The Way of the Crow



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 Contemplations in Four Parts

I normally moved Spirit to his outdoor living quarters during the first week of April. In the spring of 1992, we were hit with an April snowstorm that dropped a four inch covering of light, puffy, snow. We call it “robin snow” because the robins have returned at that time of the year. I made snowballs and gave them to Spirit. He would peck at the snowballs and move them around with his beak. On one occasion, he placed a snowball in his basin, moving it through the water until it broke into several pieces. Spirit played with that snowball until only a thin covering of slush remained over the surface of the water in his basin. 


The following spring (1993), several crows and a pair of ravens tended the general area where Spirit lived. One of the crows, probably a female, seemed very interested in Spirit, and frequented a nearby tree where she could watch his pen. She often cawed, but he never replied, seeming to prefer a silent, guarded attitude towards her.

Later that summer, the crows behaved less cautiously towards me. I gave them scraps of bread which I was unable to use or had bought especially for them. I began feeding the crows the previous winter during a very severe cold snap. At one point I was feeding four crows, a pair of ravens, a seagull, numerous blue jays, and a crowd of other smaller birds.

In a letter, Elizabeth Turner of Victoria County, Nova Scotia, writes that she, too, feeds crows. She remarks, 

My husband made a feeding tray and placed it on a post in front of the kitchen window - it attracts many varieties of birds, especially crows. As soon as daybreak we are awakened by caw-a-caw. I save scraps of food and mix them with flour to form dumplings. Then I place them on the tray, and usually one crow is on duty in the highest tree, watching me and the tray.

 As soon as the food is placed, the crow gives a shout, and soon a flock appears. They gorge themselves until filled -- then carry away the balance, which I assume is cached for future use. This goes on all year, everyday.... They are very clean and tidy, and carry away anything they can't eat like bones -- often those are seen at the base of trees further back in the woods.

I have second thoughts about feeding birds, as it could make them dependent on humans. But it is certainly good to assist birds during severe cold periods, in the depths of winter, or in other emergency situations. Even so, I must confess to breaking my principles, because, like Elizabeth Turner, I thoroughly enjoy their close companionship on a year round basis. Lately, I’ve been feeding a variety of birds, including crows, ravens, chickadees, and jays.

Often, this close companionship can result in interesting experiences. For example, one afternoon in late April, 1993, I happened to look out my window at the right moment to see a huge raven sitting on an apple tree to the rear of my cabin. It was probably one of the ravens that had been frequenting the area for the several years. Suddenly, to my surprise, the raven flew from the tree and landed near Spirit's pen. It hopped directly to the pen, and peered at Spirit through the wire siding. There was certainly no hostility involved in the raven's behaviour. Rather, it appeared to be curious as much as anything, and flew off only after noticing my movement in the cabin window. Spirit, for his part, took everything in stride. He simply remained in a sitting position, and watched the raven. This was a memorable experience because it was the first time that another bird had expressed such curiosity about Spirit.

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