Monday, September 14, 2009

A Murder of Crows

I have often seen crows in singles, twos or threes or fours, they are common in this area. One year, I even had somewhat of a conversation with a crow. I had put peanuts on my back porch, which the crow and his friend or mate watched. He came and got them but wanted more. He returned to my porch, hopped right up to my back screen door, looked through it directly at me into the house where I was seated on the couch, and "Caw, Caw!" he cackled at me, eyeing me intently while flapping his wings against the screen. I knew exactly what he was saying and exactly what he wanted. I complied, going and getting the last of my peanuts and putting them on the back porch. He took them off to his friend and they left, apparently contented.

I am fascinated by the intelligence and curiosity of crows. I have seen crows put rocks into a narrow patch of water to make food rise that they couldn't reach. I have read about them hanging out at traffic intersections in Tokyo, using red lights to deposit nuts to be cracked by cars when the lights turn green, and then the next red light to pick up their prized cracked nut meals. I know some people are frightened by crows, hence the group name "murder", but I like them.

So it has been a joy to observe a murder of 23 crows in residence in my neighborhood. I have seen them roosting in trees at dawn like the picture above, but more enjoyable is that the past two weekends when my mom and I have walked her dogs at the track across the street on Sunday morning, the 23 have been there hanging out all together, perched in the stadium seats, on the fences and in the fields. As we walk by, as long as they are higher than us they will let us get within a few feet and just watch us pass with a wary, curious eye. Sunday I watched one find a straw and entertain itself with it for a long time and listened to them talk to one another. You can tell them apart, too - some are a bit larger, some have smoother feathers while some are thinner in the neck.

The last dogs my parents had hated crows. They always defended the yard against them while ignoring squirrels. My mom felt it was because once a crow had raided the eggs or babies from a smaller bird's nest in the yard. But the current dogs could care less about crows while they are incessantly chasing squirrels out of the yard.

Mom and I both counted them these past two weekends and always the count is 23. We wondered how they are related to one another and what their social structure is like, but I don't really know the answers to those questions.

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