Crows Show The Love
February 26, 2015 4:35 AM   Subscribe

A little girl started feeding the crows accidentally, decided to make it a habit, and now receives gifts in return. Apparently, this is a crow thing.
posted by purplesludge (117 comments total) 137 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also, crows will remember your face if you mess with them, and when they see you again, they will rally their relatives and other crows to chivvy and mob you. Don't mess with crows.
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:45 AM on February 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


This has Neil Gaiman story idea written all over it.
posted by lownote at 4:47 AM on February 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


I love the title of one of the related links at the bottom of the second link, "Crows Have Opinions". I could read about corvids all day.
posted by automatic cabinet at 4:51 AM on February 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


Obligatory: "Crows Want To Be Your Bird"
posted by briank at 4:53 AM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I once gave money to some Crowes and in return I got some Faces.
posted by davebush at 5:09 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


"I'm sure that it was intentional," she smiles. "They watch us all the time. I'm sure they knew I dropped it. I'm sure they decided they wanted to return it."

thats going a bit overboard....

Instead of ascribing a complex motivation of "gifting" to crows, isn't it more likely that the crow was carrying an item, saw some food, kept the item nearby to pick up the food and sometimes forgets/gets chased away by some other crow and hence leaves the item behind after eating?

this story seems to be more "gives me warm fuzzies" story rather than an analysis of bird behavior.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 5:10 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


this story seems to be more "gives me warm fuzzies" story rather than an analysis of bird behavior.

Well, they did talk to a bird behaviorist who cites the gifting pattern and talks about it in greater detail, so I am satisfied it's about more than "warm fuzzies." The bonds between animals and food providers are not shallow.

I've long been a fan of things crows do - what a repertoire they have, complex creatures. Each new thing I learn amazes me more.
posted by Miko at 5:14 AM on February 26, 2015 [56 favorites]


i love crows. i even love the flocks of them, several-hundred strong, that seem to think the parking lot next to my house is a crow-version of a mall. But I love most the silly crow that can't crow right, that used to live around me. instead of "Caw Caw Caw" it yelled "Caw Car "Cauruaruaruar" and we used to tease it but now that it's gone, I wonder where it went.
posted by rebent at 5:15 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


So if I understand this right, if I favorite posts and comments by this group of members, they will band together and bring me shiny favorites in return?
posted by TedW at 5:18 AM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


Oh man. This just doubles my determination to make friends with the crows in my neighborhood.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:19 AM on February 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


This has Neil Gaiman story idea written all over it.

I was thinking the origin story of a supervillain. It's all harmless until she gets to college and a professor steals her senior research work, and she turns to her friends for justice. The next thing she knows, she is leaping around on rooftops in spandex, cawing at the Flash (she seems too nice to be a Batman villain; the Flash villains know a thing or two about community, though).
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:20 AM on February 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


Except that the article also points out that crows frequently give food based gifts back to people who feed them. Reciprocity is actually a fairly common sort of behavior in social animals. Randomly forgetting about valuables is not. And crows, as with other social corvids, are known to be drawn to novelty and shiny objects. That's not that unusual among birds either.

I mean, it's definitely a sappy feel-good sort of piece--the bit with the lens cap was a bit much--but I don't think it's as simple as "oh they just forgot about it" either.
posted by sciatrix at 5:22 AM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


One time it was a tiny piece of metal with the word "best" printed on it. "I don't know if they still have the part that says 'friend'," Gabi laughs

There is nothing more adorable than this.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:24 AM on February 26, 2015 [62 favorites]


God, I miss crows. I never see them in my current city and I've always liked them. And you don't get anything interesting out of feeding the grackles unless you are deeply fascinated by trying to see how many of them you can get in one place.
posted by sciatrix at 5:24 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


They still have the part that says "eaten after ripening in the summer sun for two days."
posted by Wolfdog at 5:29 AM on February 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


And you don't get anything interesting out of feeding the grackles

Except for an increased chance of getting to hear unnerving and ill-intentioned screaming.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:29 AM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


the bit with the lens cap was a bit much

I like the lens cap bit not because of the sappy aspect but because the crows probably did see them lose it. Crows are extraordinarily watchful creatures. They know neighborhood routines and watch the motions of people. I think a crow could have generated this response without even needing higher-order thinking skills like "I am so sorry they lost that, here, let me return it."

The only part I find a bit much is the rinsing.
posted by Miko at 5:33 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


TedW: I'm sure we can work something out.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:34 AM on February 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


On the other hand, I vividly remember reading about a man who befriended a magpie years ago (unfortunately, I can't find this online, citation needed grain of salt etc.). The magpie brought him shiny gifts, and learned to perch on his shoulder. This was all very lovely and heartwarming until the day the magpie saw a glint of light in the guy's eye.

