The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...' --Isaac Asimov
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Keeping tabs on our corvid neighbors

December 29th, 2008 by eric

Have you ever noticed hundreds of crows streaming through the shadows at dusk (probably making a ruckus)? Have you ever watched a crow chase away a bald eagle and wondered at its gumption? Have you ever been dive-bombed by a territorial crow? Have you ever wondered why? Have you ever wanted to tell someone else about your crow encounters? If so, here is your chance. I’ve created an interactive website ( enabling citizen scientists to share their crow observations with scientists and each other using a variety of web technologies. The ultimate goal of this project is to involve citizens in the process of scientific discovery. During this process I hope we will build a useful database of crow happenings in the Puget Sound region and beyond. The backend requirements for the website are open-source and freely available so that creating a similar site to track another species would require minimal effort.

The website is organized around a map of the Puget Sound region, and the majority of the data is geocoded so that sightings can be placed into geographic context. The primary method of data submission is via the website itself, including instructions and guidance on reporting anecdotes, daily migrations, nightly roosts, and crows banded by Prof. John Marzluff ( at the University of Washington. Additionally, anecdotes can be submitted via Twitter (, a popular micro-blogging web site, by including the tag #seattlecrows in any posting. Updates to Twitter can be made from mobile phones via SMS text messaging. Finally, geotagged photos labeled with the word ‘crow’ are automatically added from Flickr (, a popular photo-sharing web site.

The submitted data is incorporated into a database and made available in real-time. It is important that the observations be accessible to those who made them (that is, the public), rather than be potentially lost in the black box of a researcher’s office, only to resurface years later in an relatively-inaccessible scientific journal article. Once submitted, each type of data is plotted on the map using unique icons; clicking on the icons reveals detailed information about each submission. The data is also available as an RSS feed ( which can be read by any news aggregator (e.g. Bloglines, Google Reader). New submissions can be tracked on Twitter by following @seattlecrows (

Crows are all around us — sometimes in staggering numbers — and it seems that everyone has at least one story to tell about crows! Love them or hate them, they’ll be with civilization for a long, long time. Take the chance to get to know your corvid neighbors — you won’t regret it. Submit your crow sightings at

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 barbarajblair May 16, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I observed a crow at NE 72nd and 42nd NE with a white band on L leg and a green band on its R leg on 5-14-09 at 10 am

  • 2 eric May 17, 2009 at 1:18 am

    Great, thanks, I’ve added it to the map. If you have any future sightings feel free to add them yourself!

  • 3 Yuri Nishiyama Jan 10, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    We have a few regulars in my neighborhood (NE 68th St. and 44th Ave. NE), and one of them is with a white tag on L leg and yellow (I think it was yellow.) tag on R leg. He`ve been around in our neighborhood for the past two years or maybe even longer. He lost his mate a year ago, but he has now found a love of his life, and we are happy for him.