Caws and Effect

Adopt my point of view and you might behave differently
Black And White Picture Of Beautiful Raven Standing On The Branch
Photos by istock / getty images / Stelsone

My nest, following weeks of work, is ready to receive eggs. It is positioned among boughs near the top of a towering pine tree located in a swamp behind the home of the man who feeds me peanuts.

He is an older gentleman who always wears a cap. He amuses me by loading his palms with peanuts and then raising his hands above his head to make an obvious show of them before tossing the nuts onto the ground. There is no need for that. Humans adhere to predictable routines, and I see the goobers even before the man removes them from the bucket he always carries them in.

But I appreciate him, I should say, for placing a length of board in his backyard as a surface that I use for cracking shells. I have let other crows, including my own progeny, know that Man with Cap is a good guy. I should bring him a shiny object one day. For a lot of people, the crow is not their favorite bird.

From many, crows get a bum rap. People do not consider that there are individual differences among us, so they generalize when they see a crow chase a mourning dove or disturb a bluebird nest and assume that all crows are equally disposed to such behavior. Not true.

Let’s look, from a human point of view, at the upside presented by crows. In the course of a nesting season, I will consume tens of thousands of grubs, caterpillars and insects that people would rather not have in their gardens. When we ingest certain foods and later expel the seeds they contain, we cause plants to grow in new places. And, while you all carry on, crows eat lots
of carrion.

Few people know that we maintain extended families. Chicks born last year will help raise this year’s young.

A word about scarecrows. They are cute many times, but they have no deterrent effect. Likewise, most of us can detect the difference between a great horned owl decoy made of foam plastic and an owl for real.

I have heard about experiments conducted by researchers, half of whom wore caveman masks while the other half wore Dick Cheney masks. Differences between the two, while subtle, are detectable, even by crows. The cavemen trapped crows and placed bands on their legs. The Dick Cheneys left us alone. Researchers noted that crows began to avoid the trappers while extending the benefit of the doubt to the Cheneys. So, yes, as a group, we do have lessons left to learn.

Look, there is Man with Cap now. He is training his binoculars on a birdhouse occupied by brown-headed nuthatches and, yup, now he is looking up here, trying to spot my nest. From the ground, he may come close, but he won’t be able to pick it out. In the natural world, obscurity can mean safety. But I love the man’s benign interest in me and my activities. Where did I put that dime I picked up?

People may assume that I would like to have a prehensile tail or an opposable thumb. But crows are like wolves, hummingbirds and ladybugs in that we all have roles to play, as the more enlightened of people recognize. I am comfortable in my role and in my own feathers. Never would I trade the gift of flight for the gift of a better grasp on things.

My perspective, as I fly about, is different than that of you bi-pedals. I survey acreages, once home to diverse ecosystems, now cleared. I am grateful that the green space where I spend most of my time was spared. I am at your mercy when I ask that we find ways to share the earthly plane.

Wish me luck with this year’s brood.

Best regards,
Crow
Corvus brachyrhynchos

Categories: Bird