So, be careful with your bird friends. Corvids gonna corv.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:35 AM on February 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


In other news, a local junk peddler was attacked and killed by a flock of crows this morning. Witnesses say the crows then ganged together and flew-away with the peddler's bag of trinkets, beads, and other small bits of junk.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:41 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


There was the crow she suspected. "You can see it bringing it into the yard. Walks it to the birdbath and actually spends time rinsing this lens cap."

Some might think it's a bit much. Personally I'm trying to work out where all this damn dust is coming from
posted by billiebee at 5:44 AM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Crows are very smart.
We have a small group of crows on the island. One day I left my shopping outside while I went to get plates and things for a picnic.
I came out to see a crow team had opened the shopping bag, removed the sealed bag with the hot deli sausage in it.
Opened the bag, divided the sausage into crow sized bits for transport and then left.

They had a team member on a bridge overlooking the operation that started cawing when I was on my way out.
I saw them congregate on a distant inaccessible bit of land to share their spoils.

I was very cross.

That said I would like to recruit them, so I will forgive the sausage and feed them if they will be my crow army.
I'm getting no loyalty from these herons I keep feeding.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:44 AM on February 26, 2015 [48 favorites]


Oh man. This just doubles my determination to make friends with the crows in my neighborhood.

I rescued a corvid fledgling from a window well where a cat was 'playing' with it. It chased me around for an entire afternoon trying to get into my house after that. It went from cute to creepy feathered dinosaur real fast. This is the bird engaging in a denial of deck attack. And then even closer.

Be careful what you wish for.
posted by srboisvert at 5:50 AM on February 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


instead of "Caw Caw Caw" it yelled "Caw Car "Cauruaruaruar" and we used to tease it but now that it's gone, I wonder where it went.

Sounds like it got some self-esteem and some new friends!
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:50 AM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


This is probably an appropriate time to link to The Fox, The Crow And The Cookie, one of the better tuba-based songs to include the word "corvidae."
posted by Wolfdog at 5:54 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


TheLittlePrince: "Instead of ascribing a complex motivation of "gifting" to crows, isn't it more likely that the crow was carrying an item, saw some food, kept the item nearby to pick up the food and sometimes forgets/gets chased away by some other crow and hence leaves the item behind after eating?"

I'm telling the crows you said that. (See if they bring you a birthday present after that! *harrumpf*)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:54 AM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah a "murder of crows" are okay when you're just starting out, but my unkindness of ravens get the job done
posted by Poldo at 5:57 AM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


And you don't get anything interesting out of feeding the grackles

I have a soft spot in my heart for grackles because they so often look like they'd be Birds' Rights Activists.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:00 AM on February 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


In other news, a local junk peddler was attacked and killed by a flock of crows this morning.
It's a murder. A group of crows is called a muuuurder.
posted by Poldo at 6:05 AM on February 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


They really do watch everything. I once caught a mouse in one of those little plastic traps and drove it to a wooded area to release it. I let it go in the grass at the edge of the road. It got about five feet before a crow materialized and flew off with it. I hadn't even made it back to my car.

I can do without the raucous yelling they practiced outside my last home. Songbirds, they aren't.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:06 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't get why people seem so hung up about the lens cap thing. My previous dog would notice stuff I drop and carry it to me without being asked (or take it off and hide it under something, depending on the mood), I don't see how a crow doing it is any less likely.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:09 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Holland: European eagle owl sends many victims in Purmerend to hospital.
posted by effbot at 6:14 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was sitting on our back porch yesterday after work and there was all this crow yelling and a moment later, a juvenile red-tailed hawk shot right overhead, chased by a half-dozen of the local crows. I kind of want to befriend our neighborhood crows, too, but given the roost of at least a hundred birds right across the street, I'm a little hesitant to be that outnumbered.

sciatrix, move to the Bay Area - there has been a huge increase in both raven and crow populations here since the 50s.
posted by rtha at 6:15 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Pretty sure I've posted this before, but from the great David Quammen:

Crows are bored. They suffer from being too intelligent for their station in life. Respectable evolutionary success is simply not, for these brainy and complex birds, enough. They are dissatisfied with the narrow goals and horizons of that tired old Darwinian struggle. On the lookout for a new challenge. See them there, lined up conspiratorially along a fence rail or a high wire, shoulder to shoulder, alert, self-contained, missing nothing. Feeling...discreetly thwarted. Waiting, like an ambitious understudy, for their break. Dolphins and whales and chimpanzees get all the fawning publicity, great fuss made over their near-human intelligence. But don't be fooled. Crows are not stupid. Far from it. They are merely underachievers. They are bored.
posted by neroli at 6:16 AM on February 26, 2015 [72 favorites]


Early naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton told the story of Silverspot, who, he claimed to have observed "in the course of my long acquaintance", had different calls for a man pointing up a walking stick and a man pointing up a gun.
posted by clawsoon at 6:18 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Raccoons, however, will steal your wallet after a home-cooked meal
posted by Auden at 6:33 AM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


New research suggests crows may be capable of analogical thinking, something previously thought to be primates-only. And they've displayed meta-tool use (make a tool to make a tool). . . .

