Something to crow aboutDid you know? Halloween brings out the crow in everyone
This column was inspired by our neighbors, Alden and Lanie Robinson, who both have a lot to crow about. Lanie is a gifted Master Gardener, and crafter; Alden is an accomplished woodworker.
One evening this summer, my wife and I were sharing some wine with the Robinsons on their deck, when the crows interrupted the conversation.
I immediately asked Alden for his recommendation of a small weapon that would be effective dealing with nuisances like crows and my all-time-least-favorite rodent — squirrels. I like to call them tree rats.
I realize that I have already upset readers who are avid bird watchers, and I humbly apologize. But I make no apologies for squirrels. I dislike them almost as much as mimes. But I digress.
Anyway, my wife and I love watching most birds, but crows trouble me.
Alden and Lanie, it seems, are real crow fanciers. You might even say they have taken up the “caws” of these giant blackbirds.
So that evening we learned a lot about crows.
For starters — Did you know? — Crows are among the smartest of the so-called “intelligent creatures.” In fact, they are in the top 10 percent of their class.
This explains how crows have learned to make and use tools.
For example, crows will drop hard-shelled nuts onto roadways, and wait for the passing cars to run over and crack them. Moreover, they will wait for the light to turn red, or traffic to clear, before nibbling their “prize.”
As smart as they are, I would expect crows to be in the audience of ballets like “The Nutcracker.
In coastal locations, crows will drop shellfish onto rocks to crack the shells and expose the flesh. (Hence the term, roadside oyster bar.)
Flocks of crows will often post “sentries” to alert the feeding birds of danger, which explains why you often find crows nearby Sentry Hardware stores. (Just kidding.)
Crows can travel up to 40 miles each day from their nesting (roosting) sites to popular feeding areas. And the favorite all-you-can-eat crow buffet is the nearest (or farthest) landfill.
Like hummingbirds, crows are migratory, returning to the same nest area year after year. If your backyard is their nest area, you might enjoy knowing that the term for a group of crows on the ground is not a flock, but a “murder” of crows.
Now we’re talking. This is reminiscent of some of my other favorite names for groups, like a “brace” of orthodontists, an “absence” of waiters, and an “attitude” of teenagers.
Back to crows — Did you know? — Crows are often mistaken for ravens (and vice versa). One easy way to tell them apart is a close look at their tails. Ravens have a wedge-shaped, pointed tail, while crows have rounded, fan-shaped tails. Ravens are usually larger than crows and have longer bills. Another way to tell crows and ravens apart is their call — crows make a distinctive “caw” sound. Ravens, just say, “Nevermore.”
Which brings me back to my quest to rid my lawn of these smart-aleck pests, but I plan to wear a good disguise. Research has shown that crows can remember your face for up to 10 years. So before I do anything to a “murder” of crows, I want to make sure none of the “witness” crows (up in the trees) can identify me.
Since it’s Halloween, lots of people will be wearing costumes, which will confuse the crows. Perfect! Yes, perfect.