guvava and other trees . These trees were roosting locations. Every evening we would see thousands of crows making noise before settling for the roost. After the trees were cut and the vacant land turned as an extension of our colony, we missed the everyday evening time spectacle.I would see this evening assembly of crows in Central Park, Manhattan,New York. The park is full of tall and shady trees providing abundance of roosting location. I saw the dusk time crow assembly in Washington Square Park and also in the parks built along the Hudson river in upper Manhattan. In Kashmir, it was a common scene during evenings especially near tall and shady Chinar trees. I have observed this assembly in the garden of Government Arts Emporium , Srinagar that had many tall and shady trees . It used to be more pronounced during autumn and winter seasons.Crows have also been roosting in urban areas . I have seen them sleeping on rooftops in congested localities. Quite often they roost on tall trees close to flood lit roads. Light helps them to see any predator.
Many elders have given a philosophical explanation to the cawing and evening assembly of crows. Calling it’ Kaawa Yenivol ‘ or Baraat of the crows, my maternal grandfather would connect this assembly and noise of crows at dusk with the transitory nature of life on this earth. He would say that this human existence is a short time spectacle like the “ Kaawa Yenivol ‘”or “Baraat of the crows” at evening time.
Avtar Mota is a blogger and writes for local and national papers and magazines