While I'm sure the nature of their intelligences are very different, I tend to think if I'd ascribe motive to a chimpanzee who did a thing, I'll also ascribe motive to a crow who did a thing.
posted by erlking at 6:34 AM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


I have a soft spot in my heart for grackles because they so often look like they'd be Birds' Rights Activists.

The grackles are sizing up that soft spot and planning on using it as an entry point before they hollow you out and use your body to make a run for congress. Grackles are bad news.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:37 AM on February 26, 2015 [35 favorites]


From neroli's link:
Wilmore also adds cryptically: "Scientists at the University of Mississippi have been successful in getting the cooperation of crows." But she fails to make clear whether that was as test subjects, or on a consultative basis.
posted by clawsoon at 6:39 AM on February 26, 2015 [23 favorites]


I have a soft spot in my heart for grackles because they so often look like they'd be Birds' Rights Activists.

I gotta say, I do appreciate their daft little courtship displays. I've often thought that the males must have a ultraviolet-reflective patch on their throats that they're trying to show off when they do the latter display, but I've never gotten around to trying to catch one and hold it under a UV-capable spectrophotometer to check.

And definitely grackles are way better to have than pigeons. But I still miss crows.
posted by sciatrix at 6:41 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Choosing between grackles or pigeons?

That's like the choice between pinworms or lice.

I'd take magpies any day.

'Pies and crows are friendly and amusing, for critters who are waiting for you to die so they can carve out your eyeballs.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:57 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wasn't a big fan of crows/ravens/magpies - just thought they were really annoying, loud birds - until I met my wife, who has a soft spot for them and helped me understand how smart they are.

Ms. nubs, in one of her first jobs, worked at the Lethbridge Nature Centre, where they had Pegleg the Crow. She used to regularly help care for Pegleg while she was there, and at times when the Centre was closed to the public, Pegleg was allowed out of her cage, and would follow the staff around and eat their food. I want to say that she would even try to take sips of my wife's coffee, but I could be misremembering that.

Anyways, at one point she and I were in Lethbridge and went for a visit. At that point I had only heard stories of Pegleg, and wasn't quite sure I believed them. When we arrived, the poor thing was in her cage, surrounded by a gaggle of schoolkids who all wanted her to talk and interact. The place was noisy and chaotic and Pegleg wanted nothing to do with it...until she saw my wife and heard her voice. And then she was right up next to the bars, squawking her hello and wanting her head scratched. After 4 years, she still remembered Ms. nubs.

Anyways, in addition to the common "murder of crows" and "unkindness of ravens" apparently another name that used to be given a group of the crows/ravens is a "storytelling" - which is less ominous and one I find quite evocative.
posted by nubs at 7:04 AM on February 26, 2015 [40 favorites]


Whenever the topic of our feathered friends' willingness to do horrible things comes up I can't help but remember: "She said ... "them birds ...""
posted by komara at 7:08 AM on February 26, 2015


It's not surprising. Ravens and wolves apparently have reciprocal relationships as well.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:16 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


See also Bernd Heinrich on the subject of ravens.
posted by BWA at 7:32 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's a murder. A group of crows is called a muuuurder.

After decades of seeing a group of crows called a murder, reading this comment has finally allowed me to see that the name probably stems not from any homicidal actions of crows themselves, but from the fact that crows would certainly gather at the site of a previously undiscovered murder in a forested rural context and make it known far and wide.

I feel sorry for people who can't perceive the minds and emotions of the other living beings around them. It must make for a lonely existence.
posted by jamjam at 7:40 AM on February 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


This made my day. I love birds and crows in particular. Please don't tell my cockatoo I said that. He would be upset.
posted by Splunge at 7:45 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


This has Neil Gaiman story idea written all over it.

I was thinking high-concept detective series.
"Detective Corvinus, how in god's name did you know where to find the murder weapon?"

"Let's just say...some little birds told me."

"Birds? Like those crows you're always feeding? Who gift you tiny bits of evidence in return?"

"Yep."

"You're unstable and enigmatic, but you get results!"
MURDER FOR CROWS * NBC * FALL
posted by Iridic at 7:47 AM on February 26, 2015 [59 favorites]


rtha: "I kind of want to befriend our neighborhood crows, too, but given the roost of at least a hundred birds right across the street, I'm a little hesitant to be that outnumbered."

