Google+ Followers

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I drove up the driveway yesterday to Jr's house to bring him home. A couple of crows saw my truck and stayed around close watching. They remembered my truck after 2.5 months. For several months I drove down the mountain to Jr's house eating an apple. I threw the core to the crows every morning, a 10-15 ft toss from the truck. Initially they were cautious. As weeks passed I'd seen them waiting in three or four different trees watching me. I tossed the core into the grass and as soon as I stepped inside the door to the house they swooped down from the trees. First one got it. Another one or two would stand aside and watch, waiting a turn. Often, the first one would peck the apple core awhile, then step aside to let the other have some pecks at it.
I sliced an apple a little bit ago and threw the pieces into the grass outside the front door. In a very few minutes here came a couple of crows. Before Jr was taken away I used to throw any leftovers out the back door. In just a minute or two I'd see them from the window gliding down the hill on outstretched wings, gliding in from several directions. They would glide full tilt to the place they aimed to land, swoop upward a foot or two and land gently on their feet. They like molded cornbread, beans, bread, anything but onion. I've never thrown out any other leftover they've declined. Eggshell they're not too anxious about, but after several days it gradually disappears too. Eggshell is good calcium for their own eggs. I thought they seemed awfuly courteous to one another. When one was pecking at something, others would stand aside and wait their turn, which eventually came as the crow with whatever it was left enough for the next bird.
A month ago, thereabouts, I googled crow. Found a few paragraphs at one site that was more about their behavior than biology. Crows don't breed until they're 3 or 4 years old. In the meantime, the younger crows stay with the family of mother, father, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, just like us in earlier traditional cultures. I'm thinking this probably has something to do with why we seldom see crows fight. Evidently, they're family centered and live in tribes composed of several families.
This morning I saw two crows just outside the window, close to the house where they'd been marching about looking for apple since apple man's truck was here. One of the crows subdued the other in a sudden scolding kind of way, standing on its wing and barking at it. The other had its beak all the way open like it was showing submission and begging forgiveness for whatever infraction. There was no pecking involved or aggression. It just seemed like a scolding meant to be understood. When the one doing the scolding was finished, it walked away with head held high in certitude. The other one limped a little ways dragging its wing like it was broken, then picked up the wing and took off flying.
That episode brought to mind cat behavior that is closer to crow behavior than to ours, though close enough to ours to make us shake our heads in amazement. Many times I've seen two of the cats pass each other when one will pounce on the other and hold it down like it's scolding. When they've had their moment, the initiator of the encounter will walk away with trimphhant head held high and the other will lie there for awhile watching the other walk away, then slowly get up and walk in the other direction. I can't know what is actually going on between them. With the cats, like with these two crows, it happened so spontaneoulsy that motive didn't even seem like a consideraion. There is no telling, and no guessing.
In the fall it looks like the tribes of a given region get together for something on the order of an annual pow wow. The first time I saw them it looked like something between one and two hundred crows in a meadow on a knob. The whole murder of them was marching forward. The crows in front were jumping into the air and repositioning themsleves when they came down. Some leapt into the air and came down a few crows ahead of where they were before. Some came down a few rows behind where they were. The crows out front marched almost goose-step in their commanding presence as the leaders.
All the crows took to the air when the pow wow was over. It doesn't seem unrealistic to call it a pow wow. I watched them gather in the air into smaller groups and fly off together to their respective territories in all four directions. I was thinking that in the thousands of years indians dwelt in these mountains, they probably knew what the crows were doing. But their knowledge is gone forever with them, like five thousand years from now our knowledge will be lost too, the same as nothing.
Twice since then I've seen them lift into the air after one of their gatherings I didn't see. Big crow noise with nearly all of them barking. The cloud of them swirled upward to a good flying altitude where they gather into families and fly to their territories. I assume the entire collection of the birds was the equivalent of a tribe. The ones I've seen are the Air Bellows tribe. Four miles down the mountain at Whitehead, I suppose the crows here might be of another tribe. Or maybe they're the same tribe. Four miles by road is about half that by crow.

No comments:

Post a Comment