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Corvus Brachyrhynchos Chimes

Ted Apel
Field sound recording installed as permanent part of Terry Allen's Trees installation of the Stuart Collection at UCSD.

While listening to the music of the Terry Allen tree one afternoon in the spring of 2002, I began to listen to the calls from the nearby crows (corvus brachyrhynchos). Soon after the carillon in the library struck its familiar hourly chime, I was struck by what seemed to be the crows' distinct mimicry of the carillon chime melody. Although I only heard it once, I decided to return the following afternoon with my tape recorder in order to record this unique crow call.

I spent several afternoons and early evenings in the eucalyptus grove near the Terry Allen trees recording the sounds of the crows. For eight evenings of recording, I did not hear the "carillon caw" as I had come to think of it. In my disappointment and frustration, I began to wonder if I had not imagined the "carillon caw" that first evening. Finally, on the ninth evening (June 28, 2002), the crows cooperated and I once again heard them cawing the distinctive melody. After two hours of fruitless recording, soon after the six p.m. carillon chime I succeeded in capturing the two-minute recording presented here. Three times during these two minutes, amongst other crow "caws", the distinct eight note melodic fragment of the carillon chime is produced by the crows. How and why the local crows have come to mimic the carillon chime, I do not yet know, but this initial sonic documentation may inspire others to further study this rare and extraordinary phenomenon.

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