Oh. There are only, like, three in my neighborhood. I am kinda scared, though, about whether they'll get mad at me if I start to feed them, and then forget.

clawsoon: "had different calls for a man pointing up a walking stick and a man pointing up a gun."

My dad grew upon a farm and it drove him absolutely crazy that our fat suburban crows had no fear of humans because nobody ever shot at them. If you went outside and shouted and waved your arms at them to get them out of your garden, they'd just look at you with a steely glint in their eyes until you were within six feet of them, and then they'd only bother to go a yard or two away. They knew humans were just noisy food-droppers and no threat.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:48 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's a relevant anecdote I posted here several years ago about a crow I befriended.
posted by chambers at 7:49 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Reading this, I wondered what had happened to Josh Klein's Crow Vending Machine from 2008, which was an idea to train crows to find discarded small change and exchange it for food via an automated box. Seems it went down in odd circumstances: he blames the NYT.

The idea lives on in a DIY project that's been in alpha for a while, but seems to still be ticking along.
posted by Devonian at 7:49 AM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


A cyclist in Portland must have messed with a crow. For about 3 years, every time I rode across the Morrison bridge wearing my blue-and-white racing helmet, a crow would buzz me from behind. I never got the full view of the event, but people riding with me said it was something to see. Sadly, it stopped about a year ago.
posted by dylanjames at 7:50 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am kinda scared, though, about whether they'll get mad at me if I start to feed them, and then forget.

I don't think they let you forget! Some years ago a coworker's end-of-shift routine was to get home and relax on the porch while feeding a couple neighborhood crows. They were by all accounts very watchful for his vehicle, and when he got back in the neighborhood would pace it the final bit down his street and into his drive, yelling at him all the while.
posted by Drastic at 7:53 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Inside the box are rows of small objects in clear plastic bags. One label reads: "Black table by feeder. 2:30 p.m. 09 Nov 2014."
...
Each item is individually wrapped and categorised.


Jesus, I knew crows gave little gifts, but I had no idea they were that fussy about organizing them.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:53 AM on February 26, 2015 [32 favorites]


In 2003 I buried a crow that had perished in my back yard. Within weeks, people around me started noticing that crows were paying unusual attention to me. For the next decade, murders would escort me as I walked or hiked in Seattle and Bellevue. It was fascinating and unsettling.

That era ended before June 2013, when I was warned off from a section of sidewalk bordering some shrubs and trees, ignored it, and was subsequently scolded by a crow's claws on my scalp. I enjoy and talk to crows regularly, but am cautious around mating season now.

It feels like the crow population in Seattle has grown dramatically since 1998, and I've seen tens of thousands at Green Lake multiple times.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 8:15 AM on February 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


Dolphins are known to throw fish to birds

Yeah, about that. It may not be the behavior you think it is. It might not be a gift. It might be bait.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:18 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


There's some regional variations in crow culture as well. In my Indiana home town, American crows were the gangsters of downtown with their turf battles and territory calls. Here in Georgia, there's a winter murder of American crows that I don't remember hearing in summer, and a small loosely affiliated murder of fish crows year-round. A larger murder of fish crows seem to hang out near Target where they scrape out a middle niche between gulls and grackles. But my current neighborhood is very much mockingbird turf.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:21 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It feels like the crow population in Seattle has grown dramatically since 1998

From fall to late spring, more than 10,000 crows call the UW Bothell campus home.

Video from the Seattle PI
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:21 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of this video , in which a raven appears to enlist human help to remove porcupine quills. While very irritated, the bird seems to be aware of the woman's intentions, indicated by not simply flying away but staying put until they're dequilled.
posted by adept256 at 8:31 AM on February 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's not surprising. Ravens Crows and wolves apparently have reciprocal relationships as well.

You know nothing, Jon Snow.
posted by adept256 at 8:33 AM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


At a nature center in the Bay Area, there was a raven. I went over to his cage and watched him while he watched me. I knew they like shiny things so I took out a nickle and held it up for him to see. He came over to me and I handed it to him. He carried it into the cage and was looking around. He carefully placed it on the floor and then slowly pushed it under a leaf lying there. Then he started looking around the cage. He picked up a small stick and hopped back over to me. He stuck it out of the cage and I took it. He hopped away. Bird human transaction.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:50 AM on February 26, 2015 [137 favorites]


Last year I made a couple of breakfast sandwiches to eat on my walk to work. They smelled really salty, greasy, and delicious. They were wrapped in shiny aluminum foil to keep them warm.

