Some further information:
The groups of crows that pass judgement on others of their kind are also known as a "parliament of crows". It was long considered a piece of folklore, but these gatherings have been witnessed in recent years. There were letters to Fortean Times a few years ago describing these events and someone said the following on the snopes.com message board:
I don't know about the origin of the word, but I would guess that since they tend to consider corpses edible and show up in great numbers around one, they also show up around a murder site.
I do know, however, that the behaviour of ganging up on one crow (which does not necessarily have to be the weakest) is real. In Swedish, it's called "kråkriksdag", roughly translated as "crow parliament". I've seen it happen, and it is a brutal event. There is some general squaking, but there is no clear target. Suddenly it starts and all of them jump on one crow, picking at it until it is dead, literally tearing it to pieces. They are so focused on this that you have to run straight in among them to scatter them.http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=28;t=000919;p=2
Not only have I heard of this phenomenon of a crow court, I've had the pleasure to see one.
Imagine an amphitheater style field with a large sloping hill carved out between a farmstead at the top, cow pasture below, thicket and forrest squaring off the far sides and end, with two roads making a right angle at the top corner of the field.
I'd come up over the top of the farm one evening before sunset and saw that the entire bank of the hill was covered with crows. I'm not talking about just the ten to fifteen you might normally see in a typical murder, spread out, some in the trees, others pecking about the field. There were at least seventy five, maybe even a hundred crows ranged about the hill as though they were there to watch a performance. Sure enough, down in the field below the masses, there were three crows holding court.
I pulled over and got out of the car to get a closer look, which was when I noticed the really strange thing; there was hardly any noise. I'd expected to step out of the car and hear chattering, a low level murmur at the least from a group that large, but there wasn't any. The crows on the hill were silent and intent on the actions of the three below who were making noise, but not anything that carried to my ears.
I stood in awe for just a few minutes before more people on their way home in their SUVs and Minni-Vans, came rolling along. They slowed down to wonder what I was doing at the side of the road, out of my car, looking at a field. I don't think the trial going on behind them even registered until, spooked by the attention and presence of more humans, one crow called out. The entire court lifted off then, and settled in the pines further to the middle of the hill.
Clearly, I didn't see them tear whichever of their members were the "accused" to shreds, so maybe this was a more favorable trial. Then again, maybe they just didn't want any humans running into the frenzy trying to save a crow that deserved it's punishment.
That's fascinating. I've never seen it myself, but I've heard too many accounts of it not to consider it a fact.
Crow courts do sometimes seem to acquit, suggesting that it is a genuine discussion rather than a lynch mob intent on violence. The corvid family are highly intelligent, so I don't think anyone should be surprised at them behaving in this way.
great stories and info. :) thanks for adding that!
and i'm glad neither of you had to witness the defendant crow being torn apart!
Where can one find more infomation about this occurance? I tried doing a web search, but don't seem to be getting any further infomation.
I've had trouble finding it online myself. It was covered in Fortean Times a few years ago and should be in any book on the folklore of birds.
2013-07-22 03:30 am (UTC)
I've always thought the 'murder' referred to the actual more common action you can see almost daily here in the northwest of a group of crows attacking hawks. The larger the group the more vicious and brazen the attack and often murder. Crows will also travel tree to tree seeking other birds eggs and young, and eat them.
2013-07-25 04:47 pm (UTC)
Murder is the term for a grouping of crows, generally a familial group consisting of about 12 to 15. Ravens, collectively are called a jury.
They are exceptionally social, and they will actually foster and raise abandoned baby birds of other parentage. I have NEVER heard of them seeking out other birds eggs and young to eat. For one thing they are scavengers, carrion birds, going mainly for road-kill and dumpster diving.
do you do anything as narrowly focused as colloquial ancestry? if i've even worded that properly... what my question is, is whether there is a clear 'original' usage of "closet" and/or "closeted" in the context of repressed identity...
i can add closet to the req list and write myself a note to make sure i cover how it also came to be used in the context you mentioned. i'm not sure if i'll have oodles of info in that, but i'll do my best!
I've wondered about this one, thanks for posting :)
I was introduced to this turn of words by the Sandman comics, and I think it fits rightly.
ahhh Sandman. the only American graphic novels i've ever liked, to be honest.
This reminds me of a five page story I read once in a compilation of 'Sudden' fictions (five pagers, in other words).
i've never heard of that type of short story before. do you buy the compilations or do you usually read them in magazines or the like?
This one, I bought for a beginning-level fiction class. It was worth it, without a doubt.
Wow that's incredibly fascinating. I have actually never heard of the crow court but I have heard of their flock being refered to as a mruder. Really interesting thanks for this post :).
Has any requested the history of "book"?
Ooh, this immediately makes me think of one of Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" comics, entitled "A Parliment of Rooks", now in the collection entitled "Fables and Reflections".
that sounds awfully familiar. i read through i think 5 or 6 of the series but never finished it. :(
I'd never heard of a crow court before. That's interesting. On a complete tangent, could you find the origin of the phrase "on the fritz" as in something not working?
i use that phrase all the time, so it'll be nice to know where it actually comes from ;) added!
I'm curious as to what originally spurred the impulse to this pattern of colorful collectives. Do other languages have such collective noun phrases?
2009-06-08 01:34 am (UTC)
Very interesting post. I've always been intrigued by Crows, how intelligent they appear to behave and the way they appear to communicate.
Wondered if you had come across the term "three crows". According to the brewer of a beer by that name, I am told it has some particular meaning in old English but all I have been able to find is at ...
Wondered if you were able to find out anything more a more reputable source.
2013-06-27 07:28 pm (UTC)
parliament of rooks
what is a parliament of rooks?
Hey! This is really fascinating to me. I was wondering if you have a source for this information? For my personal sake of research. :]