Saturday, December 08, 2007

FINALLY--A Crow, 9:40AM

As many of you know, I've been making a big attempt for months to lure, befriend, or tempt a local American Crow to pause long enough on the Goodie Stump for me to get a good at her. Note that she's placed her foot on the portion of raw poultry in a possessive manner while making eye contact with me.

One of the things I wanted to see was the Crow's eyes. They blend so well with their plumage that it's nearly impossible to see their eyes, or where they are actually focusing, unless the sun causes a gleam. As I suspected the iris is a near perfect match to plumage. Attention to other's eyes is not only important to Red-tailed hawks as we've discovered in Central Park watching Pale Male and Company, but I've now begun to see that it's extremely important in cuing behavior for many of the bird species I'm watching.

I expected her to take off at eye contact but then realized that her sentinel partner in the Maple near the house hasn't made the five part time-to-bug-out caw signal perhaps that is significant in her staying put. The snow cover is complete. And the temperatures have been significantly low so hunger may also being playing a part in her willingness to put up with me watching her.

She checks in again.
While waiting for a Crow to let me watch her for a few minutes, I began reading up on them and their relatives. Due to some new science it's now thought that Crows and Jays started out with a common crow-like ancestor in the area of what is now Australia and then radiated throughout the world.
Corvids have strong and more than usually dexterous feet. And most of them, have scales on the front of their legs and feet but not on the back. Why? No one seems to figured that one out yet.
When it comes to intelligence Corvids are near the top of the avian pile. Some put forward the thought that Ravens are even more intelligent than top level parrots.

She eats some more and then seems to be eyeing the squirrels that are scampering around the yard.

Then she looks toward the camera again.
Check out her beak. American Crows have the archetypal Corvid beak, thick, strong, and slightly curved. And also like most of the other Corvids, Crows have bristly feathers over their nostrils. If the feathers over Downy Woodpecker cere are to keep the sawdust out, why do Crows have a similar adaptation? It's not a sawdust problem. They're so private that don't even want anyone to see their nostrils? Unlikely, I suppose. Any ideas?
(I can't believe she's stayed this long.)

(Famous last thought. ) A squirrel leaps up on the stump aggressively and the crow takes to the air accompanied by the five part danger caw of the sentinel Crow who's off the Maple and heading north. The squirrel leaps off. (Notice this is one of the visually challenged squirrels, though the left eye is now at least partially open.)

Then a second squirrel immediately leaps on, checks the stump for squirrel eatables, and finding none, leaps off.
The squirrels and Crows have a habit of leaping at each other, in I'm assuming an attempt to startle, and scare the other off. So far I've seen no true physical contact. One of the phrases used over and over for Crows beyond "gregarious and noisy" is "cautiously aggressive". Well they aren't foolhardy, now are they? But sometimes I get the feeling that the Crows get an almost practical joke kind of pleasure in the "gotcha".
Donegal Browne

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