As I walked, I started collecting crows. They'd land on the strip of grass beside the sidewalk, look at me expectantly, sit there for a few moments after I walked by, and then bounce forward and try again. They followed me through intersections and despite cars constantly rushing by.

By the end of it I had 5 or 6 crows bouncing along beside me. They must have followed me for a good ten minutes down the street, until the terrain changed. (What can I say, I'm a slow eater!)

I thought it was creepy at the time, but maybe they were just being friendly.
posted by mantecol at 8:55 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


A cyclist in Portland must have messed with a crow.

During mating season, Australian magpies (technically they're butcherbirds, not corvids) turn into complete jerks, suddenly swooping cyclists and other passersby just for existing. It's just defensive nesting behaviour, but is quite unpleasant. They can peck your face, neck, head or eyes, or cause you to fall off your bike or get hit by a car.

This behaviour leads to somewhat undignified countermeasures. They usually won't swoop if you're watching, like a feathered bastard version of Boo from Mario. You'll see hats with eyes on the back, cable tie hedgehog helmets, flags, etc. To make things worse, it looks like some of the crows are starting to get in on the act.
posted by zamboni at 8:59 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


My SIL was teaching at a school in a fairly remote town in northernwestern Ontario. She left work one day to discover that her windshield wipers had been torn apart, and the gasketing from around the windshield was stripped out. It ended up being a pretty costly repair.

She assumed kids did it. Nope. It was the local raven whose turf was the parking lot. The other teachers were apparently all like "Yeah. Happens all the time. Whaddaya gonna do?"
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:03 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


#justcorvidthings
posted by mikeand1 at 9:04 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been having a private war with the local murder for the last 2 months. Tuesday is garbage day, and our County requires specially County-branded, easily torn bags, no bins allowed. If the bags sit for longer than 30 minutes, the crows are into the bags. They peck little holes and pull out all the garbage, strewing it across my yard. Anyway, I decided to try a scarecrow to great success. For the past 2 weeks I've stuck Steve outside to stand guard, and so far no pecks.

Feeding them scraps sounds great though. Maybe they'll leave me the gift of leaving the garbage alone.
posted by xmattxfx at 9:08 AM on February 26, 2015


This video of a crow coming to humans for help in getting out porcupine quills stuck in its face/side is my everything.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:15 AM on February 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


That is fantastic, a fiendish thingy. (It's a raven, not a crow, but still fantastic.)
posted by rtha at 9:21 AM on February 26, 2015


Crows freak me out a bit, since I was almost attacked by one last spring for no reason. There are a bunch of them that live around my block. One afternoon last May I was walking the block between the bus stop and my building. I happened to look up and saw some crows in one of the big trees, just like I'd seen them many other times. I kept walking, then felt something blow over my head and saw a crow had flown awfully low over me. "Gosh!" I thought, and kept walking, thinking it was just a random thing. Then he/she did it again only closer to my head so there was no mistaking that this was on purpose. I ran the rest of the block.

I looked it up and apparently in May/June crows do this a lot to protect their babies, but I sure didn't do anything to look like a threat. I was just walking, like lots of other people do on that street every day.
posted by dnash at 9:41 AM on February 26, 2015


xmattxfx: "I've been having a private war with the local murder for the last 2 months. Tuesday is garbage day, and our County requires specially County-branded, easily torn bags, no bins allowed. If the bags sit for longer than 30 minutes, the crows are into the bags. They peck little holes and pull out all the garbage, strewing it across my yard. Anyway, I decided to try a scarecrow to great success. For the past 2 weeks I've stuck Steve outside to stand guard, and so far no pecks.

Feeding them scraps sounds great though. Maybe they'll leave me the gift of leaving the garbage alone.
"

Funny, sort of the same problem here, but not with crows. Not many crows in my neighborhood, but the garbage eating niche is filled by a different bird. Black vultures. Because of them we're supposed to all have garbage bins. But few people do. These ugly creatures are not friendly. They do not bring gifts. Unless you consider torn bags of trash scattered all over the street a gift.
posted by Splunge at 9:42 AM on February 26, 2015


The (undoubtedly fictional) World War Crow
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:43 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It was the local raven whose turf was the parking lot.

If the crow is taking other car parts, it may be trying to build their own car. They will probably succeed one day.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:45 AM on February 26, 2015 [18 favorites]


We have a flock of wild parrots numbering into the hundreds in our neighborhood. They will pick a new tree to hang out at and strip the leaves every couple of weeks. Our very large camphor tree has been that tree a number of times over the 8 years we have lived here.

Crows are terrified of the parrots. The parrots must have some amazing signal to mean "GTFO" because all of the regular crows in our neighborhood just split every time the parrots come by.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:45 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


oh my god this corvid video
posted by en forme de poire at 9:46 AM on February 26, 2015 [23 favorites]


You people.

