A colony is a colony of breeding animals; specifically crows, although the term is used more generally to refer to birds and sometimes marine mammals as well. The term is used both to refer to the location of the colony and to the collective group of animals that inhabit it. Nurseries can be both artificial and natural; Archaeological evidence suggests that humans have been raising animals in facilities they built specifically for that purpose for thousands of years.
One of the common names for the European crow is “tower”, a word probably of onomatopoeic origin, as the rooks emit a hoarse and shrill sound. By 1725, people were referring to groups of breeding crows as colonies, and the extension of the term to other species soon followed. Classically, people think of a colony as a very noisy and chaotic place, as many animals are present and each creature follows its own agenda. Colonies also tend to be very messy, due to the droppings of animals and their young.
Most animals do not inhabit their nurseries year-round. Instead, they travel to the nursery to meet with other individuals, breed and raise their young until they are mature enough to care for their own offspring. In some cases, a colony is removed from the animal’s normal habitat and hunting grounds. While it may seem strange to make nests away from home, it does mean that predators are less likely to prey on young animals, since a nursery is usually established in a sheltered, remote area.
Animals that breed in nurseries have adapted certain traits to help them cope with the intense environment. They are able to recognize the distinct screams of their young over the noise of thousands of other individuals, for example. Some creatures even establish social routines, such as allowing other members of a colony to care for their young. In a remote colony, parents often take turns, where one parent takes care of the young while the other looks for food.
In the sense of an artificially established environment, a colony is usually a structure designed to facilitate the breeding of birds, such as a dovecote. For humans, the difficulty of cleaning and maintaining the colony is outweighed by the convenience of having immediate access to the creatures within. A colony that is established is typically smaller than a colony in the wild, with dozens of individuals as opposed to hundreds or thousands.