The Way of the Crow



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Crows are "touchy feely" two-winged beings. This sense of touch shouldn't be ignored if one wishes to build a caring and lasting relationship with a crow. I have frequently observed crows grooming their feathers or the feathers of their mates. Ravens, too, are like crows in this respect. In fact periodically, a pair of ravens tend the maple tree near my cabin where they groom each other regularly.

Spirit had a weakness for grooming, and was open to such affection or quality time on a daily basis. He especially enjoyed our "beak scratching" sessions, when I would scratch his beak for long periods of time, particularly the base of his beak, where it met the flesh and the growth of short, fuzzy feathers. During those sessions, he would usually lean forward resting his beak on the ground to support his balance. The scratching and massage had an hypnotic effect on Spirit. He closed his eyes and seemed to enter a sleep-like state. At those times I would take his head in the palm of my hand and give it a total massage. I could continue the massage for as long as I wished - he loved it. He was such a sook!

I'm convinced that "play" is important in bird life, and that it is instinctive in bird behaviour. It certainly must be considered when creating a loving, caring environment for domestic or wild birds. Crows have a wonderful sense of play. I used this to good advantage in creating games or situations where I could interact with Spirit.

On one occasion, I used his old broken feathers for this purpose. Spirit was prone to broken feathers, partly the result of spending so much of his life on the ground. His tail feathers, especially, tended to break, so that they were in poor condition by the time he lost them in the spring. So, I invented this interactive game, based on the resolve that whenever Spirit lost a feather, I would stick it in the bark of an old piece of dry wood that I had placed in his box. At one point in early spring of 1991, I had half dozen broken feathers in the piece of wood. They were placed in a row, in a decorative fashion, and looked quite attractive from my perspective. 

However, it proved quite temporary. Arriving home one evening, I found the arrangement completely disassembled and wrecked! Spirit had tossed the feathers from his living quarters.19 Soon, thereafter, I repeated the arrangement with the same results. Spirit would grab the feathers with his beak, pull them from the wood, and fling them over the cabin floor. I continued the game for a couple of weeks, on practically a daily basis, always arranging the feathers in a neat row, only to have Spirit pull them from the wood as often as I placed them there.

Even if I presented Spirit with a single feather, he would grab it from my fingers and toss it away. I was surprised at the strength in his neck, revealed in the grabbing and tossing behaviour. He was really quite funny! He made me laugh, a deep gut laugh – the kind that feels really good and brings tears to the eyes. We should all learn to cultivate this kind of laughter, it's good for the soul, and makes the world a more joyous place. This laughter was like a gift that Spirit gave me, and it was nice to realize that he received lots of excitement in return. It was at this point in my life that I realized the truth of Henry Ward Beecher's remarks, that "if people could be feathered and provided with wings, very few would be clever enough to be crows!" 

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