December 1, 2010


This is a photo of Crow, a bird friend of mine. (I've already spoken about my naming problems here.)

About a year and a half ago, I decided that I wanted to make friends with a crow. I had read articles about their startling intelligence and decided I wanted to interact with one. So I did what any sensible person would do: I waited outside with peanuts in my pocket until a few landed in my yard, and went over to meet them.

It wasn't as simple as feeding pigeons. Crows are smart and they know people are trouble, so they flew into the trees when I approached. Hoping they were still watching me, I yelled, "peanuts!" and tossed a bunch into the air so they fell to the ground all around me. Then I stepped back inside and watched from the window. That day I never saw them go near the peanuts. I assume they were suspicious and thought it might be a trick. These birds think.

The next day I looked out the back window every now and then, waiting for them and when they appeared, I didn't try to approach them. I just stuck my head out the door and tossed the peanuts near my house. I closed the curtains and watched, and sure enough they came over. 

That was it. The next morning Crow was waiting for me when I woke up. He's my main crow, the one who engages with me. Ever since that first day he sits there quietly and waits for me. He's there every day unless there are important crow matters to attend to. That doesn't happen often.

During the year and a half that I've been feeding Crow and three members of his family, not once did they caw or otherwise make noise to wake me up in the morning. This is strange to me since crows are downright raucous. They caw loudly to one another all day long, talking to their extended family. Yet in the morning they just stand quietly in the grass and wait, as Crow is doing in the picture above. I snapped that image this morning. 

The others fly off when I open my back door to hand out the morning's peanuts but Crow just stands there and looks at me. He knows me and can tell me from other people. When I talk to him he pays close attention to what I say, as if he understands me. (One day I had to give him the regrettable news that I had no nuts. I truly believe that he understood me. I sounded contrite, he listened and then he simply flew off, knowing there would be no peanuts that day. If he didn't understand, he would have waited for the nuts.) 

After our usual chat, I toss the peanuts out and he and his family come to eat them. As long as I don't press up against the window, they let me watch. It's fun, and other creatures have joined in. I now feed not only four crows, but two blue birds (not bluebirds; I don't know what they are exactly), three squirrels and one animal I can't identify. It's kind of like a beaver but without a large tail. He's very cuddly looking and has terrible eyesight and hearing -- I've noticed that he's often unaware of the creatures around him. I toss out plenty of nuts so there are no fights over them. They all eat at the same time without problems.

Getting to know Crow has been enjoyable. And yes, I've played with tests and games to see how smart he is. The result wasn't always what I expected -- more on that in another post. It seems that Crow has told the other crows in the area that I'm a good man. They don't share in the peanut hauls but seem to like me equally well. I can only suppose that Crow speaks well of me. 

However, another thought is that the extended family approves of the nutrition I provide to one of their relatives. That's what the locals are; crows have huge extended families that help care for their young. In many ways, their families are like people-families.

When I go outside for a walk, groups of crows follow me in the air. They caw at me in a friendly way from nearby trees and I swear it sounds like praise and approval. The tone is decidedly positive.

There are literally always crows flying around me out there, and they often put on a show. One -- I think it's Crow but I can't be sure -- does funny acrobatics in the air directly over me. And he will swoop across the yard, seemingly attempting to look beautiful. I don't think I'm nuts; these shows are for my benefit, though they have fun doing it, too, of course. They're naturally playful. 

It's startling and I always laugh with appreciation. My sister is amazed by the way crows act around me. She keeps saying, "They are! They're talking to you." They don't come close. Maybe they will some day, I don't know. But for now, they like me and that's enough. And sure, it's based on peanuts. But that's how things start between humans and animals. The first thing is always food.

This is what can happen when a confirmed city-boy is transplanted to a rural environment. Nature has the power to affect even old, jaded characters like me. By the way, Crow did not like the camera this morning. That's why he's turned to the side in the photo. He usually faces me and holds his body high in a way that suggests friendliness, or at least familiarity. He actually saunters in my direction. But this morning he mistrusted me because I pointed something at him (the camera). I'm sure Crow is familiar with hunters and it may have seemed like a weapon to him. But I'll also bet he learned today that when I point something at him, it's not a danger. He's smart; he learns. 

Anyone else have a wild friend? No, not that kind: beasts that live outside. They're darned interesting, though I must say I wasn't as thrilled to encounter a black bear and a moose out there. Some wild things are a bit too wild.


casey/a r t a n d c o l o u r said...

I found your link at J.M.G. now you have a comment!

I recently attended an evening with owls and crows, sponsored by a group that saves them. They have a crow named Crow as well, or maybe it's Crowe. I haven't befriended any, but I've always been interested in them. I live in the country in Connecticut and they often are in the trees around my house. My mother befriended all sorts of "wild" animals, having an adorable tail-less squirrel that came up on the deck everyday and ate out of her hand. She named him Bobby for being bob-tailed. The other squirrels shunned him or chased him and she felt sorry for him and whatever caused his to lose his fluffy tail.

here's the link to the bird post and an embedded link for the bird sanctuary:

i'll be back and read your fiction et al.

writenow said...

Wow, my first comment and it's a good one. Nice to hear you're interested in wildlife. We've got an owl in a nearby tree. It's a bit weird because I've never seen him in all these years. I sure do hear him, though. He has such an emotional, evocative call. Near sunset, he sounds so sad, like he's mourning the passing of the day.

Again, thanks for your comment. You broke the comment ice for me, and that's a big deal.

I visited your blog. Nice site and it was fun to be reminded of Matchbox cars. I go weak in the knees when I remember how I felt about mine as a kid. They were terrific.

Thanks for stopping by!