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The Crow: A Reappraisal

NBB’s Guide to the Bird You Saw: Crows

Okay, so hopefully you’ve gotten the identification of Sparrow down pat. If not, there’s no hope for you, and you’re destined to lead a lonely, sheltered life, fearing the companionship of your fellow man. Which, ironically, makes you a perfect candidate to be a bird watcher. But I kid the birders.

Let us now move briskly on to the other type of bird you just saw, the Crow. In contrast to the Sparrow, which is vile, corrupt mockery of all that is righteous in the world but which is extremely popular—the Internet Explorer 6 of birds, if you will—the Crow is, in fact, a fairly awesome bird which people hate. People hate Crows so much you’d think they horked in the back of their car, or had a reality show.

This is not an unreasonable reaction. Crows have several things working against them, the first being is that while Crows are cool, they know it. Crows don’t walk, they strut, making sure that you notice them without acting like they’re making sure you notice them. I don’t think that anyone would disagree that Crows have what Vice-Principals the world over would describe as “an attitude problem,” before adding “Mister” with a very significant period at the end, because Crows are basically the teenagers of the bird world. You’ll often find them hanging around behind feeders, sneaking a smoke. Chase them off and they’ll simply fly off—slooooowly—to the nearest tree, glaring at you without looking like they’re glaring at you. You can almost hear them mutter “bogus,” and “whut-evah, grand-dad.”

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Yeah, I’ll get right on that. Watch me go. Zoom.

I can hear my wife cringing from across town as I write this, because she can’t stand anthropomorphization of animals. But it doesn’t really apply to Crows, because I feel they are so very human, which is, again, part of the reason why people don’t like them. They’re cooperative, family-based, and part of the reason they’ve been so successful is that they’ve adapted to humanity, eating the roadkill (created by us) and garbage (likewise).

So, it can be easy to hate on Crows, but nonetheless I urge you take another look at them: I honestly really like them. Crows can be a lot of fun to watch, provided they don’t know you’re watching them: they play pass-the-stick and have this weird cartwheeling game they play in the park in the winter. And winter is the best time to watch crows, because that’s when they lose some of their smugness and are, like the rest of us, just trying to get from A to B. Their strut becomes a trudge as they try to make their way through the snow, and they’ll hang in the trees, wrapped in their feathers like trench coats. They hang out at my bus stop, probaby waiting for the cross-town to take them to the U. campus, where they are no-doubt studying Russian Formalism and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. And as we stand there, both freezing our butts off, they’ll shake off the snow with a shudder as if to say “this weather is b.s.”

Yes, yes it is.


Sharon tells me that the Crows we have around our house are notoriously hard to take pictures of (again, like teenagers), so your best bet is try try and snap a picture with a motion-sensitive camera like the  Wingscapes Birdcam. Both items are available at the Birdchick’s OpenSky Store, and 20% of the profits are donated to the ABA’s kids programs.

As an added bonus, if you enter the coupon code Sharon1009, you’ll get an additional 10% off your OpenSky order.

10 comments to The Crow: A Reappraisal

  • Oh, wow…you anthro crows like I do cats! You’ve got these detention hall kids down pat…This is a hoot (owl)

  • Peg

    Yes, reading this had me hooting also!
    Best part of my day so far.
    Thank you NBB ! You are a most creative writer; and your perspective on the avian world is amusing.
    Great entertainment on a gray, cloud day.
    My daughter loves Crows also. She goes out of her way to feed the buggers.

  • del

    I love crows – them and their larger cousins ravens. Watching them flying and playing here on NAU campus were what got me interested in birding in the first place.

  • Canaduck

    Great post and super funny, as usual. Nothing wrong with anthropomorphizing animals–I think it helps people realize that they have their own individual personalities and lives.

  • I love crows! I have a friend who used to feed an entire family (murder) of crows, and could recognize about 3 generations of individuals. It was wild! Each of them had their own personality, but they were all totally bad-ass. I get so tired of hearing people call them “rats with wings.”

  • So if House Sparrows are IE6, what browser are the crows?

  • NBB, I look forward to your post tomorrow which I can only assume will be on Pigeons.

  • We had a very “damaged” crow (hatch defects, it was thrown out of the nest by its mother while it was still in new hatch down). For some reason it survived and I built a cage for it in the back yard, because no one (not even Audibon) wanted it. It lived 9 years and it was a hoot. I have never had an animal who was my “friend” with such a sense of humor.

  • Given that crows have been shown to use tools, I for one welcome them as our future avian overlords.

  • Birdzilla

    Crows they give anew meaning to BIRD BRAIN since their one of the most intellegent birds around along with parrots