Crows Never Forget a Face

Sunday morning, while writing yesterday’s blog post, I observed a murder of crows, or four of them anyway, fly into the trees in my yard and start communicating with each other in that caw caw way.  Like a biker gang walking into a Friendly’s, the other birds in the vicinity grew very quiet when the crows announced they were crashing the party.

The crows split up, with one flying behind me to a tall tree in the front of the house.  Two of them remained on a branch on an oak tree deeper into the woods.  And the fourth ran point and flew onto a branch of an oak tree that reached out over the lawn in the backyard.  I saw right away what he was doing.  There was a birds nest on the branch and he bounced over to it, cawing all the time, head bending side to side as he inspected the nest.  The pair of crows in the woods observed and cawed their feedback.  When point crow reached the nest he started pulling it apart and dropping bits of straw down to the ground, digging into the nest looking for chicks or eggs to eat.  After a couple of minutes he determined there was nothing there worth eating and he flew off, with his mates joining him.

Crows are both fascinating and annoying creatures.  Like [most] humans, they’re highly intelligent and social, and they’re omnivores.  Crows are symbolic of death in mythology, like vultures, but they’re really just opportunistic hunters and gatherers.  You see them all the time bouncing over to roadkill, but they’re smart enough to gauge the speed of the car coming at them and avoid becoming roadkill themselves.  I read that if a crow is killed, other crows will gather around it to determine what killed it, and then like a lynch mob go after the killer.  Crows apparently never forget a face, so if you go out and chase away a murder of crows or throw rocks at them they’ll mark you as a dangerous character.  Given what they do to crow killers I’d say be on your best behavior with them!  With an average lifespan of 7 – 8 years, they have plenty of time to develop a plan to deal with you.

There are apparently 30 different species of crows out there, ranging from magpies to ravens.  I know that the crows flying about in the woods of New Hampshire are smaller than the crows flying around on Buzzards Bay, but share similar hunting and communication traits.  I can admire crows but still wish that they’d shut up when I’m trying to sleep in when I’m on the Cape.  They aren’t just bigger down there, they’re also louder and early risers.  Maybe they’re trying to tell me something:  Caw! Get up!  Caw!  Life is short!  Caw!  There’s so much you can do with this day.  Thanks for the reminder.  Best get on with it.

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