Thursday, May 24, 2007

A murder of crows

The shrieking was high-pitched and heart-rending. It was the noise of something not long for this world. Two crows – looking for all the world like Antonio Banderas’ black cloaked gang in Interview with the Vampire – had flipped a baby rabbit on its back to expose its soft belly. I went to investigate; the crows let go, their victim scuttled into the undergrowth. Deprived of their dinner, they eyed me angrily from the telegraph wires.

I had seen crows mob a cat before but had never seen them catch a live mammal. From an anthropomorphic point of view, crows appear cruel. I don’t think they are: I consider them to be very clever. Indeed, the appliance of science has proven them to be far from bird-brained.

Three types haunt the horses’ fields: the carrion crows I saw attacking the rabbit, rooks and jackdaws that scatter the horse muck as they look for worms. They have chosen their homes wisely close to the shops. Their cousins who build cities in trees near busy routes also display admirable foresight by choosing locations with a ready supply of roadkill.

Yet proportionately very few crows end up squashed on the roads themselves. It amazes me how they judge when to move away from the traffic; they are rarely wrong. One made a mistake last summer, a young rook playing chicken with a gang of his mates. Leaving it a fraction too late, he crashed into my car as he rose into the air and became trapped in the bumper. I stopped to free him. His heart was pounding but there was not a mark on him. I let him go in the long grass. He lay quiet, his wings outstretched, his still body looking like a blue-black cross.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

There was more in the news recently about the intelligence of ravens..

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,2068049,00.html

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I couldn't find the BBC thingy about that Canadian research on ravens, but I did stumble across this about the ravens at the Tower Of London..

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4098894.stm

Crystal Jigsaw said...

There's no getting away from them, they're everywhere! I'm afraid at this time of year we tend to dispose of them due to their likeness of lambs. Cruel it sounds I know but it's dog eat dog out there. Or crow eat anything.

muddyboots said...

we have a large crow that sits right on top of the roof exactly in the middle. plenty of jackdaws & rooks too.

Drunk Mummy said...

My brother and his wife were plagued by a crow which kept crashing into their bedroom window for months. Apparently, they are very territorial, and this crow kept seeing its reflection in the window and thinking it was another crow.
I have a similar sensation these days, when I walk past a mirror, and I think that my mother has just walked into the room.

Omega Mum said...

And what happened next? I'm assuming he played dead just long enough into fooling you to leave the car, then flew into the driver's seat and drove off. Or aren't they quite that clever....?

mutterings and meanderings said...

Anon, thank you for more proof of my point!

CJ, my dad is the same because they eat his pheasant eggs/chicks. In fact, I am the only member of my family who actually likes crows.

MB, years ago, there used to be a semi-domesticated jackdaw living in the next village that talked. Apparently they are good learners.

DM, we all turn into our mothers! ;)

OM, sadly the title of his post also refer to his fate ...

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

I'm not a fan of these beautiful looking birds. To be honest I find them scary. Don't like magpies either because they will not leave the smaller birds alone. The crows up your way must be from a more intelligent line than the crows around here as they are the one bird I do see regularly, legs akimbo and stiff, on verges etc.

Brom said...

I thought I'd drop in to see what you were raven on about today.

The old crow is a natural adaptor to his environment. We even had them in Wales rook you.

Arthur Clewley said...

there is a rookery high in the trees on castle bank in richmond. The cawing of crows always takes me back to my childhood, cold misty mornings in frozen fields. I know the farmers don't like them but I think you are right that they are intelligent M&M, and the crow family also includes jays and magpies of course

Stay at home dad said...

Tokyo is full of crows. Like pigeons here they scavenge among the rubbish and their creaking surrounds you wherever you are. My friend was even attacked by one on his balcony once.

Anonymous said...

Mi welais Jac-Y-Do,
Yn eistedd ar ben to,
Het wen ar ei ben,
A dwy goes bren
Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho HO!

Nunhead Mum of One said...

I have seen a lot of crows in the garden this year - more than usual. They perch on the birdbath and splash all the water out so the smaller birds haven't got any. Selfish as well as territorial!

Anonymous said...

I have a pair of magpies nesting in my garden. I told one of my friends, who surprised me by telling me to kill them instantly. Or if not prepared to murder the magpies, at least kill the eggs.

