Meet the Crow Family…

Junior, the first day I spotted him.

A few days before Memorial Day weekend, I was busy cleaning the back porch, readying for the arrival of family.  While looking out on the wooded canyon, as I often do, I noticed something hopping near the dry creek.  My eyesight is not as good as it used to be so I dashed in the house for my binoculars.  I figured it was a bird of some kind.  It is  normal to see fledglings in the spring and I find myself bird watching a lot.  Sure enough, it was a baby crow.  He was huge!  I decided to photograph the young fledgling, though it didn’t seem to be attempting to fly at all.  He occasionally hopped away if I got too close, and seemed confused about where to go.  After I walked back to the house, I noticed the parents taking turns feeding the baby.  They were never far away.

In the days that followed, I watched the baby crow hop around, then crouch low.  The parents kept an eye on “Junior” while they searched for food nearby.  Now and then the parents would exchange the “CAW, CAW, CAAAW” call that I have always found annoying.  Each day I observed the trio, noting the attentiveness of the parents and the relentless feeding of their young charge.   He appeared to be the only offspring.

The crow “cleaning station”.

In a month the little crow family could be seen combing the pastures for food, most likely insects.  I sometimes observed them in the blackberries early in the morning.   I never paid much attention to what else crows ate, that is, not until they began using my homespun bird baths as cleaning stations for their “crow kill”.  I can tell you I wasn’t too happy to find other bird’s egg shells discarded in or near the bird baths, and small skeletal remains of who knows what left in the water.  One day the crow family was gathered around the bird bath sharing something bloody for lunch.  I observed one parent patiently ripping away small bits of flesh, offering it to Junior, who gulped it down heartily. The other parent waited for its share.  When they left, I walked over to find what appeared to be the remnants of a small lizard.  Before long, I got into the habit of cleaning the bird baths often, refilling with fresh water.  The crow family sure was a messy bunch!

Another day of flying lessons!

The summer sun brought scorching heat.   I often saw the crows getting water at the bird baths or searching for food under shade trees in the pasture.  By now the young juvenile was flying.  His landings were awkward.  I would often observe the parents flying from a branch  to a fence post.  Junior would take the same route, each time making a clumsy landing.  The parents “cawed” in encouragement.  Before long, the youngster was  learning to “caw” like his parents.  The transition from juvenile call to adult is quite comical.  While the parents belted out the well-known, “CAW, CAW, CAAAAW, the youngster’s flat, “WHAH?” sounded more like a question.  It was nothing like the deep, annoying acoustics of his parents.  For weeks this went on.  The young crow improved in flight and food foraging skills, but the call remained juvenile.  At some point he became more confident, belting out his repertoire of calls, but all of them sounded strangely inept.  I began to wonder if he had some type of intellectual disability.

Fresh water each day provided my friends a respite from the heat.

By autumn the trio was still together, and now they attacked my tomato patch just as it was making a comeback from the summer heat.  I often saw them raiding the chicken yard, picking up scratch before the chickens could clean it up.  The biggest of them stood watch while the other two stalked around snapping up grain.  They continued to leave their messy discards at my bird baths.  One day I was walking under a cedar tree when something fell right in front of my face and thumped to the ground.  It was a dead vole!  My first thought was, “Voles don’t climb trees!!” and then I looked up.  Perched above was one of the crow parents.  It flew off, leaving its dinner at my feet.

The cold weather arrived and with it came sightings of more crows, most of them congregating in the woods and beyond.  Still, I saw the little crow family off in a pasture, the chicken yard, or in our front yard looking for whatever bugs, small rodents or varmints they could find.   Surely by now, Junior should be on his own.  What kind of bird stayed with the folks that long?

Last week I had the camera out to photograph Daisy deer, playing in the rain.  There in the front yard, amidst the puddles, was the crow family.  I snapped a couple of shots of them, then headed inside and decided it was time to find out more about this interesting trio that still had their young charge tagging along.  Referring to a link by Cornell Lab of Ornithology:  http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/babycrow.htm  I discovered the crow family I had been observing all year was completely normal. Usually, there are more “kids”, but in a drought year, who knows what happened.    I also learned something else; I hope I am never asked to raise an orphaned or injured baby crow.  They depend on their parents to feed them for about 2 to 3 months, and survival skills are learned over the period of a full year.

Foraging for food in the December rain.

I read that crows raised by humans make excellent pets, and can easily be trained.  But they cannot live on their own in the wild after imprinting with a human.  This puts the responsibility of care solely on the owner, for the life of the crow.  With that knowledge, should someone bring me a baby crow, there is no question in my mind about whether or not to raise it.  Sometimes life’s decisions can be heart-wrenching and quite difficult.

