Caw, caw, caw, I call, as I carry pieces of old bread out to my crows. Nearby neighbors must be shaking their heads. “Amy’s at it again.” But I don’t care. I not only like having feathered friends, I appreciate how they look after the property and warn me of trouble.
A few days ago, they set up a ruckus. I hurried outside, but didn’t see any-thing. I thought they were asking why I hadn’t brought them out any treats lately. Later, while gardening, I spotted a sickly gray fox, walking unsteadily and looking mangy. Trouble, the crows were warning. Be on the lookout.
It reminded me of that awful Memorial Day several years ago when a fox stole into the backyard, weaseled his way into the duck pen, and killed seven of my nine pet ducks. Caw, caw, caw. I heard their frantic calls and rushed outside. I scared the fox away and saved two of the ducks.
Corvidae, such as crows and ravens, are great mimics and I believe they have a sense of humor. Years ago, I owned a car that would buzz if I left the door open. The obnoxious noise sounded like Ack, Ack, Ack. One day, when I’d left the door open, a nearby crow perched in a tree responded with the same tone: Ack, ack, ack.
Many of us consider crows clever, but they may be more intelligent than we ever thought possible. People have watched these intelligent birds dropping nuts onto roads so the cars’ wheels will crush them. Afterward, they wait for a lull in traffic, fly in, and snatch the nutmeats.
Scientists have documented cases of crows, in need of a drink, dropping ob-jects in a long jar to raise the water level so their beaks can reach. People have also witnessed crows bending soft twigs to use as hooks or tools, useful for tasks such as getting insects out of crevices.
Scientists believe crows have a range of emotions and can both show grati-tude and hold grudges. An older friend told me the story of owning a pet crow as a boy. The crow flew into the house one day and perched on a relative’s bald head. He swatted him away causing the crow to land on the wood-burning stove and singe his feet. The crow never returned.
A September 12, 2012, article by Megan Gannon, “Crows Hold Grudges in Humanlike Fashion” (www.livescience.com) describes how researchers, wearing threatening masks, captured twelve male crows for an experiment. During their four weeks of captivity, people wearing “caring masks” fed the birds. Researchers studied the crows’ brain activity when faced with the two types of masks. The crows remembered the faces of their abductors and would taunt and dive-bomb them. A follow-up study which included brain scans showed that crows’ brains light up like a human’s when they see someone they care about.
I especially enjoyed reading a 2015 article about a Seattle girl who got gifts from her neighborhood crows. As a four-year-old, Gabi Mann was constantly drop-ping food while outside. The crows began watching her. As she got older, she purposely brought them treats. They brought her the camera lens her mother had lost and gifts such as a miniature silver ball and a pearl-colored heart. Gabi said the heart is her most-prized present. “It’s showing me how much they love me,” she said.
Other people report being thanked with gifts a crow might present to their mate such as a dead baby bird.
Since I want to form a tighter bond with my fascinating and watchful neigh-borhood crows, I intend to feed them more consistently. I’ve added peanuts in the shell to my grocery list. Peanuts are a high-energy food and they make a sound when I pour them on the tray, alerting my feathered friends that it’s treat time.
I go out to the feed stand and dump out a generous amount.
“Caw, caw, caw,” I call.
“Caw, caw, caw,” a feathered friend calls in return.