The Way of the Crow



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Crows are excellent "wake-me birds". This is my own term for birds which sing exuberantly early in the morning. Spirit would commence a loud cawing routine if he heard me stirring or moving any time after daybreak. I was aroused from beautiful dreams on more than one occasion during our five years together. If I was able to lie very still, almost zombie-like or in deep relaxation, and if my luck held, Spirit would give me much needed peace and quiet during the early morning hours.

Earlier, I mentioned the chirping sound which Spirit made on occasion. I was very surprised when he first made the sound -- it was during a winter evening, and I had just returned from a trip into Bridgewater. When I entered the cabin, I was greeted with a low chirping voice. Over time I learned that it is a "greeting" in crow language, and is barely audible or easily missed if you're not listening carefully. I wasn't even aware of this sound during the first three years of Spirit's life. Perhaps it is an expression which crows develop in later life. If not, then perhaps I simply didn't notice it earlier, or, he just didn't greet me in that intimate fashion. Also, Spirit makes a low "peeping" sound, which, like the chirp, appeared to be a greeting gesture. I used to hear Spirit make this sound at night. It always occured when I moved about in the darkness of my cabin. For example, if I came downstairs late at night without using lights, he would often greet me in this fashion. It was clearly a greeting sound or recognition of my presence.

On occasion, Spirit made a low "cackling" or "cracking" sound, accompanied by a high-pitched vocalization somewhat akin to "wa-ha-ha-ha"; those sounds are made with the wings slightly spread, and the tail feathers vibrating or moving rapidly. I noticed that if I imitated this sound, he would move his tail feathers, and respond vocally. Apparently, what I call a "cracking" sound is quite similar to the courtship song of the crow which is described as a rattling sound, or, "a quick succession of sharp notes which have been likened to the grinding of teeth".18 

Perhaps Spirit was giving me his best courting performance! The rapid movement of his tail feathers, and the spreading of the wings, were certainly significant behaviours. Whatever the case, it is safe to say that whenever a crow does such a performance, they are expressing a willingness to be approached, and a need for affection. Spirit enjoyed receiving affection, especially having his head and beak areas scratched. He would frequently spread his wings when I massaged his head.

In fact, you may wonder what position I held in Spirit's eyes? Well, speaking in terms of the crow’s perspective or crow consciousness, I would say that my position was rather like that of a crow parent and partner. In some respects, perhaps Spirit never grew up, and this was reinforced and reflected in his dependency on me for his nourishment. He certainly responded like a young crow whenever I fed him. He would look up at me and open his beak like a young bird is apt to do. I would place the food to his beak. Of course, often I would simply place the food on the ground, or in a dish near his water container. So, in terms of food, I reflected a parent image. In terms of his behaviour, whenever I hung out with him in and around his living quarters, I reflected a mate or a partner.

I would highly recommend the study and observation of crow talk to anyone who has an interest in nature, bird life, or wildlife in general. It will provide years of discovery and enjoyment. The thrill of hearing a variety of crow vocals for the first time, and of gradually learning the meaning of the various sounds, is worth the dedication required. You may gain a greater appreciate for the process of communication that goes on among creatures other than humans.

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