Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Team Crows

The Murder Gathers
Foraging Seeds
Keeping a Lookout for Road Kill
Big Bird with Big Feet
Always on the Move
The Uninteresting Crow Tree
Black and hunkering loudly around the carcasses of moose or elk that get struck by cattle trucks on the highway running past Elmira Pond, it's no wonder we call a group of crows a murder.

This maligned bird has emerged from superstition with a bad reputation. American crows are found in every state across the lower 48, yet I've had people tell me they are "not native." Superstition in medieval times makes sense, but what is it about modern crows that continues to start small arguments over coffee?

To prove my spouse wrong -- yes, I will admit to satisfaction in doing so -- I set out to find the origins of crows in Idaho. My first clue that he was wrong was the name. They are called American crows. Doesn't sound like an invasive species to me. Next I discovered that they are widespread and make their homes year-round in North America. I'd say they are native, and found year-round in northern Idaho.

Yet, I also discovered that crows are widely persecuted, poisoned and have even been bombed from their nests. Farmers and hunters believe that crows destroy crops and nesting birds. What is interesting is that studies show that if crows (who are predators as well as scavengers) are removed from an area, nesting populations of the birds they were said to impact does not increase.

Fact is, there are many predators. Remove a crow and a racoon will come in. Remove the racoon and the eagle will get the goods. Nesting birds don't have an easy time bringing their young to fruition. This is not the fault of crows, but a dynamic ecosystem where birds are part of the food chain.

Crows are extremely clever and unlike other predators they are good at finding many other sources of food, including roadkill, cast off fast-food and garden refuse. According to studies, they can count, solve puzzles and learn symbols.

Among the superstitious stories that circulate regarding the destruction caused by crows, I've also read a few amazing stories of friendship. In neighboring Washington state, a family feeds their local murder scraps. The crows really like left-over BBQ ribs and peanuts. They also liked the family's cat and would often play. One morning the family rose to a raucous raised by the crows. When they investigated where the crows gathered, they discovered that a coyote had killed their cat. Not much remained. Two weeks later, the crows brought back the cat's collar to the family.

My Crow Tree is to start up an interaction with the local murder Unsuccessful as it has been in attracting the crows, I have plans when I get to gardening. More to come on that later.

This is part of a March Madness Series. Vote for your favorite team!

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