They're dinosaurs.
They're dinosaurs trying to gain your trust.

Don't fall for it.
posted by DigDoug at 10:05 AM on February 26, 2015 [28 favorites]


Quoth the Raven...
posted by clawsoon at 10:38 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


And here I am feeding finches and nuthatches like an asshole. Fuck those birds. Ain't bringing me shit.
posted by stltony at 10:47 AM on February 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


It feels like the crow population in Seattle has grown dramatically since 1998, and I've seen tens of thousands at Green Lake multiple times.

The population was hit pretty hard by the West Nile Virus in the late 90s/early 00s, they're finally bouncing back.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:51 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Don't fall for it.

Aww c'mon.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 10:54 AM on February 26, 2015 [32 favorites]


It occurs to me that she can't become a Batman villain because her parents didn't name her Cora V. Day.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:03 AM on February 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


When i lived in the mountains I fed the scrub jays peanuts by hand several times a day (and tossed a few to the Steller's jays that were too skittish to come that close).

Three generations of scrub jays were raised in a snowball bush under my bedroom window and taught to come to the door and knock for peanuts by their parents (you could always recognize the new fledglings because they were huge and clumsy compared to their tired and hungry parents). They'd come inside my door on nice days and perch on the furniture and chat with me.

If I didn't feed them for a day or two (ran out of peanuts), they would eventually start digging up nuts from their caches around the yard and bring them to ME.

Birds do give gifts. They also communicate really, really well.
posted by annathea at 11:07 AM on February 26, 2015 [43 favorites]


A friend of mine says that the crows in her neighborhood have learned to target the pink Starbucks pastry bags. An alarm evidently goes out if people are walking with one.

Though has anyone figured out what the flocks of crows that are gathered in trees in downtown PDX are doing? Other than crapping all over the sidewalks, that is!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:28 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


chillin'
posted by en forme de poire at 11:30 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


here's my breakthrough corvid a-ha moment, which I posted in another crow love thread a few years back.

about a dozen years ago I was working at a biotech startup that had a magpie on the office grounds who was famous for filching sunglasses and other small shiny personal items out of people's open vehicles (it's not uncommon here to leave one's windows open / convertible top open on bright, hot summer days in a private parking lot, especially in a quiet suburban office park).

anyway our maintenance guy discovered the nest and cache of stolen objects on the roof of the building, and whenever someone reported something lost, he'd just go up and check the nest, wearing safety goggles and a hardhat to ward off angry bird incursions. The bird in question was so notorious for stealing stuff it earned the nickname "GDB" for "goddamn bird", as in "ah, crap, my [small, shiny, bird-portable object] is missing, would you get Chuck on the phone and see if GDB's got 'em?"

my only personal run-in with GDB was one balmy summer day while I was at the picnic table by our very nice little employee outdoor patio, eating a delicious roast beef sandwich. GDB flew right down onto the table about 3' away from me to check out my lunch. We gave each other the side-eye for a moment or two while I admired his/her lovely iridescent black-and-white plumage. GDB then hopped straight down and untied my shoelace, after which it stood back and cocked its head, looking straight at me as if to say "what do you think of THAT, eh monkey? now gimme some of that goddamn sandwich!".

naturally I responded by sharing a bit of my sandwich, what do you think I'm insane? goodness only knows how that might have escalated had I not.

clever girl indeed.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:31 AM on February 26, 2015 [41 favorites]


I've been having a private war with the local murder for the last 2 months. Tuesday is garbage day, and our County requires specially County-branded, easily torn bags, no bins allowed. If the bags sit for longer than 30 minutes, the crows are into the bags. They peck little holes and pull out all the garbage, strewing it across my yard. Anyway, I decided to try a scarecrow to great success. For the past 2 weeks I've stuck Steve outside to stand guard, and so far no pecks.

You ought to see the crows in Japan. They steal clothes hangers off balconies and make nests out of them. This is a huge problem for the electric companies, the crows often build nests in utility poles and short out the power lines. They also have a huge problem with crows tearing open trash bags. The usual solution is to put nets over the bags.

There is a legend about Hakodate I heard when I lived there. The Emperor made his first visit to Hakodate, this was the first time any Emperor had set foot on the island of Hokkaido. His carriage had been shipped with him, so he could ride through the streets with the top down and see his subjects. Then a crow crapped right on the Emperor. The Mayor was mortified, and put a bounty on crows, something like 2 sen. The local kids became so adept with their slings, after a few years, the crows seemed extinct. So the Mayor discontinued the crow bounty. The next year, the crows returned, as numerous as ever.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:33 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


GDB then hopped straight down and untied my shoelace, after which it stood back and cocked its head, looking straight at me as if to say "what do you think of THAT, eh monkey? now gimme some of that goddamn sandwich!".

