How to befriend your neighborhood crows


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/06/08/how-to-befriend-your-neighborh.html


#2

I have wanted to do this for years! Years, I tell you.


#3

We don’t have crows in my neighborhood; at least, the Hawaiian crows are very rare indeed. OTOH, the mynahs have established a cleanup routine where once the 3 Stooges have eaten what they want from the outside cat dishes, they swoop in and eat all the leftovers. This doesn’t prevent them from yelling ‘CAAT! CAAAAAT!!’ when I go out of the house.


#4

I wish there were crows around here so I could try this. Sadly, West Nile Virus has decimated the population to the point that it’s a big deal if you can hear one cawing somewhere off in the distance. As a matter if fact, I can’t even remember when was the last time I heard one. Blue Jays were also wiped out by the virus. I saw one just last week in the tree outside my office window. First one I’ve seen in 3 or 4 years.


#5

Hah have them all over here in Seattle.
I have a few that know me. Not regularly but if they are near by and watching when I take things out to the trash I will grab a small palm full of kitty kibble and leave that out. Some are really wary and don’t approach till I am far away or out of sight, but a few will just wait till I am only about 5 feet away before digging in.


#6

About a year ago I started doing this at work. I noticed there were tons of crows in the area and got curious about their behavior, and about the research that showed they recognize and remember faces.

So I bought unsalted peanuts in shells and got the attention of a couple by making a clicking sound. Then I dropped a few peanuts on the ground and backed off. They took the bait. Only it wasn’t bait, really.

Over the months the groups have moved around the area and right now I am left with a couple of “unaffiliated” crows that hang around my building. Here’s what I have learned through observation:

  • they each have individual personalities–some are cautious, forever, and some are fearless

  • it’s best to take off sunglasses and not to stare at them too much. Makes them uncomfortable or wary.

  • They are very wary of things being thrown towards them. If there is a crow nearby, resist the temptation to toss the peanut towards him. Perhaps an evolutionary development from how birds used to be hunted.

  • they seem to be altruistic or at least cooperative–many times rather than flying down immediately for the peanuts, they will call to their buddies and wait for them to come before feeding. Might also be safer if they have backup, I suppose. Because the other side of the coin is that they will chase away crows who are not in their groups.

  • They have a hierarchy of behaviors: they will ignore me and peanuts if there is a threat, for example

  • Some keep to larger murders, while others are, like I said above, unaffiliated

  • If there are surplus peanuts, they will hide them in the grass, even covering them up with leaves

  • When there are several crows and limited peanuts, they will quickly lift a couple of peanuts and choose the ones that are heavier/bigger

  • When there is competition and an impetus to get as much as quickly as possible, they will try to get two peanut shells in their beaks, and they understand that changing the position of the peanuts (for example, picking up the bigger one first and the smaller second) can enable getting multiple peanuts at once

  • They clearly recognize me and will fly across the street to meet me. I can also call to them if they are far off and get their attention.

  • When you are driving down the road toward roadkill and the crow doesn’t move away until the very last second, it give the impression that they are unflappable (no pun intended). But in reality it’s because they have figured out how cars work. On the other hand, when you are near them in person, they can be incredibly wary. All kinds of things freak them out, like a big white truck, or a little kid running around.

It’s really been a fascinating experience watching their behavior.


#7

I’d like to learn the crowish phrase for “Hey, crows, I’m cool. Just walking through here with my dog.”

And: “I’m not interested in that roadkill., I’m just walking past. You are totally welcome to it.”


#8

One of the common reasons people get attacked by wild animals is due to “helpful” folks feeding them. The animals lose their healthy wariness of people as well as come to expect food from anyone they meet and will lash out when they don’t feed them.

Personally, I want to smack the idiots who go out in the fall and leave bird food on the trails “to help them out”. Helping out would be to let them figure out that it’s time to migrate when there’s no more food for them to scavenge.


#9

In Redondo there is a love/hate relationship between the crows and the squirrels. Those Costco peanuts are like cigarettes in prison. The squirrels grab what they can before the crows swoop in. The squirrels dart off and attempt to hide the nuts in bushes, or dig holes in the grass. They assume out of site, out of mind. The crows, on the other hand, are ever vigilant and track the squirrels. I’ve never seen crows and squirrels fight physically, it’s more of a “cold war” kind of maneuver-based gameplay. Great fun.


#10

If any of yall move to Japan, do not start feeding the neighborhood crows! You will be hated by everyone in the area if you do so.


#11

My neighbor feeds a couple of crows and they yell at her all the time for more.

I speak conversationally with all the crows around here and they never yell or anything.


#12

Here in Tampa Bay it’s a very common sight to see a crow lumbering across the sky being repeatedly, thoroughly harassed and dive-bombed by mockingbirds. They’ll chase crows from horizon to horizon and I still don’t have a clue as to why. I suspect that crows might raid other species of bird’s nests and eat their eggs and fledglings.

Anyone know why?


#13


#14

Oddly enough, this is the same strategy I used to befriend my neighborhood humans.


#15

As for them being cooperative. A few crows will stay away from the bunch feeding to look for predators and sound a warning call that translates to HEY, CAT IS NEAR FLY AWAY!


#16

And hey, if your neighbourhood crows aren’t interested, this strategy should also make you a hit with the neighbourhood rats!


#17

I will have to do some reading about crow calls, because it really perplexes me how essentially what seems to my ears like one kind of call stands in for so many types of communications.


#18

Between the corvids (jackdaws, magpies and carrion crows), kites, foxes and squirrels here in Oxford, I don’t think the rats will get much.


#19

Mockingbirds (and Scrub-Jays) are really territorial. It doesn’t matter whether or not you can reach their nest, they will attack you if they think you are too close. While Crows are opportunists and probably are a valid threat, Mockingbirds are also known to use other bird’s nests for their eggs. So, it’s fair to say that they’re just wanting to make sure that they’re the only asshole birds in the vicinity.


#20

They do indeed know how cars work. I watched a crow in molt once. It waited at a crosswalk for the light to change, and made eye contact with the drivers who stopped before it walked across the street inside the lines.