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Birds and Wildlife

Unloved Birds: The American Crow
Polly Adcock
January 6, 2020

After 18 years, our backyard is a mini forest and shelter for a variety of birds. This spring we were awakened every morning by what I called “The Birds Worship Hour” (from the Doxology: “Praise HIM all creatures here below"). The morning started at 4:15 am with a loudly singing robin followed by the rest of the birds, including recognizable Towhees, and it ended with the crows making their “joyful noise”!!

I like crows, PERHAPS because I am not a corn farmer and they are smart and entertaining.

This was the third year crows tried to nest in the pines in my neighbor's backyard, only to be robbed by the neighborhood eagle. Every time there was quite a domestic disturbance, other crows came to help their family MOB the eagle and make it go away. The crows did however build their nest somewhere nearby in the crotch of a tree trunk at the top quarter or third. They seem to prefer evergreen trees, maybe in my Deodar cedar, because someone was talking constantly if I was working near it. I began talking back and Butch (my husband) saw me!!

Now I called them unloved birds because farmers think of them as a nuisance, eating seeds, grains, fruit, berries and if one leaves garbage open they will help themselves and leave a mess. Also, they can be a menace to smaller birds by eating their eggs and nestlings.

So what beneficial assets do they have other than being entertaining and wonderful conversationalists? They do eat worms, mice, many insects, crop pests and carrion (it's dead and stinks). They are part of a group of birds called CORVIDS, ravens, crows, and jays known for “scatter-hoarding” seeds and planting oak and pine trees else where.

The crow is monogamous, (unlike the western bluebirds in Montana). The shiny ones will pair up. Younger ones are rough looking. Both build their nests with help from younger family members. The nest is made of medium size twigs and in the last phase consists of animal hair, pine needles or soft weeds. Mother can hatch 3 to 9 eggs and up to 2 broods. They are hatched naked except for tuffs of brown/gray.

Crows are social birds. They take care of the young; the young play together, work together and recognize unusual sources of food. They will remain a family for one to two years.

They are admired for their intelligence. Proportionately to body weight their brain is bigger than that of some humans. They can make tools by bending twigs and wire. They use cars to crack nuts and wait for the pedestrian crossing signal to retrieve dropped food. When I was about 6 my brother had a crow that he must have rescued because it just hung around our yard and my brother taught it to say “Billy”, its name. Brother went to the USAF and I don't remember Billy after that. Crows have funerals, not to touch the dead but to decide if this is a bad place, even if the food supply is good.

Crows are susceptible to West Nile Virus. The article that was “pro crow” said they did not transmit to humans?????

A group of crows is known as a MURDER of crows. I had wondered if this came from the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The Birds”. Anyone remember? Well, no it did not; it goes back to the 15th century.

A few weeks before I started writing this I heard on the radio that crows recognize human faces. While researching this I found that there was a study done in Seattle in August 2008. Indeed they do recognize and REMEMBER faces through their generations. This is the story of the UGLY masked person and the Dick Cheney masked person. The ugly masked person removed the crow from a trap and banded the crow. Occasionally both masked persons would go where these banded crows were and the crows would fuss at the UGLY masked person even after FIVE years.

So you might just want to be nice to them.