As any good corvid knows, the way one tricks a hairless monkey out of something is to untangle the nesting material on their feet, then snatch it while they're distracted.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:55 AM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yeah, they're dinosaurs, and if cats were tiger-sized they'd eat us in a second. We like them anyway.
posted by emjaybee at 11:57 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


oh my god this corvid video

Human, I have loosed your bonds. Pay me the shiny disk!
posted by bibliowench at 12:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Well, raven did steal the light, after all.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Perhaps one should offer them some ice cream...
posted by AJaffe at 12:41 PM on February 26, 2015


World War Crow
posted by kagredon at 12:54 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I couldn't help but think of Pam Aus' videos documenting the eagles that visit her porch in Alaska. I don't know whether they ever bring presents but they appear to have befriended her cats.
posted by cleroy at 1:04 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


TedW: So if I understand this right, if I favorite posts and comments by this group of members, they will band together and bring me shiny favorites in return?
No. It specifically has to be food. They do this after bonding over treats.

If I know these creatures correctly - and I think I do - may I suggest plates of beans?
posted by IAmBroom at 2:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I once managed a 2-storey office building with a flat gravel roof. One particular woman in the building complained repeatedly about a crow that stood on the edge of the roof right over the exit door at 5 pm, waiting for the woman to leave; when she exited the door, the crow would drop a large piece of gravel straight down onto her head and then fly away with a scream of what I have to assume was hilarity and triumph. Don't know if the woman had offended the crow or what, but AFAIK she was the sole target of this behavior. I watched it happen twice myself and it was all I could do to keep a straight face. I'm not a scientist, but I'm pretty sure the average crow is empirically wittier than, say, the average Adam Sandler movie.
posted by newmoistness at 2:03 PM on February 26, 2015 [31 favorites]


GenjiandProust: It occurs to me that she can't become a Batman villain because her parents didn't name her Cora V. Day.
I am buying you a year's subscription to Metafilter right this very instant for that post.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:09 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


They're dinosaurs trying to gain your trust.
Don't fall for it.
posted by DigDoug


In the interest of full disclosure, I think it's worth noting that the above poster has personally blown up an uncountably high number of dinosaurs using a crude pneumatic air-pump of his own design over the past 30+ years. He is a vicious and genocidal killer and his opinions on this matter should be regarded with the utmost skepticism.
posted by Strange Interlude at 2:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


DigDoug: "You people.

They're dinosaurs.
They're dinosaurs trying to gain your trust.

Don't fall for it.
"

Heh. For me that ship sailed long ago. But thanks for your concern.
posted by Splunge at 2:16 PM on February 26, 2015


This is the best and will make me happy all day. Also I wonder if there are any crows in my area I can make friends with - if I was given any shiny trinkets by birds I would make them into a necklace that I would prize over jewels and gold.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:25 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love crows.

I was walking down the sidewalk one day, lost in thought, when a slice of pizza dropped from the sky and landed right in front of me. Looked up in the tree. Crow.

I assumed at the time that the crow had just lost its grip on the slice, but from this point forward I am going to believe that it wanted to share.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:04 PM on February 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


njohnson23: At a nature center in the Bay Area, there was a raven.

Quoth the member who gave us the awesome "shroud of tern"
posted by maggieb at 3:15 PM on February 26, 2015


Many thanks, gentlepeople, for all the love. Anyone who shows up here with brownies can have this lovely pearl button right now.

AWHKH!
posted by Corvid at 4:52 PM on February 26, 2015 [20 favorites]


A discussion of crows is incomplete without Betty.

Although it's not online, when I was about eight I had three free-flying pet crows that I'd hand-raised after their nest was dislodged. They used to fly down to my shoulder if I went outside and called.
posted by anadem at 6:37 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every spring I have to remember not to walk down certain streets so I don't get dive bombed by parent crows protecting their nests, they reuse them every year. Then there's the fun of avoiding the fledgelings after that. Lots get hit by cars or fly into windows.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 9:24 PM on February 26, 2015


I once watched a crow dunking a stale powdered sugar donut it had found into a puddle. Y'know, for deliciousness!

Every winter for the last few years large numbers of crows have been roosting in the evenings in the trees along 4th and 5th avenues in downtown Portland. I can look out my window at the end of the day and see great flocks of them swooping in over the river from the east side. It's very weird. In the mornings, the crows are gone, but the sidewalks are covered in crow shit, and some poor soul from my office building's maintenance crew is out hosing down the sidewalks.

