The crows of Goose Lake

Hi everyone,

I’ve talked about the crows around Goose Lake in the past. We have a well established population. Sit outside or look out the window for a few minutes, odds are good that you’ll see and or hear them. If a young crow is threatened, adults flock in from everywhere to scold the owl or hawk or whatever else is perceived as the bad guy, and you can hear the ruckus for blocks.

When I was a boy and collected bird wings, I practically salivated for a pair of crow wings. Armed with my trusty Red Rider BB gun, I stalked the fields on my friend’s farm but never got within half a mile of a target before they were off and flapping. When I was a little older and took a correspondence course in taxidermy, Larry Wakefield and I once mounted an owl for some crow hunters. I think we charged them $5.00, which probably didn’t cover the cost of the alum to tan it, the wood excelsior to stuff it, and the artificial eyes.

My bird wing collecting days are long gone. These days I take my pleasure in observing crows rather than hunting them. I love their sound and never cease to wonder at their complex society and intelligence. Crows and ravens rank among the smartest animals on earth. In the bird world only the parrot is smarter. Otherwise, they don’t rank far below apes and whales on the IQ scale.

I was reminded of this yesterday. I was at the kitchen sink when a crow walked by on the patio. It was busy picking up what looked like berries so while its back was turned to me I hurried into the breakfast room for a better look. By the time it paused to look around, I was standing perfectly still and about six feet back from the window. The bird was on the ground ten feet on the other side of the glass.

It spotted me instantly. After two or three seconds it flew to the far side of the patio, landed briefly, glanced back at me, and off it went.

Had that been any other bird, I would have remained invisible unless I moved. Standing still is how I get to see so much of what goes on around here. But the crow is smart enough to understand at a glance what it’s seeing, even on an angle, even through a window, even at a distance of several feet, even when the observer isn’t moving. I’ve read that crows recognize individuals and pass along warnings to others about anyone they don’t like. Thank goodness this one didn’t see my old BB gun leaning in a corner of the room. Or maybe it did.










11 comments on “The crows of Goose Lake

  1. Crows are my totem (really ravens, but when you live where there are no ravens, crows are close enough relatives to count)–crows know the difference between someone carrying a rifle or shot gun and the same person carrying a broom or a rake or a pitchfork. The scatter only when it’s a gun. Smart indeed! But I’d apologize if I were you for your youthful intentions. They can also hold a grudge…

  2. So many people don’t care for crows, but we love them, especially my husband. After one bird sickness, many of the crows around here, NE Wisconsin, but not they are back and we are happy.

  3. My FIL hated crows but he was from a farming family and crows ate a lot of the food they grew. We have a little bit of trouble with that but they’re not nearly as greedy as the chipmunks, squirrels, and other birds (like Brown Thrashers). We like crows because they protect our chickens by mobbing the various hawks we have around. They’re like excellent guard dogs that we don’t have to take to the vet. 😀 (Incidentally, we love hawks, too…but we don’t want them eating our chickens when we have so many species in the rodentia order for them to feast on.)

  4. I have always loved crows and have written short poems about them. I’m not sharing though since they have a context that takes too long to explain. When I met the late Jean Craighead George years ago, she spoke of a crow she trained to speak a few words and liked to visit her in her kitchen. That just fascinated me and inspired my interest in crows.

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