Beware of Crows

Dan Scotto

Dan Scotto lives and works in New Jersey. He has a master's degree in history, with a focus on the history of disease and the history of technology.

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42 Responses

  1. Glyph says:

    And here I was, just reassuring my son that crows hardly ever attack people. Looks like I’ll need to eat some…words.

    I knew about corvids’ facial recognition, but I didn’t recall that clothing was quite so irrelevant, else I would have speculated that your hat was maybe similar to one they’d encountered before under adverse conditions.Report

  2. North says:

    Crows and Ravens are indeed quite brilliant. My family, when they moved into their farmhouse in the howling wilderness, had quite a host of crows and some ravens about who made themselves quite a nuisance. My father, ever the pragmatist, shot a couple of them and nailed the carcasses up in prominently visible fields behind the house (very old school Roman of him). The birds have, by and large, absented themselves from my families turf, at least whenever we’re around.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to North says:

      Depending on the nature of the ‘nuisance’ they’re causing, another approach is to befriend them. It’s not hard to do.

      My wife once house/cat sat for a lady who had taken that approach – one of the evening chores, along with feeding the cats, was to put some peanuts in the crow’s dish in the back yard. She forgot to do this when she got home the first day, and the crow reminded her – hopping along the fence cawing at the silly human until it clued in, went back to the garage, and fetched some peanuts.Report

      • North in reply to dragonfrog says:

        The nuisance in question primarily involved devouring plants out of the garden, attacking chickens (killing chicks) and generally making themselves pests. My father was not from the befriend the wildlife school of thought but it was the countryside. The crows suffered little from being excluded from our couple of acres.Report

  3. Will Truman says:

    I never thought that much about birds that weren’t pigeons or edible. Then I moved next to a bird sanctuary, and the movie Birds no longer seems nearly so silly to me. There’s something… nefarious… about birds. When they’re circling and hovering above, it’s hard not to think they’re not… planning something.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

      Sometimes that bird, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a bird, he’s got… lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’.Report

      • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

        Had that happen to me, once.
        It was a hummingbird.
        Kept flying closer and closer to my eyes.

        Creepy, sooo fucking creepy.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        R. was “attacked” by a bird (likely a mocking bird, but I wasn’t there and she has been unable to show me the bird that did the “attacking”) a few weeks ago, and has developed a bit of a complex. Despite the fact that it did her no physical harm, she’s become convinced a.) that it wants to hurt her, and b.) that it can hurt her, and no amount of me telling her otherwise has convinced her. She’s avoiding a whole area of her neighborhood as a result.

        It probably doesn’t help that every time she brings it up I laugh uncontrollably. Yesterday she told me she’s going to get a new boyfriend who was raised in a city.Report

        • Kim in reply to Chris says:

          She’s never been hurt by a bird, has she?
          I know someone who has been physically attacked multiple times by corvidae. And has gotten hurt each and every time. (well, except for the time they all went after the deliveryman. in his defense, he was carrying a 50lb bag of corn)Report

      • Bruce Webb in reply to Glyph says:

        ” You know the thing about a bird, he’s got… lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’.”

        Happened to me. Scary. Then I realized it was just Governor Scott Walker on TV and he probably wasnt’ going to come right out of the screen. Whoo!Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:


      Pigeons (aka Squab) can be very tasty tooReport

    • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

      I have a minor obsession with birds. If we’re ever having a conversation in real life, it’s very likely that I will interrupt myself, or you, to talk about a bird I’ve just spotted or heard. This is not endearing, I recognize, but I can’t help it any more than I can help commenting on the music in a restaurant (also not endearing). It may also get me killed, because I will frequently stop in the middle of the street or parking lot when I see or hear one. I sometimes spend hours sitting outside watching crows, swallows, nighthawks, monk parakeets, black vultures, red-tailed hawks, and various other birds. There’s probably a name for this disorder.

      Anyway, there is a murder of crows that lives near my home, and at least one pair frequently alights [on my roof.]Report

  4. Doctor Jay says:

    I wonder if you couldn’t work the crow facial recognition to your advantage. That is, get some stale bread or some other corvid delight and just go somewhere and feed them. (Probably not your house). Then you might get a reputation with crows as an all-around good guy.Report

  5. Chris says:

    Have you been to the raptor center since moving to Portland?Report

  6. Anne says:

    My nemesis-nemeses? are Grackles The family and I were walking through a calm, serene, Japanese garden I was just passing over a picturesque bridge when out of a clump of long grass squawked a Grackle and pecked my ankle. Ever since then we see groups of grackles (appropriately enough named a plague or an annoyance of Grackles) every where we go. The kids are highly amused at the thought of their Stepmonster being stalked in perpetuity by Grackles. Latest theory is an ancestor of mine offended the Grackle king and I am paying for their sins.Report

    • Kim in reply to Anne says:

      Everyone I know from Texas except Chris has grackles on their enemy list.

      I’d never seen them until I hit Austin.Report

    • Chris in reply to Anne says:

      Grackles are quite possibly the most annoying beings on the planet.

      What kind of grackles do you have where you are?Report

    • North in reply to Anne says:

      God(ess?) I loathe grackles. They’re the ones who drive out all the other birds yes?Report

      • Chris in reply to North says:

        Drive them out how? Mostly they tolerate other birds, but at times there are so many of them, particularly when they roost in groups of tens of thousands in the winter, that there isn’t any room in the trees for other perching birds.

        Here they’re almost aggressively tame. During my first week here, I was eating at an outdoor table at the UT Student Union when a female landed on the other side of the table, walked nonchalantly across and stole a fry out of my fry container (from Wendy’s) not 6″ from my hand.