Baby crow awaiting his parents.

Yes, sadly, I will be that woman with a crow on my shoulder, wandering through the woods in search of insects, worms and small varmints, belting out, “CAW, CAW, CAAAAW!”

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


30 thoughts on “Meet the Crow Family…

  1. Every year we have Collared Doves and Wood Pigeons nesting nearby, and I love watching the Squabs grow up – they’re comically clumsy to begin with and watching them develop into the handsome adults is a true pleasure. We also have a myriad of Starlings and Sparrows, and are occasionally lucky enough to see a baby Blue Tit.

    We don’t see many crows around here, but one year we had the pleasure of watching a particularly fiesty female Greenfinch chasing a Magpie; the Magpie seemed genuinely terrified and couldn’t escape fast enough!

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    1. We raised a pair of collared doves a couple of years ago. It was interesting to watch them transform from homely, and very clumsy squabs into the beautiful and elegant birds they are today. I posted photos of the doves in, “Raising Daisy Deer” written in July. I have learned a lot about bird species in this area by taking part in a winter bird survey for our state each winter. Isn’t it wonderful to relax and watch birds? I enjoy researching them as well. It helps me to understand how to attract them to our area, and sometimes discourage their presence! Thank you so much for commenting! So glad to know another bird watcher!

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      1. Thanks – it’s nice for me to meet another bird watcher too! My Nan came from Welsh farming stock and taught me to love birds, wildlife, the garden and the countryside from a very young age. I’m a long-standing member of the RSPB and we take part in The Big Garden Bird Watch every January.

        I’ve been laid up with my disability all year, so it’s wonderful to be able to sit in the living room cross-stitching and watching the garden birds through the patio door 🙂

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        1. I am sorry to hear you are laid up. I struggled a good bit this summer not feeling well. Sometimes these hindrances in life cause us to adapt in wonderful ways. It was actually a miracle that Daisy deer arrived, causing us to make some “peaceful” changes around here. I spent a lot of time keeping bird baths full of fresh water, and running sprinklers to water plants… and to create an artificial shower for the birds to gather around and cool off! We see many woodland birds during the summer months, but the wintertime is the real show of the colorful songbirds. The header photo on my blog was taken two years ago after an ice storm followed by a heavy snow. Even the sparrows were beautiful against the white snow! Winter offers a special beauty… one I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve gotten older! You will often find me trudging around in the snow with my camera on those snowy days, looking for unusual beauty. I absolutely dislike cold temperatures, but the beauty of snow and wildlife will get me “out there”!

          What a beautiful comment you have written here! Your Nan sounds like a person I would have been drawn to. How wonderful that she instilled in you, such an appreciation for birds, wildlife and nature! Thank you for sharing!

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  2. I have heard that Crows can be taught to talk also. Never have heard one or actually observed this, but I hear it is possible. We have a huge flock of turkeys near us, about 50-65 of them, I often take time to stop and watch them, try and call them in (doesn’t work).

    Interesting post …

    Don

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    1. I read too, that crows could be taught a few words. Do you have a turkey call device? FD has managed to attract a few up here on the place with his call. You are fortunate to be able to view such a large group of turkey. I think the most I have seen at a time are around 30 or so. They are a magnificent bird. I wish the pheasant was prevalent down here. I grew up in Nebraska where this time of the year they are often spotted in the snow-covered fields. The males are quite handsome!

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      1. You moved me to read Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Raven” again. I had not read it since high school, where I found it quite dark and melancholy. Human’s put inappropriate labels on many birds; Ravens, Vultures, Owls and Hawks. Much of it originates from old folklore. I like researching each species, but mostly, I love watching them. What tremendous performers and curious creatures they are!

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        1. They’re brilliant aren’t they? And so resourceful too!

          Anything Crow-related seems to be particularly clever; not only can they learn to speak or attach themselves to humans because they’re sociable, but I’ve even heard of them wandering into pubs and becoming regular enough there that the landlord will get a bowl of beer ready for them when they’re due to normally arrive!

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          1. Now THAT is funny! My husband, FD would love to see that! He was tickled one afternoon as he walked in one of our pastures that borders 9th Street here in the small town we reside in. FD had Frosty, our orphaned squirrel, on his shoulder as he walked along. Frosty absolutely adored his Dad, and often accompanied FD, hanging on his shoulder, tucked up against his hair. A car of young people drove past and FD heard one exclaim, “Hey!! Did you see that DUDE back there?? He had a freekin SQUIRREL on his back!!” Sometimes to others, it’s a marvel to witness such an uncommon friendship. I believe there are probably many human/wildlife associations… they bring a special joy and wonderment to our lives!

