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Crow Planet

Crow on the fence, ink & gouache
Crow on the fence, ink & gouache

Ever since I saw a crow repeatedly drop a walnut onto the street from its perch on a wire above, fly down to check it, pick it up and drop it again, I wanted to learn more about them. So I’m reading Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness, a sort of “how to” for amateur naturalists who want to explore nature where it lies (or flies) without having to journey out to Nature with a capital “N.” I learned that crows drop nuts on the road, hoping a car will drive over it and crack it open.

The crow in the sketch above had been hanging out with some crows and a few squirrels on a neighbor’s front porch. This odd group was bickering over who got the peanuts and who got the walnuts that my nutty (pun intended) neighbor lady puts out daily (hourly?). When I showed up he took this  more watchful stance.

I used to dislike crows because  they seemed to overwhelm the landscape when they showed up and their noisy caws drowned out the softer, sweeter sounds of smaller birds. But I’ve learned to appreciate these fascinating birds.

Crows mate for life, have strong communities who help care for the young and sick members, and are quite smart. They play games with each other, can recognize individual human faces, can reason and use tools as this video demonstrates:

Crows are helpful too, since as omnivores, along with plants, they eat insects considered as pests by gardeners, and enjoy fresh roadkill, thus tidying up the neighborhood. They are well-suited to our increasingly urban, concrete jungle, which is why their population has increased. It is estimated that in the U. S. there are as many crows as households—about one crow per family.

If you want more information about crows, there is a good Crow FAQ here by a Cornell University professor who also seems to find them endearing, despite their usually undeserved bad reputations.