        She looked at me the whole time she did it, and while I know she was just watching for any sign that she needed to fly off, it felt like a “Fuck you” look.Report

  7. Oscar Gordon says:

    I’ve never had an issue with crows, but my dogs & have. My shepherd would get into rather heated arguments with crows, who would dive bomb her to harass her. After she passed, they tried that with my retriever, much to their chagrin, as he’s a jumper & after he splashed a few diver bombers (no deaths, only wounded corvid pride), they learned to keep to the high ground.Report

  8. zic says:

    So was it a crow or raven? Crows have wedged-shape tales, are slightly smaller, and have a simpler call. Ravens have more diamond-shaped tales, and an incredibly complex language; and from what I can tell from literature and limited experience of ravens are really smart (crows just being smart, not really smart).

    First I’d guess you interrupted some family activity. Perhaps, for instance, the crow on the ground was injured, they were about to mate, or even the bird down was a juvenile fledgling, and the parent was defending it while it figured out how to get into the air. Birds are very protective of their young; except for grackels which foster their abominations off on other birds to raise instead of their own. (Grackels lay their eggs in other birds nests, and their young, typically being larger than their foster-parents offspring, tend to push their foster siblings out of the nests and hog all the food. Nasty creatures.)Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to zic says:

      Where I live, the ravens are not slightly bigger than the crows, they’re reallly big. You don’t see a lot of them in the city though, you have to get out of town a ways. Lots of crows though.

      From what I’ve experienced, crows will tell you if you’re doing something they don’t like – if you hear a lot of squawking, look around, and you’ll likely see if there’s something you shouldn’t do.Report

      • Chris in reply to dragonfrog says:

        When I see ravens flying, I frequently mistake them for hawks initially, because they are so big (and they like to glide with open wings like raptors).

        However, I’d bet it was a crow, because while there are ravens in the Pacific Northwest, crows are much, much more common up there.

        Also, crows are really, really smart. The smartest birds in the world are crows (though not the species you’d find in Oregon). Related birds, like some jays and jackdaws are also super smart. One of my favorite birds, the Steller’s jay, is common up there, and also pretty smart.Report

    • Dan Scotto in reply to zic says:

      I think it was a crow, but truth be told, I can’t be sure. I never really got a good look at my attacker, and my knowledge of birds going into this whole thing was… lacking, to put it mildly.Report

      • Bruce Webb in reply to Dan Scotto says:

        Yes if its the Pacific Northwest and suburban/urban it’s a crow.

        When I lived up there (20 years) it seems like three species basically split up the turf: Crows, Seagulls, and Pigeons kind along the lines of Suburbia, Shoreline, and Urban. But all in their way aggressive scavengers. Altho Pigeons more passive aggressive like the panhandlers they were competing with while Seagulls were more like stickup artists and Crows just all around tricksters. But none of them afraid of ‘Civilians’.Report

    • North in reply to zic says:

      I’d suspect crows. Ravens are snobbier about where they hang out. And yes they’re insanely smart; they’d prise the latches open on sheds and then pull the tops off feed barrels in my neck of the woods.Report

  9. Damon says:

    I remember being at the grand canyon and a ranger talking about how they had to replace the garbage cans with the bear proof ones because the ravens figured out how to work together to open the can and get the garbage out.

    And then there was the time the raven was perched on a sign on a bryce canyon overlook, posting for pictures….and wanting a treat…clever girl…Report

  10. Francis says:

    So, will you wear the baseball cap Nevermore?Report

  11. zic says:

    Since you first wrote this, I’ve been trying to remember a story a friend told me; said it was a friend of his (an Uncle or something, I don’t remember,) but the is that Crows Count to More Than Two.

    Uncle has a big old crow getting into his corn field, pulling up the sprouted seeds. So he builds a blind in the field so that he can hide and shoot the crow. The next day, he goes out to the blind; crow see him go, and won’t go into the field. He waits a couple hours. No crows. Crow waits, sees man walk back to the house, and starts pulling up corn.

    Next day, Uncle decides to trick the Crow by having Aunt walk to the blind, too. After a few minutes, Aunt walks back to the house alone. Uncle waits for a couple hours. No Crow. Uncle goes back to the house, and Crow starts feeding on the corn.

    Next day, Uncle takes Aunt and Cousin to the blind. They wait a few minutes, then the Aunt and Cousin go back to the house, and Crow starts feeding on corn and Uncle shoots him.Report

  12. Marc says:

    Crows are intelligent critters that are fun to watch. I used to watch them on the shores of Lake Okeechobee (Florida). I have seen them dive bomb each other and play on the power lines. If something would strike them a particularly funny (is this possible?), they would hang upside down from the power lines and caw.
    If they don’t feel threatened, they will come and hang out with you. They would also accompany me on my daily runs on the Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee.

    Fond memories…

    P.S. They are true omnivores. I have seen them wait for the fishermen to finish cleaning fish so they can eat the leftovers, as well as eating my leftover lunch. Popcorn was always a favorite.Report

  13. It doesn’t help that you showed yourself to be a crow’s natural enemy — a white walker.Report

  14. Steve says:

    A friend of mine, who is Native American, told me an interesting crow story. He said he had stopped off for gas on his way to a sweat lodge, and in a field nearby, he saw dozens of crows surrounding and attacking one crow, seemingly trying to kill it. When he got to his destination, he mentioned it to the tribal elder who was leading the sweat lodge: “That’s crow court,” he told him. He said that if the crow who is supposed to keep watch while the rest of them scavenge doesn’t warn them, costing a life, they dole out this punishment.Report