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          2. What a wonderful story! When I was a child there was an elderly lady in our part of town who had rescued an orphaned Fox cub. For years she could be seen out with it on a leash or draped around her shoulders, and she was always happy to talk to curious onlookers and the Fox was happy to be touched. They were well-known and well-loved in the area 🙂

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          3. How awesome is that? What a unique experience to raise a fox and keep it for a pet. They are exquisite creatures. We have 3 gray fox on the place, who sometimes take shelter in a den just beyond our house. I see them mostly at night in the pastures hunting, and spot them early mornings when they’re resting. FD thinks it would be fun to raise a kit. I hope this happens closer to his retirement!! It is a wonderful thing to take in orphans, but oh the work and stress… trying to do it right!

            What wonderful childhood memories you share today! Thank you!!

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  3. You have officially accomplished the impossible by making crows cute and loveable. That was such a sweet story and I too was beginning to wonder if perhaps Junior was a bit “special” and was touched that the parents were taking such good care of him. Parent crows have a pretty tough job.

    Last night I was telling my hotel roommate about Daisy Deer. She could not believe that you had Daisy in your home for a time. She’s heard a lot about my fellow bloggers this week!

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    1. I wish I had taken more photographs of Daisy in the house. People just marvel about that! She was so clever about finding peaceful, hiding spots. The dogs acclimated just fine, except the night Daisy decided her new bed was Zoe’s bed. She just straddled Zoe and plopped down behind her… barely. Zoe indignantly got up, looked at Daisy, then walked away. Zoe has always been the QUEEN around here. Daisy, dethroned her without any ado!

      I find myself sharing your blog with family and friends… your sense of humor about every day life is something we can all relate to! I’ve met some awesome people while blogging!

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  4. I loved this story! I’ve always been fascinated by crows. I’m interested in Native American culture, in all its diversity, and I’ve always noticed that the crow is usually a very positive symbol. Many people don’t like crows and, as you mentioned, are annoyed by their “caws,” because it sounds rather like they’re scolding. But for all we know it’s their job to keep us all in line and out of harm’s way. Maybe we should pay more attention when we hear the “caw” of a crow. We may be about to trip over a tree root or something!

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    1. I admit I did not think much of crows before I moved on this 10 acres! Watching them over the past 5 years I have learned much. And I have to thank the little crow family for their presence here. I have appreciation for their struggle to raise young, and to survive in a sometimes cruel world. I too, have interest in the Native American way of life. I live here in Oklahoma where so many tribes are represented. FD and I often refer to wildlife as the Native Americans do… the “crow people” or the “deer people”, and we strive to have understanding about their world and what they might show us. My May 2011 post, “My Totem, The Vulture” reflects thoughts on what the continual sightings of vultures mean to me. I think you are correct; there is much for us to learn from wildlife and nature. Thanks for such a wonderful comment!

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    1. Thank you Kate! I guess if we did end up with a crow, I would have to confer with another rehab facility. There is one about an hour from here that specializes in birds and often they have several of a species of bird, which are easier to raise as a group. I would decide whether it might be better off there or if I could manage. Sometimes these decisions are difficult. We once took an injured cardinal to them as I had no knowledge of how to treat the injury and had never handled a songbird before. It’s nice to know there is help available… but if I had to raise a lone crow, then I would! And you can be sure to see a picture of it on my shoulder!!

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  5. I love crows, except when I have to chase them out of the feeders. They are sooooo clever. I hope to meet you in the woods one day. Crow on your shoulder and a laugh in your voice. (the crow should be laughing too because he’s found a way to avoid flying).

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  6. When walking along Bray promenade I would often pass a crow perched on the railings. I find crows a little unnerving and it would really freak me out if one started talking to me!

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    1. If one did talk to you I guess you could surmise that it had been taught by a human… and most likely a friendly crow! I always found the crows a little annoying until this crow family settled here this summer. I have a better appreciation for them, even though I’m still not thrilled that they raided my tomato garden!

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    1. Thanks for checking in! I gained a new appreciation and respect for the crows. They’re out there again this morning, in the pasture on the frosty grass. What a cool family unit they are! I hope you enjoy my other observations of nature here. It’s a very cool place to live!

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    1. Thanks! I really enjoyed watching them raise Junior this summer, and I’m pleased they’re still hanging around! They may surprise us in the spring with another brood of young. I hope so!

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