The crows and me, we rely on each other. We’ve created a daily habit. I lay food on the murders’ rock. Good stuff like chicken and pork fat, bones, bread and food gone amuck. They recognize and acknowledge me with their non-melodic caw, caw, caws, but only from afar, even after our countless ritualistic mornings. I’m talking a commitment of years and in all kinds of weather. They glide down from their lookout limbs onto crow rock to grab and go only after I’ve stepped back into the house. Where’s the trust? I am the face and hands that feed them time and again. I thought they were intelligent and could figure out by now I’m not a threat. I’m friend, not foe. Maybe their reluctance to get physically closer to me is that they’re introverts – not so outwardly friendly and quick to warm up.
Still, we’re both satisfied. I’m continually entertained by their hierarchical antics and crow hops, my own feeble attempts to crow like them, and they get free chow, buffet style. My initials match their call. I’ve allowed this zoomorphic stretch of a bond to indenture myself to supplementing their diet. Part of their appeal is also their black attire. Another similarity we share. We both love black – goes with everything. Today, in fact, I got my first pedicure of the season. Polish color – Onyx.
Regardless, I have come to learn that they are stingy. Steve shared an article with me once about crows in Seattle. They leave gifts for the human that feeds them. Not enviable gifts, but gifts nonetheless. Oddly, the story was covered by the BBC. Gabi Mann was eight in 2015 when the story was published. She began feeding the crows that showed up in her backyard everyday. In turn, the crows started leaving her gifts.
Crows are members of the Corvidae or Corvid family and have the largest cerebral hemisphere of all birds. They’re ubiquitous, too. I’ve read that they’re present on all continents but South America and Antarctica. Scientific studies indicate that crows recognize faces, differentiating between good and bad people. I don’t think they can discern a rotten-to-the-core evil person, the likes of Snidely Whiplash, but they know who’s good and bad relative to them and how they’re treated. They can even pass that information onto other crows. PBS had a compelling Nature program in 2010 titled A Murder of Crows. It made evident their recognition abilities.
The crows in Gabi’s world in Seattle obviously view her as a really good person. The crows she feeds have left her all manner of gifts – a blue lego piece, black button, piece of brown sea glass, a yellow bead, a broken light bulb and the occasional dead baby bird or rotten crab claw. Like I said, not necessarily enviable gifts, but gifts nonetheless. Gabi’s huge collection of crow given gratuities makes me envious. I get zilch presents left behind.
Fortunately, I can rationalize with the best. I’ve concluded that city crows have an immense wealth of potential gifts available to give their human feeders. We live in the woods, in the country. Our crows don’t think I’d recognize that a twig or rock that they’d drop on crow rock was a token of thanks, just woodland debris, so I get zip. Rationale aside, there’s plenty of trash along the country road sides they could choose from. If a drinking straw, Micky D’s french fry bag or empty nip of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey showed up on the rock, I’d know it was from them. I’d recognize their effort and cherish their appreciation. It would qualify as a community good deed, keeping America beautiful. I’m not holding my breath.
I’ve had to accept that their presence, in lieu of their lack of presents, is enough. They can be counted on to show up and entertain, like when they take a piece of bread and deliberately dunk it in the bird bath, or cautiously approach a chicken wing bone, upper body scrunched down like they’re sneaking up it, a couple hops sideways then a quick lunge at it just in case it’s alive.
Years ago I did a few quick sketches of them in an art journal thinking I might create a series sometime of these comical and intelligent crows. The series hasn’t yet materialized just like any gifts left on crow rock. While the crows continue to eat, to date I’ve merely “eaten crow” on my intention.