Photo by Charles and Sharon Sorenson
A month or so ago I received quite a few bird related phone calls and emails from panicked co-workers. These were primarily folks who were troubled by what appeared to be an “invasion” of birds at our plant site on the near Southside of Indianapolis.
The reason for the calls and emails was because of this week’s Bird of the Month, the American Crow.
These were folks who couldn’t help but notice there were literally tens of thousands of birds flying about the plant site.
Seeing these large, black birds with their dark and stout bill is a relatively ordinary occurrence. Typically the sight of them doesn’t give much rise or warrant a second thought. The shear volume of these birds however caused some concern for quite a few folks. Many had never seen a spectacle of birds like that before. (Well, maybe they’d seen a certain Alfred Hitchcock movie. I think it was reminisces of “The Birds” that was causing the most concern. And folks were possibly aging themselves.)
However, it actually isn’t that uncommon for crows, during the winter months, to form very large communal roosts numbering in the hundreds of thousands and even millions of birds. These roosts, over the last few decades, have indeed been known to move into urban areas on occasion. The vast number of birds catches the attention of people, and these “murders” can be a source of consternation to some folks.
The crow is one of the most intelligent birds in the world, and it is well known for its ability to detect danger. Crows learn that a moving car is not of much danger, but once that car stops and “strange wingless creatures” get out, they will quickly fly away. In areas where crows are hunted, they quickly learn the difference between “strange wingless creatures with guns” and “strange wingless creatures with farming tools”. Crows have the insight to send “scouts” out to check out potential feeding areas of danger. While feeding they post “guards” that watch and give warning when danger presents itself.
It’s not hard to find information on the intelligence of crows. Some recent studies even suggest that their cognitive abilities are actually on par with primates such as chimpanzees and gorillas.
“Strange wingless creatures” will often erect “scarecrows” in an attempt to scare crows off. But…I’ve come to believe that crows actually appreciate scarecrows, because after a few days, they figure out that they make great perches. Henry Ward Beecher once said, “If men were birds, few would be clever enough to be a crow.”
Photo credits: Charles and Sharon Sorenson and Dave Fox