I like crows a lot, I think they're smart and pretty hilarious, but I don't understand the roosting thing. I feel like Tippi Hedren every time I leave my office in the evenings.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 10:13 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I knew I remembered some story about crows and people wearing masks:
6 Terrifying Ways Crows Are Way Smarter Than You Think (Though in my head it was that scientists had trained an entire neighborhood of crows to loathe Nixon masks.)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:19 PM on February 26, 2015


Metroid baby:

On the other hand, I vividly remember reading about a man who befriended a magpie years ago (unfortunately, I can't find this online, citation needed grain of salt etc.). The magpie brought him shiny gifts, and learned to perch on his shoulder. This was all very lovely and heartwarming until the day the magpie saw a glint of light in the guy's eye.

I'm pretty sure this is in a Roald Dahl story. I can't recall the story, though.
posted by Qberting at 2:56 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The collective noun for crows should be "reciprocity": A reciprocity of crows.
posted by one weird trick at 3:30 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Every link in this thread has made me more frightened.
posted by DigDoug at 9:12 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Frightened, why?

Beaker says hi!
posted by Splunge at 12:53 PM on February 27, 2015


My parents have a large backyard and there are frequently crows hanging out in the trees. One day they were being particularly raucous, so I went out on the patio and took a short video with my phone. As I was playing it back, they heard themselves and went dead silent. All eyes on me. I quickly scurried back in the house.
posted by desjardins at 1:19 PM on February 27, 2015 [9 favorites]




This was all very lovely and heartwarming until the day the magpie saw a glint of light in the guy's eye.

I had a crow for about fifteen years, and when she'd sit on my shoulder, for the first year or two, I would always have that little fear in the back of my mind. That big black beak looks very much like a sharp knife when it's just inches from your face.

Turns out all she ever did was nuzzle into my neck, groom my hair, and occasionally drool on me (note: it weirdly amuses me to know that a bird drooling in your ear can be a sign of affection). She also never went for my earrings, which surprised and pleased me to no end.

As for the crows in the story, I'm really looking forward to this same kid in ten years or so having all her boyfriends vetted by dozens of birds sitting on the fence and the wires, all staring silently at the poor suitor. She'll be able to say things like "Some girls have an over-protective father or brother. I also have these, and they see everything."

It would make for a fantastic scene in a movie, and it tickles me to no end that it could happen in real life.
posted by quin at 9:34 AM on February 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Is this the place to say that 2 years after the stupid council pollarded our trees, THE MAGPIE NEST IS BACK ACROSS THE STREET?!?!?!

Also, TedW, I take spicy jerky. And Cheez-Its.
posted by Mistress at 10:08 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


My parents have a large backyard and there are frequently crows hanging out in the trees. One day they were being particularly raucous, so I went out on the patio and took a short video with my phone. As I was playing it back, they heard themselves and went dead silent. All eyes on me. I quickly scurried back in the house.

I have a question for you, desjardins, if you wouldn't mind.

Was this later in the day, more or less half an hour on either side of sunset?

Because if it was, I think it might be an example of a thing my partner and I have observed them doing here in Seattle during a fair number of our innumerable picnic dinners sitting on a lawn at a local university.

We always feed the birds (the squirrels help themselves), but towards sunset or a little after, we'll often notice that the crows have vanished from the edge of the crowd of sparrows and pigeons that are generally closer to us, then in a bit we'll hear them start up a raucous calling, usually all from only one tree.

Then they stop, except for one bird which keeps up a strangely periodic 'click-click-click-...' in the first seconds of the pause; but in the silence, we can hear another tree full of crows calling in the distance.

Most of the time at that point, all of our crows will take off from their tree and fly toward the distant tree of crows, which tends to keep calling; but occasionally a bunch of crows fly in to the tree our crows are in, and after they arrive and get settled in, the whole process goes through another iteration.

Very rarely, a couple of trees on that lawn have ended up with hundreds of crows making so much noise you can't carry on a conversation within fifty feet.

I'm not sure what they're doing, but it seems to me that if a tree full of crows always yields to a tree or trees within earshot that has more crows, that would roughly tend to minimize the average distance area crows would have to fly to find a collective roost for the night, and that in turn would tend to minimize average energy expenditure, and maximize feeding time as well.
posted by jamjam at 1:25 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


...I went out on the patio and took a short video with my phone. As I was playing it back, they heard themselves and went dead silent.

You know crows are well aware humans are sneaky spies, don't you?
posted by BlueHorse at 6:34 PM on February 28, 2015


TIL crows are more appreciative than most homeless people I have given money to.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:15 PM on March 1, 2015


I never ceased to be amazed by the intelligence of crows.
posted by sarahnaomi at 9:17 AM on March 3, 2015


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