The Way of the Crow



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 Crows Away: Observations on Crow Flight

I have observed the flying behaviour of crows for several years. If you are patient and dedicated in your observations, over a period of time you will learn much about their behaviour and flight patterns. Of course, it is also important to observe the crow in many environments and at different hours during the day. Early in your observations you will appreciate the truth of the old adage, "as straight as the crow flies," which, as I learned, is a regular flight pattern for crows traversing fields or large bodies of water. Accompanied by steady, monotonous wing movements, this could be considered boring by some, but when I see a crow flying in this manner I am inspired by their strength, endurance, and sense of purpose.

The blue jay is frequently in the company of crows. Somehow, I doubt whether the crow enjoys the companionship of his relative, as the jay is a pesky bird, and occasionally takes delight in diving at the more cumbersome crow. Seeming to enjoy this exercise, jays will gang up on a crow, and make life quite miserable for the poor bird. The blue jay is a very intelligent bird in its own right, and may seek the company of crows because crows are adept at finding food, and the jays are pleased to lend a beak in devouring it.

I'm convinced that the crow doesn't receive enough credit for its flying ability. We continuously hear about the wonderful flying ability of the eagle, osprey, or hawk, or the swiftness of the falcon and the sparrow. Of course, with respect to flight, those birds are in a class of their own. Nevertheless, the crow deserves its due. Spirit demonstrated a good deal of speed, strength in flight, and an excellent ability to maneuver among trees at low flight. Also, the acrobatic maneuvers of two or more crows when they play about in the sky is a thing of beauty. One person, Millicent Flicken, writes about witnessing a crow trying "a variety of half turns, walking in air, and partial slips and rolls," and was convinced that the crow was playing, even demonstrating a delight with life.20 Another writer, Fred Pierce, describes a humourous and unusual incident involving a crow. Apparently, this crow was flying overhead carrying food with his feet, when he attempted to transfer the food to his beak. In trying, he bent his head so low that, losing his balance, he almost did a somersault in flight.21 Lucky fellow! Not the crow, but Fred Pierce, who was fortunate enough to witness the event.

Recently, I observed another characteristic of crow flight while walking the eastern shoreline of Minamkeak Lake. A crow was flying to the north of me, about one hundred yards from where I walked. It was near the tree line when it suddenly veered, and began moving southerly into a strong headwind. As it flew over the waters of Minamkeak, I noticed its open beak, as if it was gasping for breath. Having seen Spirit display similar behaviour, I realized the crow wasn't exhausted, but was simply reacting normally to a situation requiring great exertion. I watched that crow for several minutes until it was invisible to the naked eye. With my binoculars, I could still detect its opened beak, its rhythmic wing movement, as it approached the hardwood hill on the far shore. 

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