BIRD WATCH: Studying crows offers life lessons

CROWS TRIGGER VARIOUS human emotions as few other birds can.

There are those of us who love them or hate them and everything else in between.

They have made me laugh and made me angry to the point of yelling and throwing rocks at them.

Crows are, in many ways, a lot like people in the way they react to each other.

You can study them for a lifetime and they will still surprise you with the unexpected.

They are responsible for numerous questions from readers throughout the years and these keep coming as more and more people get to know them.

They rarely use a bird bath for bathing but they do use them for drinking and other activities.

Just as humans enjoy dunking food in their coffee, crows dunk their food in the bird bath.

A reader with a new bath just found this out.

The crow brought a piece of bread to dunk in the water as you might dunk a piece of biscotti in your coffee.

Crows are notorious thieves.

They have no scruples about stealing from one another.

Food is often the reason for a theft and the victim (usually another crow) will call loudly, letting everyone in the area hear what must be, “Thief! Thief! Thief!”

Crows and other members in the Corvidae family will hide their booty.

A reader recently witnessed this.

After digging a small hole, the crow placed its treasure in it and covered it before tamping it down a bit.

When people have crows as pets they see a side to this bird the rest of us rarely witness.

Crows can be affectionate.

They are protective when it comes to another creature they care for.

In the spring, this is often evident among courting couples.

For years, I’ve watched a pair, sometimes two pairs, sit in one of the neighbor’s trees and preen one another’s feathers.

They will nibble at their mate’s neck to the point where the recipient of this attention begins to lean against the bird preening it.

Their canoodling resembles that of humans sharing a back or neck rub.

I love it when the two birds actually put their foreheads together and look like they are staring deep into one another’s eyes.

This bird is not only protective of its young or mate, they often act like protectors for the entire neighborhood.

Never ignore loud and angry calling from the crows.

They’re not doing this just to make noise.

There is a subject responsible for their anger.

It might be an eagle perched in a tree or a sleeping raccoon tucked into some branches.

On rare occasions, crow anger can be directed at another crow.

A story I have shared throughout the years was first told to me by my late sister, Julie.

She and her husband were fishing on a lake in Canada when they heard what sounded like a group of angry crows.

The noise was at the other end of the lake so they headed in that direction to see what was happening.

As they approached a small dock, they saw numerous crows perched on and around it.

Their attention was focused on one single crow sitting on the dock’s edge.

It was silent and its head hung down in a dejected pose.

The angry scolding went on for a short while longer and then the unexpected happened.

In unison, the other crows descended on the “criminal” and pushed it into the water and drowned it.

The guilty victim didn’t put up a fight and just accepted its punishment.

Research on this incident turned up a name for this behavior.

It is known as a “crow court.”

We’ve always wondered what terrible deed merited this punishment.

If you admire or are intrigued by crows, you can study them for a lifetime and they will, from time to time, still surprise or amaze you.


Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: [email protected]

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