Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Three Great American Crows

There was some fairly unusual weather here yesterday in Upstate New York. Temperatures rose to fifty-degrees Fahrenheit. It rained heavily at times throughout most of the morning, and then well into the afternoon. Some large and fairly deep puddles appeared along the edge of our driveway. I just happened to be looking outside in late morning when our three American Crows were observed flying in near the front driveway area. It almost seemed as though they waited to make sure I was watching.

The crows each took their turn enjoying rather long -- five minutes baths. Ice water didn’t seem to bother those crows. They waded into the large deep puddles, flapping their wings and shaking their bodies. At times they would dunk their heads into the ice water for a few seconds... then pull their head out of the water to shake off. Their behavior was kind of amazing. Just one crow would bathe while the other two looked on, as if the two non-bathers were standing guard. Said it before and I’ll say it again, there is some real intelligence in our old American Crows. One crow even returned to enjoy a second bath.

I’ve written about our three American Crows before. We’ve named these black-beauties Moe, Molly and Curly. Outside observers might say... they can’t be the same birds you noticed over the past five years. But I’m here to verify they are the same birds. Our property is their property, and they seem to know this. In winter, our birds are fed each morning within an hour or so of sunrise. We expect to use between 300-to-400 pounds of various wild birdseed and perhaps thirty-pounds of suet this winter. Common visitors in January 2010 include:

· Three-dozen Mourning Doves,
· Twenty-Five Blue Jays,
· Many Sparrows (several species),
· Many Black-Capped Chickadees
· Several Tufted Titmice,
· Many Finches,
· Several Dark-Eyed Juncos,
· One or two pairs of Northern Cardinals,
· A few Downy Woodpeckers,
· A couple of White-Breasted Nuthatch,
· Two or three Cooper’s Hawks.

The Cooper’s Hawks are typically seen perched in trees around the general population feeding area -- not everyday -- more like a couple of times a week. The hawks are fun to view in flight. But hawks are unwelcome visitors when perched in trees surrounding our feeding area. This is their way of stealth hunting -- waiting -- perhaps for one of the lesser intelligent Mourning Doves to slip-up and become the predator’s next meal. Bird kills only happened a couple of times this season. It is not our intention to provide backyard smorgasbords for hungry hawks. We understand too that hawks must eat to survive. However, all non-violent efforts are made here to see that they fly off somewhere else to find that next feathered meal. Thankfully, it seems our American Crows will not tolerate these hawk visits to their property. Crows seem to hold a deep hatred for hawks -- even to the point where they stop feeding for awhile -- taking time to drive hawks from their territory. Kind of amazing to see our hungry crows forgo food, choosing rather to drive those predators away from their lands. And while our American Crows perform this "mobbing" service to the greater ornithology community, the smaller birds continue to feed on the recent seed offerings. Moe, Molly and Curly are actually unknown friends of the smaller bird population -- jet black protectors of their property -- and to the smaller bird community who reside here in an uneasy coexistence.

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