I was slightly surprised by this (wouldn't you be?) but my friend is a passionate lover of songbirds. Apparently magpies and all crows/magpies/ravens are not good to songbirds.

I should put you in touch with her M&M. You and charlie, killing off ravens, she'd approve of you all right.

PS Isn't the collective noun for ravens an unkindness? There's probably a reason for that.

mountainear said...

Aren't they amazing birds when you get close up. I wouln't describe them as beautiful or handsome, but powerful.

I don't like their muderous ways much either but they're part of nature's cycle. We wouln't want to be knee deep in carrion would we?

Mopsa said...

Bastard crows, jackdaws, magpies and rooks. They are everywhere at the mo. I clapped my paws in delight when the two nests in the barn had been raided by Tufty (or was it the buzzard?), the remaining young thrown to the ground to perish. Each year I pick up dead nestlings from the ground underneath those nest -sites - so not THAT clever after all. Bleedin' jackdaws have completely closed off one chimney - will have to sweep that and remove the sackloads of twigs before lighting the fires this autumn or the indoor inhabitants will be poisoned. Rant over.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Gracious! I had no idea the crow family would generate such emotion ... I think we are divided as regards their intelligence or lack of it!

IMB, have to say I love magpies, I think they are beautiful. Also a fan of the football team...

brom, do Welsh people really say 'look you'?

AC, I think jays are rather beautiful too.

SAHD, strangely, I aways imagined Tokyo to have less mudane birdlife!

Anon, I'm thinking that's welsh, but would appreciate a translation please!

NMO, they are just doing what humans would do if they were birds!

Anon #2, please don't kill the Magpies!

Mountainear, spot on. All part of the circle of life...

I take it you're not very keen on them, Mopsa? ;)

Anonymous said...

Don't worry M&M the magpies are safe from me. I am squeamish. Despite my friend, I rather like them. Anyhow I have just read an article that advocates (quite convincingly)that if the magpies/crows didn't kill off the songbirds, something else would.

Anonymous #2

lady macleod said...

very poetic. they are survivors aren't they? Crows have made it into some scary stories. I am thinking Poe. It's too bad the one you 'saved' didn't make it.

lady macleod said...

Oh, I wanted to say thank you for your kind words regarding my friend. She is indeed very special, and a fabulous mother.

ziggi said...

is there a difference between rooks and crows? I quite like them despite their slightly menacing look.

Brom said...

Anon said...

I saw a Jackdaw,
sitting on the roof
a white hat on his head
and two wooden legs
ho ho ho ho ho ho

Blimey, what if I was Anon and didn't even realise that I was...

mutterings and meanderings said...

Anon #2, that's good to know!

Thankyou Lady M. I do feel guilty whenever I 'get' anything on the road...

Ziggi, they're all part of the 'crow family' ... the carrion crows are in apiars or alone and have a lighter coloured beak, whereas the rooks toddle around in bigger gangs and have darker beaks...

Brom, translation much appreciated. Thankyou!

ltlmomma said...

EEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWW
I'VE NEVER SEEN ONE I DONT THINK
I LIVE IN THE PEACH STATE

Exmoorjane said...

These black birds are around a lot at the moment - in the blogs as well as in real life - lixtroll (one of the purplecooers) had a fabulous raven in her blog. Interesting mythology surrounding them too - harbingers of doom or brings of good luck, depending on your viewpoint. Magicians, tricksters, way-pointers......
Oh, and I am SO with you on the envy thing too - my friends all seem to be successfully writing novels, editing glossy mags or presenting TV programmes...vexing or what?!

@themill said...

Husband says they can spot a gun a mile off and you can never shoot the buggers!
Love the look of Magpies too, but I fear the feathered variety are more successful in life than the football version

beta mum said...

They all seem to know where the hard shoulder ends and the motorway begins - and they've been flying low over our guinea pigs in a threatening manner.

Arthur Clewley said...

@mill, I once took the train into Newcastle the day after they had been absolutely thrashed by someone like Inter-Milan. The guard came on the intercom: 'Ladies and gentleman, we shall shortly be arriving in Newcastle, hotbed of footballing success'.