Because I’ve been home sick today I’ve had the opportunity to observe the crows in our back yard. There is still the nest with at least 3 young crows in it, and Clytie and Jake (their parents) make regular trips to feed them. But this is an inter-generational affair: 5 or 6 other young crows we surmise to be clutches from the last two years patrol the trees surrounding the nest tree, positioning themselves at strategic points around the yard and descending hard on any squirrel, cat, or dog they see. It is just as well that Kitten Britches no longer goes out. The nestlings aren’t flying yet. I look forward to watching behavior around the yard when they do!
Here’s an excerpt about the crow from the bird book that was my father’s, Birds of America, first published in 1917 by the University Society, edited by T. Gilbert Pearson and John Burroughs:
“The Crow unquestionably is a remarkably clever bird. This is clearly demonstrated in many ways by his conduct in his natural state, and has been borne out in the cases of many hundreds of tamed Crows, who have furnished endless amusement for their owners. Apparently such birds always display a theiving propensity, amounting to what would be considered kleptomania in human beings. They seem to have an especial passion for stealing and hiding any object of a bright color, like a spool of red or blue thread; or any highly polished metal article, like scissors or thimbles.
Farmers who try to keep the Crows away from their newly planted corn see plenty of proof of their astuteness. It seems clear that such marauders are sometimes guarded by a sentinel, who gives ample warning of the approach of danger. …
Portia probably wasn’t aware, when she said to Nerissa “The Crow doth sing as sweetly as a lark when neither is attended,” – with some exaggeration, of course – a fact in American ornithology. Indeed, probably few Americans know that the crow can sing at all. Yet it is a fact that the bird has a musical little warble which he utters when he is not “attended.”…
Of the Crow’s characteristic note, we have a poetic and eloquent appreciation from James Russell Lowell, when he says: “Yet there are few things more melodious than his caw of a clear winter morning as it drops to you filters through five hundred fathoms of crisp blue air.”
I have not yet heard a crow singing sweetly- only their caws when they set up their perimeter in the morning and then on and off throughout the day. But the book does give a description of a man who came upon a murder of Crows in Michigan who were singing. When they noticed him, though, they cussed at him and went back to cawing. Why, I wonder, must they hide their sweeter song?