That Nature Show: Crowing for Crows

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Photo by Linda Tanner via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Linda Tanner via Wikimedia Commons

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks!  Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

I got interested in crows via HBO’s epic fantasy smorgasbord (dragons! nakedness! disturbing medieval gender inequality!) Game of Thrones.  One of my favorite characters (hair like a Greek shepherd! no acting ability whatsoever!) is John Snow, of the Night’s Watch, demeaningly called “a Crow,” because of his black shaggy furs, by the wildlings who live beyond the wall.

If that sentence made no sense to you. It made no sense to me either, a month ago.

But now I’m in to crows. A group of them is called a murder. A word that also applies to Game of Thrones, am I right? Little Finger? Geoffrey? The freaky Red Lady who births evil smoke? Okay, I’ll stop talking about that show, but you should watch it. Peter Dinklage chews up the scenery, and my husband now calls me Mother of Dragons. Which I am, literally, kind of.

They’re some of the smartest birds, crows.  Ravens are larger, and Baltimore football’s Big Bird, but I’ve seen more crows in my backyard than ravens. Specifically fish crows, which are smaller than American crows and native to the Southeast where they live near wetlands and waterways and sound their nasal, perpetually pessimistic “nuh-uh” call. It sounds like they’re always saying no.

Crows have increasingly been moving into cities where they gather in great numbers at night to sleep in roosts. The reasons for this: cities are heat bubbles, warmer than the surrounding fields and forests that are the crows’ natural habitat, cities are garbage-filled (food!), ratty (food!) and well-lit (easier to look out for owls!).

My neighbor unfortunately has just such a roost  in their fir tree. It’s raucous. In the morning  rush hour the birds take off from the tree squawking and flapping  like — incidentally —  they’re fleeing before the Game of Thrones’ White Walkers; proving that even blockbuster cable shows imitate nature.



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