Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Corvid Takes Up Sledding, Plus "Take a Gander" and "Craning"

For those who may not have heard, January 9th was National Crossing Guard Appreciation Day. Well the local paper had sent me out to take some photos of Crossing Guards doing their job over at the elementary school. While I was waiting for said Crossing Guards to have some children in which to do their job with, I noted a group of crows which had been foraging in the school lawn.

By some unknown signal unheard by me, perhaps the closing bell of the day, the Crows took to a tree across the street. Then proceeded in a trickster kind of way, no physical attacks you understand, to attempt to steal each others stashes of food. It was all rather playful in a Crow kind of way.

For Crows are very clever if you pay attention to what they are doing.

I told you all that, to introduce a rather spectacular piece of of bird behavior in the video below. And the bird in question from the look and behavior might well be in the family Corvidae.

Corvidae includes Jays, Crows, and Ravens.



(Any one familiar enough with the Old World Corvids to know the species of the video bird?)

In my opinion, yes the bird in the video is definitely indulging in a "play" behavior. Corvid is not pecking at the bottle cap in order to "eat It" as some have suggested. I believe that Corvid is pecking under the bottle cap in order to get the "sled" moving again.

Corvids are notorious for various kinds of "fun" behaviors. I watched a piece of film (Perhaps on NATURE?) in which numerous Crows were perched on the fence of a hog pen. They took turns riding the pigs. One rode while the others watched. Then she got off and another bird got on a pig. Rather like a Corvid Rodeo.

Definitely take a gander at the video.

Bird Vocabulary Alert- Above I used the phrase, "take a gander". Why is gander used for a male goose and also for a certain kind of look?

I don't have a OED to hand but doing a Google search brought several citations claiming that the phrase "take a gander" was first used in print in 1887. While gander for a male goose came much earlier, perhaps around 1100 or so.

Why did the noun gander become a verb for a look?

Perhaps because an adult male in a gaggle of geese is the group sentinel and if you've ever gotten a bit too close to a group of geese the sentinel will first give you a penetrating look and then likely will crane his neck (oh no, there is yet another bird vocabulary word- to stretch one's neck at an angle )
in order to get a better view of you-- the INTRUDER.

Do be advised that a human habituated goose will take you on in a New York minute and they can give you quite painful pinches with their bill plus they will whomp your soundly and repeatedly with those big wings while hissing. You heard me. They really do HISS.

But then you were rude for intruding now weren't you?
Corvids may be clever but it seems Canadian Geese for instance, are sticklers in the civility department.

(As Linda Maslin's comment points out, oh so correctly, it is Canada Geese. Thanks for the correction!)

Donegal Browne


Linda Maslin said...

"Canada" geese

Donegal Browne said...


Indeed Canada Geese. Oops! Thanks. DB