The Suitcase Lady

Raucous

August 26, 2008, 9:03 pm

This summer two crows have taken up residence in the small pine woods next to our house. Every morning in the predawn and dawn hours they proceed to organize the neighborhood for the day. Crows have 23 distinct calls, and strident variants of these calls shatter the morning silence.

Fortunately, corvids (ravens, crows, magpies and jays) are definitely my favorite birds. I can handle the morning cacophony.
Corvids are highly intelligent birds – no “bird brains” among them. A raven, for example, is half the size of a chicken but with a brain five times bigger.
Years ago, I observed a terrific con game pulled off by a pair of crows. Our neighbor’s dog was fed chunks of liverwurst in his outdoor dog dish. One day crow number one flew right over the dog and then took off on a low flight path down the alley. Of course, the dog rocketed after it. That’s when crow number two neatly scooped up the sausage chunk in his beak and retreated to the top of our gigantic willow tree. Crows share food, so crow number one soon joined in on the feast.
Ornithology books abound in observations of clever corvid behaviors. Ravens drop clams and walnuts on highways and let the cars crack the shells for them. Northern crows haul up the fishing line at ice holes when people aren’t watching. A bird pulls some line up with its bill, steps firmly on the line and keeps pulling until the fish comes up. And, at one memorable Easter egg hunt in Alaska, the ravens made off with over 1,000 hidden colored eggs before the kids arrived.
Raven looms large in all Pacific Northwest Indian mythology. He is the creator, but also a powerful trickster. When the sun was stolen from the sky by an evil magician, raven is credited with returning it to its proper place. Perhaps that is why my neighborhood crows are so talkative in the morning. They are just welcoming back the sun they so generously returned to the heavens.

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