The Way of the Crow



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Again, this went on most of the day. At this point we not only found it amusing, but we were concerned for their health, as they were working themselves so hard we thought their hearts would stop. On day four, two obviously tired crows appeared, and this time they had another plan. First they checked to see if their friends were there. Their noisy cawing and wing flapping told us they were. But instead of going inside, they quickly flew up to the tree above and waited...and waited. But nothing happened. So back they went to the window, saw their friends, and flew back to the tree. This waiting game went on most of the day. On day five, they repeated day four, but this time very quickly. Like day four, they also checked inside before leaving.

I never saw such intelligence and determination in birds. We were completely fascinated by the whole process. However, our concern for the welfare of these birds (as well as the hard top), prompted us to buy a tarpaulin and cover it. When they checked this out and no longer saw their reflections, they flew away.

The following is a story written by the late Burnice Gilchrist, who was a resident of Pictou for the last sixty years of her life. She passed away on the 30 August 1995, at the age of ninety-one. Her story was compiled by a family member from several of Burnace's rough drafts. It, too, demonstrates the intelligence of crows.

When I was five years old, my parents, with four children, took up a homestead in Saskatchewan. It was about a mile and a half south of the North Saskatchewan River. Our new house was built on a hill, that provided great coasting in the winter. The summer I was ten or eleven my father had built a smoke house to cure meat. He had cut into the side of the hill, just below the house, and had unearthed a pocket of pretty good clay. All summer we had enjoyed making dishes and little creatures out of the clay - baking them in the oven after mother took out the bread.

Early one morning in late summer, just as we were called to breakfast, father glanced out the north window towards the river and called us, to tell us two visitors were walking up towards our home. As visitors were scarce in those days, we rushed over to see who was coming. We noticed two crows walking through the pasture towards the house. One could fly, and the other was dragging an injured wing. We guessed it had probably hit the telegraph wires when it was learning to fly. The telephone/telegraph wires crossing Canada went across our farm. Some crows had made their nests in a poplar grove near the wires.

We watched through the window and wondered why they were coming up to see us. We soon found out. They stopped at the clay pile, then the older (larger) crow took bits of clayin her beak, wetting it as she did so, and packed a cast on the injured wing of her companion.

Our parents told us to put food out for the crows, but be very careful that we didn't frighten them. You may be very sure that they were well fed. We also kept our collie dog from chasing them. The crows stayed near our home for several days -- I don't remember exactly how long. When the clay cast came off, the wing was healed, and both crows flew away. I have often wondered if anyone else ever witnessed "Dr. Crow" performing such an operation?

John G. McKay of Anherst, Nova Scotia, relates an interesting story about his maternal grandfather, Joe Gothreau, who had a pet crow named Dick.

Joe Gothreau was an old man who had lived most of his life at a time when the parochial community of Amherst saw little cash money among the common folk, but much trading in kind. Joe had a reputation for being exceedingly handy; excelling in taxidermy, gunsmithing, and other crafts requiring dexterity, patience and clear thinking. He could work all winter making a guitar or violin and, then, when warm weather arrived, would take it to Victoria Square where his croonies gathered to update the local gossip following a long winter's confinement. He would trade it for a dog or a gun, or whatever he considered fair exchange.

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