Let Them Eat Crow, I Say!
A letter to the Editor
by Chris Hibbard
(Originally submitted to the Lethbridge Herald, in response to a previous letter; June 2010)
Let Them Eat Crow I Say!
There have been a number of letters published over the past few weeks regarding humane/inhumane solutions to local problems involving our fine feathered friends. People love baby goslings, for being cute and fluffy, but that appreciation doesn’t extend to adult geese. But this particular letter, is written in defense of the crow. Previous letters have called crows “ugly”, “noisy”, “thieves” and “bad alarm clocks”; implying that they should be, at best, controlled, and at worst, exterminated. Well I say, for shame, crow-haters. If you learned a little more about them, you might not be so hasty.
Our city is divided by the Crowsnest Trail, which leads to the Crowsnest Pass. These titles are actually misnomers, for many of our crows are in fact ravens. But it is too late for name-changing now. The greater family of Corvidae includes not just crows, but ravens, rooks and magpies as well. 31 species in total, which are found on every continent except Antarctica. They are found wherever people are.
All of these birds are considered to be among the most adaptable and intelligent birds in the world. They use a specialized and highly-evolved language system, with certain vocabularies associated with specific situations including dealings with family, with strangers and with other birds. Think about the way that we communicate – I don’t speak the same to my guy friends as I do to my parents or professional co-workers. These birds can also mimic the sounds made by other animals and can skillfully associate noises with events, especially related to the distribution of food. Think of the way children flock to an approaching ice cream truck. Corvidae species flock to the garbage truck, to dumpster lids opening, and even the sound of pop cans being cracked.
Well-adapted to diverse habitats, these birds thrive across North America. Well-suited to live in close associatioin with humans, they live off of our excesses, thriving in cities and suburban areas. If we humans weren’t so bloody messy, their populations wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand. These birds are omnivorous, eating whatever is available to them – be it insects, small amphibians, cat and dog food, hamburger wrappers, earthworms, eggs and newborn birds, even fruits and vegetables. Crows and their kin are migratory birds, which assemble in huge groups called murders, in order to better migrate during fall and winter months – travelling in packs for safety and companionship.
They build their nests far above the ground, with intricate construction materials – bark, twine, moss, human hair, tinfoil, coat hangers, and twist ties. Once paired for mating, they usually have a single mate for life unless one dies or is captured. Male and female Corvidae members are special in that they share in all aspects of the parenting process, from the incubation of eggs to giving flying lessons and teaching their young how to survive amid urban sprawl. Additionally, young crows and ravens actually stay with the family for long periods of time, while the parent couple stay together well into their offspring’s teenage years. While these birds have young in the nest, or young that may be still learning to fly, Corvidae members will defend their territory viciously, dive-bombing nearby trespassers, dropping items from the air, and humourously enough, almost stealing my friend Jorden’s hat.
Often associated with bad omens, the occult, and cliches like ‘crow’s feet’,’eating crow’ and ‘as the crow flies’; crows have been met with fear and resentment from humans, yet they are members of our society no less than are our family pets. They live off of our excess waste, our overindulgence and our refuse. If we clean up our act, crows will disappear. In the meantime, it’s almost like looking in a mirror at a group of humans – loud, noisy, messy and rude. Just imagine what they must think of us.