How It All Began

Timmy

My love of ravens and crows has been growing for about 10 to12 years now. I used to be amused while observing them from my 3rd story apartment window where I fed them table scrapes from my cooking. They have a definite social platform and their ‘pecking order’ is severely enforced.  It didn’t take long before I was photographing them and that was a long time and a kazillion frames ago.  Finally after mostly 50 years of service industry jobs, mostly driving for hire, I retired.  I now find the time and energy to do so many things I seemed never to have the time or energy to do. 

I guess what truly ‘turned my head’ was the revelations learned from a PBS Nature program produced by WNET (.org Proprties LLC) called A Murder Of Crows, Birds with an Attitude. 

“Crows do not have the best of reputations.  They are generally dismissed as spooky—Hitchcock used them quite successfully to frighten moviegoers—or as a general nuisance.  But their image is about to take a real turn.  New research has shown they are among the most intelligent animals in the world, able to use tools as only elephants and chimpanzees do, able to recognize each other’s voices and up to 250 distinct calls.  They are very social, mate for life, and raise their young for up to 5 years.  And they are able to recognize individual humans and pick them out of a crowd up to two years later.  Crow experts from around the world sing their praises, and present us with captivating new footage of crows as we have never seen before.”

Own the DVD available here.

Crow Facts

Manfred

Crows are members of the Corvidae family, which also includes ravens, magpies, and blue jays. Loud, rambunctious, and very intelligent, crows are most often associated with a long history of fear and loathing. They are considered pests by farmers trying to protect their crops and seedlings. Many people fear them simply because of their black feathers, which are often associating them with death. But research demonstrated in A Murder of Crows proves crows are actually very social and caring creatures, and also among the smartest animals on the planet.

Where do crows live?

Crows live all over the world, except for Antarctica.

What do they eat?

Crows are predators and scavengers, which means that they will eat practically anything. Their diet consists of various road-kill, insects, frogs, snakes, mice, corn, human fast food, even eggs and nestlings of other birds. An adult crow needs about 11 ounces of food daily.

How many species are there?

There are about 40 or so species in the Corvus genus. These range from pigeon-sized birds to ravens, which can be as much as 24-27 inches long.

Social Environment

Crows are very social and have a tight-knit family. They roost in huge numbers (in the thousands) to protect themselves from enemies like red-tailed hawks, horned-owls, and raccoons. Crows also use at least 250 different calls. The distress call brings other crows to their aid, as crows will defend unrelated crows. Crows mate for life.

Close Relatives

The Corvus genus includes the common American crow, ravens, rooks, and other variations, and the wider family (Corvidae) includes jays, magpies, nutcrackers, and other birds.

Crows and West Nile Virus

Crows are susceptible to West Nile virus, and their deaths are used as early indicators of potential human disease in an area. West Nile Virus has killed 45% of American crows since 1999, though they’re still listed as Least Concern species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

What’s a murder of crows?

A group of crows is called a “murder.” There are several different explanations for the origin of this term, mostly based on old folk tales and superstitions.

For instance, there is a folktale that crows will gather and decide the capital fate of another crow.

Many view the appearance of crows as an omen of death because ravens and crows are scavengers and are generally associated with dead bodies, battlefields, and cemeteries, and they’re thought to circle in large numbers above sites where animals or people are expected to soon die.

But the term “murder of crows” mostly reflects a time when groupings of many animals had colorful and poetic names. Other fun examples of “group” names include: an ostentation of peacocks, a parliament of owls, a knot frogs, and a skulk of foxes.

Source: PBS.org/Nature

The Unexpected Pedestrian

CliffHse_headerBy Kay Renz

 

Crow walks across the road
in front of my car this morning.

Sun in my eyes I almost don’t see
the ebony gleam, sleek, glistening,
as she ambles cool, collected.
Pausing I ask,   “What does it mean,
This sky creature earthbound, strolling
in deliberate nonchalance?”

…it is said crow lives in two worlds
earth and sky, body and spirit as one
who is always transitioning,
crossing boundaries.

This one peering up
at me behind the wheel,
as I steer the vehicle that could be her death
could teach me something about living
in more than one world.    What?

Crow knows human drives through life
too often without attention, without heeding
things of earth, yet though she can rise quickly
out of danger, she stays on the path, waddling,
head bobbing, cawing complaints.

In her groundedness, am I to read the message
of non-flight, the message of slow pace,
take the risk of doing the unexpected
as I travel toward an end goal– to get to
the other side?

Despite the honking behind us, this small being
demands respect.  With my car in the lead, she
forces traffic to a crawl.  As I inch past, she hops on curb,
lifts head, spreads great black wings, and opening her throat,
caws          raucously.

Thank you Kay!

(used by permission)