Recently a friend remarked to me, "Oh, it must have been so romantic and exotic to have
a crow as a pet!" Well, this is true, I suppose, after all it's certainly unusual, and does give one the
opportunity to learn all kinds of things about them. However, looking after such a large bird can entail much hard
work, especially if you have limited resources, and have to care for the bird over the long haul. For one thing,
it's very time consuming if you wish to give the bird a stimulating and rewarding life.
I tried to ensure Spirit had exercise, a caring environment, and things that stimulated his
interest. I tried to remain open and alert to learning new lessons from him. When I think about those things, I
realize how deeply he influenced my life, and am amazed at the living adjustments I made to meet the numerous
challenges that arose during our five years together. For instance, adjusting quickly to the threat of predators,
creatively finding a solution to the telephone problem, or taking time on the spur of the moment to interact with
Spirit when I sensed he was feeling bored or lethargic mood. Of course, we should be ready to make time for our
pets, whether they are cats, dogs, or more exotic creatures like crows.
Spirit’s water supply was often difficult to contain, especially when he was indoors. For example,
when he decided to bath by splashing his beak about in the water, he would quickly wet a significant area of his
living space. It wasn't so difficult in the warmer months, when he was outside. Then, a couple basins of water
adequately met his needs if they were changed frequently, and, believe me, there were instances where it required
frequent changing! On occasion, he would mix earth and straw together in his basin,
resulting in a rather thick, dirty, pool of water. When he was on a roll, he became an involved and excited bird,
though somewhat demanding. He would approach the basin as soon as I poured the fresh water, and begin a familiar
ritual with his beak, moving it to and fro through the water so that most of his beak was immersed, and with every
few strokes he would wipe it on the rim of the basin. When in the mood to work in the dirt, Spirit would peck or
stab at the ground, filling his beak with earth which was promptly dumped in the basin. He would then wipe his beak
prior to collecting the next batch of ground.
A crow's beak is a wonderful tool which they use to good advantage. I received a note from F.
Weatherbee describing a rather remarkable experience in which a crow made ingenious use of its beak.
While my neighbours complain about the "squawky crows," I
encourage them with all sorts of goodies to eat. On one such occasion, I threw out a dozen stale crackers.
Before they even hit the ground, a crow appeared and started strutting toward them. When he was convinced it
was safe to take one, he picked it up in his beak and then laid it down. He moved on to the next cracker,
picked it up and went over and put it on top of the first one. Then he picked up the two crackers. As before,
he laid them down and proceeded to the third one. And, again, he went to the pile and stacked this on top. I
was amazed to see him pick up a stack of four crackers and fly away with them. He had tryed to add the fifth
cracker, but gave up when he realized it was too much to handle. He did return and brought some
friends, but they settled for a snatch and grab lunch, nothing as
spectacular as their friend.
One day, Spirit was particularly intent on working the ground -- in fact,
fanatical is a better word to describe his behaviour! He splashed, dug dirt, and made his water dark and swamp-like
in a matter of minutes. I was feeling like a trickster, so decided to change his water as fast as he dirtied it.
What a time we had! He was very industrious. If I attempted to intervene with crow talk, he would stop momentarily,
look my way, reply, and proceed with his work. This continued for quite a while, as I changed the water six times.
Then, suddenly turning about, Spirit hopped off in the general direction of a mound of peanuts piled in a corner of
his pen. He wasn't in the least perturbed that I had so frequently changed his water, or that I saw humour in the
situation (I was laughing up quite a storm.). Rather, he simply ignored me as I sat in his pen, watching him, with
a silly grin on my face.