That morning, Garry ran into the kitchen from the bathroom and said “Something’s going on out there with crows!”
Crows? We’ve lived here for twenty years and I’ve never seen a crow, not even a fish crow and certainly not a raven, though it would seem from the bird books and from Cornell that we have all three and their numbers are increasing. Especially ravens have greatly broadened their area of occupation. You can find them everywhere from California, all through Canada and the United States and down into Mexico.
I didn’t have time to get the camera. When I first saw them, there were hundreds of them all over the deck and in all the nearby trees. By the time I grabbed my camera, (it was just a couple of feet away), there were only a couple remaining in a nearby tree and three shots later, they were gone too.
Tish Farrell showed pictures the other day of rooks in trees. I’ve been doing a lot of birding — I mean, seriously, what else is there to do? — so this got me interested in rooks. I didn’t know if we have rooks in this country. As it turns out, we don’t. We have Fish Crows which are probably similar to the Carrion Crows in England. We have Ravens. The pictures of Ravens near the Tower of London look a bit different than ours. They appear to have longer and more leg feathers. Otherwise, they are the same size and the descriptions are identical for both birds. I don’t know if they could interbreed, if they are sufficiently closely related. We also have Magpies who are black and white and look like a harlequin American Crow.
What I learned was fascinating. Mobs of crows are the vigilantes of the woods. Not only do they protect their own nests, but they protect the nests of all smaller birds. That’s better than much our police force manages or for that matter, our government. Maybe we should vote for crows.
Bigger birds love to eat the eggs and fledglings of smaller birds. Mobbed crows will patrol the woods and drive the big birds away. Ravens are their particular enemy. They hate each other, just like swans and geese. So this was a mob chasing a hawk and afterward, they stopped by for a quick snack before moving on. Murders of crows will attack eagles, owls, Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, and Sharp-Shinned Hawks all of whom are especially fond of munching on the eggs and babies of smaller birds. Ravens do the same and will attack nests, eat the eggs, and if available, baby birds. A lot of crows must really live in the woods, even though I never see them.
Except for that one time. It was like a scene from Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”
Crows are the smartest of all birds. They can be tamed and can sometimes choose to be tamed. Some can talk. Magpies can recognize themselves in mirrors. They love dried cat food and if you’re rich, whole peanuts. They will alert you if there’s a burglar or for that matter, if anything unusual is happening. Somewhere, high in our oak trees, we have crows. Many crows. Mobs and murders. They just don’t seem to like our seeds. I’ll buy some cracked corn and see if they decide to stop by. It will certainly make the squirrels happy. They LOVE corn.
Cornell Ornithology has an article: “Crows Have a Mob Mentality Toward Ravens | All About Birds.” If you’re interested, it’s a good read.