Thursday, 31 March 2016

New Neighbours

We have quite a lot of crows in our immediate area. Every day that I walk they are constantly in view, on the ground, in the trees, sitting on telephone wires and posts. They wake me up with their thundering raucous voices and they stalk around our lawn with the confidence born of a perhaps too-healthy self-esteem. When I want to get in my car, I find myself sidling hastily to the driver's side door, almost bowing in their direction and most certainly humming cheerfully so they think I'm not intimidated.

But I like them a lot anyway. Corvids - the family of birds to which crows belong - and here I quote Wikipedia, "... are considered the most intelligent of the birds, and among the most intelligent of all animals, having demonstrated self-awareness in mirror tests (European magpies) and tool-making ability (crows, rooks) -- skills until recently regarded as solely the province of humans and a few other higher mammals. Their total brain-to-body mass ratio is equal to that of great apes and cetaceans, and only slightly lower than in humans."

I might add that some humans strike me as having a slightly lower total brain-to-body mass ratio than crows, great apes and cetaceans, but that would be a topic for another day.

Actually, some days I feel dumber than any of those myself. Just now, when I looked up that Wikipedia article (found here) I realized that what I've been calling a "crow" could be any one of a dozen specific birds. But since I've only ever heard them called "crows", that's what I'll continue to call them.

For a short video on crows using tools, go here.

While searching for the above video, I also found this article on raising baby crows which made for entertaining reading (please excuse a bit of colourful language).

And here is a podcast on an 8-year-old girl who makes friends with crows (warning: about 25 minutes long).

All that to get to my point for today: we have a "crow couple" building a nest in a tall evergreen behind our house. It's close enough to see the crows quite clearly from our upstairs window. Two weeks ago I began to notice them busily carrying materials for the nest into the highest and most dense part of the evergreen.

Here's the tree after last week's snowfall:

Slightly obscured by the deciduous trees at the back of our property ... when the leaves start coming out I fear we won't be able to see the evergreen any more. But in the meantime, I'm keeping a close eye on the nest builders.









 And here's a close-up of the top of the tree, taken a few days later when the snow had melted:

See that dark spot smack in the middle of the photo? That seems to be where the nest is - at least, it's where the crows enter the tangle of branches with their building materials, and - I assume - their tiny hammers and saws. Because they're tool-users, right?
And that is my favourite tree at the moment, and why. Stay tuned for updates, assuming the new neighbours cooperate and I don't fall out the window while taking photos.

What birds do you like to spy on in your part of the world? Do they pose nicely for pictures or do you have to take dire steps to get photos of them?
    

14 comments:

  1. No birds in the tree outside my window but there is a very busy and slightly psychotic squirrel building a nest. I think he's the reason so few birds visit that tree.

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    1. "slightly psychotic squirrel" - ha ha! They are chatty little fellows, aren't they?!

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  2. Well you know, Jenny, I pander to birds (and chipmunks). We have an interesting brouhaha currently; a gang of sparrows, who I generally appreciate, have sent the wrens packing from a couple of hereditary nesting spots--and then the sparrows left. We're waiting to see if the wrens come back. I like sparrows, but I like the little wrennies better.

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    1. It tugs at the heart, that part of nature, doesn't it? I don't think we have wrens in our region - must check that out. Lots of sparrows here, too, and one of my other favourites, chickadees.

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  3. The Cooker and I kept a pair of ravens for about 10 years (it was legal-we had all the permits). They are an intelligent and thoughtful critter, as well as entertaining. Most of our local nests have shedded horse hair in them. With patience, you could probably tame the crows. They are very personable.

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    1. I imagine the ravens loved the horse hair for their nests. That's a long time to look after them - what happened eventually? Have you posted about that? I'll have to check your archives.

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  4. I shall have to switch gears to accommodate my friends! (Lived too long on a ranch where crows are persona non grata!) I've seen trained members of the Corvid family do amazing things. I've appreciated - from a distance!

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    1. My father shared your feelings about crows! At least he did back when he kept a large garden. They used to pull the plants right out of the ground. Strangely enough, once he went to the nursing home and wasn't worried about a garden, he used to sit in the yard and caw back and forth with them :)

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  5. All of the corvids are super intelligent family minded birds. We have a bearded raven family which visit. The patriarch lands and checks out the area. When, and only when, he is sure the coast is clear he calls the others in. No photos (yet) because as soon as I raise the camera they are off. Undoubtedly because he has had a bad experience with people raising their arms...

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    1. That sounds likely ... I hope he learns soon how kind you are, and that you're able to get some pictures. Today on my walk the sun was in my eyes and before I realized it I had walked within six feet of a crow on the ground. He watched me but didn't fly away, and I was past by the time I saw him. Now how did he know I couldn't see him before that? Any other time they are off before I get nearly that close.

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  6. O Jenny, I've been reading your blog and really enjoying it. Your photos are engaging and I sure like how you write. Can't find a follower-gallery to join so I put Procrastinating Donkey on all 3 of my blogrolls.

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    1. Geo., thank you for that and for your kind remarks. I'm working on figuring out a follower gadget or widget or whatever it is, but life is getting in the way and I'm not all that adept at the technical side to start with.

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  7. Corvid sounds so much more romantic than Crow, doesn't it? It sounds like a fine name for a young Viking warrior. And there goes my imagination, scampering among the pine trees. Naughty thing:-)

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    1. Haha - I love your imagination, Chicken! Let it run free!

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