To all of my crow-loving friends out there: this one is for you. ♥
: I think you will both find this entry heartwarming. :)
I love bird-watching, and in that I'm well-placed: Florida has a lot
of birds. We have a red-shouldered hawk pair that nests in our backyard oak, a flock of ibises that likes to use our front yard for a buffet, and there's a neighborhood little blue heron that you can hear ululating now and then, when it's in the mood... and that's just the tip of the iceberg. We have cardinals and jays and thrashers and birds migrating through, and ducks, larger herons and egrets, ospreys and vultures, and even the four-foot-tall sandhill cranes visit now and then, though they tend to prefer more open spaces.
But I have a particular fondness for the "men in black suits," as my grandfather used to call all black birds. It's why I used a grackle as a significant character in Rosary
—in fact, when I was writing for Pagan magazines my pen name was "Levee Grackle" (because everyone seemed to want to be the noble animals or big predators. You meet fifty "[Adjective] Wolf"s for every person who proudly calls themselves Moonsilver Groundhog). So when a small crow flock started wandering the neighborhood, I thought, "Hey, friends!" And started putting out peanuts for them on our upside-down birdbath. (You don't have birdbaths rightside up in Florida unless you commit to cleaning them every day. Otherwise, mosquitos and mold and mildew.)
Crows are fascinating to watch. They have a variety of different calls and very interesting behaviors. When they weren't sure of us, one emissary would fly to the fence, and if I put out the peanuts, it would call: KAW KAW. A few such summons would bring the rest of the flock, and then they would talk to one another in little purry croaky quiet noises: 'awwlllr, awwlllr'. Sometimes they'd fight with one another, but not as often as you'd expect. If the whole flock came, then everyone ate; if one two or three came, then one of them would load up on the peanuts and fly off with them: to share? Or cache? Who knew?
One day I tried summoning them myself; I heard them in the distance, so I went outside with the peanuts and, like the dope that I am, howled: "AWWW! AWWW!"
And sure enough, one of them came. After I put down the peanuts, it summoned the others.
We've been doing this for a few weeks now. If I don't put out the peanuts, my spouse does, or my daughter, usually in the early evening, because that's when they tend to show up. We've had ample opportunity to watch the rather epic battles between the squirrels and the crows: the squirrels are smaller than the crows, but an entire flock of crows will run away from an attacking squirrel. But the red-shouldered hawks, which are larger than the crows, don't frighten them at all... a single crow will chase one with no apparent fear! Maybe they think the squirrels are rabid and are afraid of being touched by one. "EW SQUIRREL COOTIES."
This morning, then, I was lying in bed at 6 AM, which is luxurious as I'm usually up around 5:45. And I hear a tremendous KAW KAW.
I open an eye. That sounds like a crow. On our birdbath. He can't possibly be talking to me, though, because it's 6 AM.
I close the eye.
I open the eye. That IS a crow on our birdbath. But it is 6 AM and I don't need to get up today until 6:30 so I am not getting up.
I close the eye.awwlllr awwlllr
I open both eyes and my heart melts. That is a crow on our birdbath and he is using the purry croaky 'I'm talking to family while eating' noise to call for me! AWWWWWWW!!!!
Out goes the jaguar into the dew-soaked Florida morning. And there indeed is a crow on the birdbath, waiting. I open the door and it flies up to the fence, watching as I deposit the peanuts. "You're up a little early, don't you think?" I tell it, and it listens, unperturbed. I add, "awwllr, awwlllr," and then head back inside. When I look out the window later, the crow is eating.
I have no idea if the 'awllr' noise really does mean "family" in crow, but I'm stickin' with that because "I'm part of a crow flock" sounds a lot cooler than "a crow has trained me to come give it food before sunrise." >.>