Winter is Coming, the Tourists Will Go Back to Florida, and It Will Just be Us and the Crows

American Crow

It was cool here today, and it is supposed to be 45F tonight. It got me thinking about getting the bird feeders ready.

Throughout the year, during the times that we don’t have hummingbird or seed feeders out we still hear birds.  During the nesting season their calls are nearly incessant, but there are less as the season progresses.  What do they do the rest of the year when they aren’t concentrating on raising a family?  Some hang out all year because we get them at the seed and suet feeders, but others leave for warmer climes.  And some that come to our winter feeders came from somewhere more arboreal and think this is balmy.

There is one group that stays here all year, noisily talking over whatever they talk about, the crows. 

Some people hate crows.  They are crop raiders, no doubt. My mother used to sing a bedtime song about making a scarecrow.  The only lyrics I remember are, “Ah shaw”, said the crow, “I’ll just let your old corn grow.”

Crows are sometimes portrayed as symbols of ugliness.  The literary collective word for crows is a murder of crows.  Ravens, on the other hand, cousins of crows, are referred to as a congress of ravens.  They aren’t that different.

The cartoon characters, Heckle and Jeckle were deemed to be racist symbols.  I guess they were, and I was just too young to get it.  They mean different things to different people, and in different cultures.

Joni Mitchell “Black Crow”

“There's a crow flying
Black and ragged
Tree to tree
He's black as the highway that's leading me
Now he's diving down
To pick up on something shiny
I feel like that black crow
In a blue sky.”

Townes Van Zandt “Black Crow Blues”

“Well, the black crow's a-screaming, the yellow sun's warm
And the grass tumbles tall down the hill
There's a cold wind building, it's bringin' a storm
When the call of the black crow goes still
When the call of the black crow goes still”


The Apsáalooke who were called Crow by English speakers, call themselves Crow today, for the most part.  Their name, pronounced something like, Ahp sah loo key, actually translated “children of the large beaked bird.”  English speakers somehow took that bird to be a crow.  Could have been a heron.

I sort of want it to have been a crow, because I like crows.  They aren’t just smart, they communicate in ways that aren’t fully understood, and some make tools. They are also capable of misrepresentation and theft from each other. We seem to vilify creatures that are most like us. 

I wonder, “How much like humans are crows?”  Are there some who just seem to have “black souls”?  Are there outcasts?  Do they sometimes act heroically? Do they have a hierarchy? They do seem to mourn their dead.  Silent vigils have been observed where crows congregate in the trees above a dead comrade, sit for some time in silence, and then silently fly away, en masse.

There seems to be some message encoded in the pitch, number, spacing, and duration of their common “caw”.  They have another call which I have heard pairs use during their mating ritual that I have heard at other times, unrelated to mating.  They know what it means.  I don’t.

We have all heard a crow call near us, heard others answer from far away, and then heard a conversation as others joined in and they congregated somewhere.  What are they saying?  “Soups on?” 

We throw old bread and corn in the yard.  A crow (the same crow?) is often seated in a pine near the back drive.  It will spy the treats, call others and after a bit we will see them feeding in the yard.  Lynn read that they recognize faces and associate good and bad behavior with individuals.  She always looks up to let them know who she is.  The crows are much less wary than they once were.  But, I think, they understand treachery.



Views: 234

Comment by koshersalaami on September 30, 2016 at 4:41am

Crows are possibly the smartest birds

i've never observed them

i think one negative about them is their harsh loud voices. But they're cool birds

Comment by Rodney Roe on September 30, 2016 at 5:06am

Terry, northeast Georgia mountains.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on September 30, 2016 at 5:26am


Comment by Keith Joiner on September 30, 2016 at 6:12am

I saw a nature show on crows a while back. They are incredibly intelligent creatures, with amazing memories and ability to communicate with each other

Comment by JMac1949 Today on September 30, 2016 at 6:18am

Crows and Ravens are among the most intelligent birds in the world.  They use tools to get food.  My favorite example was a crow that dropped nuts on a road and waited for cars to run over the nuts so it could eat the meat.  R&L ;-)

Comment by Zanelle on September 30, 2016 at 10:44am

They communicate thru the generations.  This is the trick to getting smart I think.  Here is the ground breaking documentary.

Comment by Zanelle on September 30, 2016 at 10:45am

I lived closely with murders of crows in Alpine California and they are wicked smart.  I lived with the Ravens in Alaska too...not nearly as smart but so spirit filled.  

Comment by Zanelle on September 30, 2016 at 10:52am

Thank you for the music!

Comment by Rodney Roe on September 30, 2016 at 12:04pm

Keith, the Crow were originally a woodland tribe from what is now Ohio. Not sure of the story, but they ended up in the Yelloestone valley. Not from Georgia. Have lived all over. The winters save Montana from being overrun by retirees. Beautiful country.

Comment by Rodney Roe on September 30, 2016 at 12:09pm

Zanelle, two great musicians.


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