Posts Tagged ‘Crows’

Yes, I find crows magical, and I am a fan. Whoa, whoa! OK, all you farmers out there – I see you throwing your hands up in the air with a loud and unified “OY!” But hear me out. Let’s look at these magnificent creatures from three standpoints – science, myth and magic, and personal experience.

First a little science. Did you know that crows and ravens (same family) and macaws have the highest brain to skull ratio of any bird on the planet? In fact, their brain to skull ratio is higher than in humans! This in part accounts for their high intelligence, not to mention they have been on the planet for 60-65 million years.  Crows also have a skill accorded to one of the most intelligent mammals on earth, the great apes, i.e. they create and use tools. Crows also will gather around one of their own when it has died to try and determine the cause of its death. They will  learn the facial configuration of a mean human and teach all other crows to know it as such and avoid that human. When a crow leaves its flock and joins another, it immediately acquires their “dialect” by taking on the characteristics of the most popular crows in that flock. No intellectual slouches, these crows. Learn more about them.

The magic. When I designed my own website a number of years ago, I drew the header for it myself. The header featured none other than the crow, and I have utilized that symbol for my blogs. Why?

Because in certain cultures and mythology, the crow is believed to be the symbol of magic and creativity, something near and dear to every artist’s soul. In some cultures the crow has been the symbol of evil and/or death, juxtaposed against the white of the dove and purity. I don’t see life in black and white terms, and for all their brilliance, I like the crow’s mythology in Native American terms and Crow Medicine. As such, Crow is a guide on the path to spirituality and enlightenment and is the keeper of sacred law. It is said that Crow has known the darkness and when they appear in our lives, may be guides through our own darkness on the path to enlightenment. Granted, these may be mythological ideas, but it can be said that all religious/spiritual beliefs are mythology, just different. I am not arguing that point, just drawn to the many inspiring aspects of the beautiful and intelligent crow.

Personal experience. I have a very deep back porch, and during the day, next to my back door, is a bowl of water and dry food for my neighbor’s cat. I’m working at my computer when I hear a rather loud caw. “That sounds mighty close,” I think. I look out the back door, and there is a good-sized crow pilfering the dry food. She sees me and flies away. Not 10 minutes later, I hear the caw again. I appear and she flies away. Shortly thereafter, out of the corner of my eye, I see a flash of black through the side door window. She has learned in only two incidents that her caw brings me to the door, and now flies in silently. Seeing me again, her next attempt was from a different angle that I could not easily see.

Another time, I hear muted crow noises and slip quietly and unseen to watch four of them on the porch. They are talking amongst themselves and jostling for position, pushing one another away from the cat food bowl. I take their verbiage to mean “Wait your turn” and “Get out of my way.”  It is likely a dominance issue. I knock on the window and they disappear, but I could have watched their antics for hours; they were quite amusing. Now, as a result of this, I have to bring in the dry food for a while.

Occasionally, I will see a crow on my walks or on the fence near the window where I work. I always say hello and am sometimes acknowledged with a look and a “caw”. When a crow -– or any animal – appears unexpectedly and/or repeatedly in my life, I may look into its possible meaning. In the case of a crow, I might be at a crossroads, looking for or ready for a change, and need to pull more on my own intuition. Even if that has nothing to do with the crow, when is it ever a bad idea?

One last thought .. there is so much amazing art regarding crows, among them gorgeous paintings by Susan Seddon-Boulet ( above left), but also in a favorite children’s book, Crow Call by Lois Lowry and revered illustrator, Bagram Ibatoulline.

The natural world is filled with wonder and beauty. Depending on the day, I could happily write about pangolins, pandas, or hammerhead sharks. Today, it’s crows.

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CrowCall-Lowry-Ibatoulline2While purchasing novels at ridiculously low prices at book sales is great, books featuring the work of outstanding illustrators simply must be bought new and treasured. In this category, I cannot say enough good things about Bagram Ibatoulline. He has become one of my favorite illustrators over the last few years.

In Crow Call by Lois Lowry, a Newbery Medal winner, Ibatoulline brings to life both the characters and the autumn quiet of the woods and fields of rural Pennsylvania. Liz is the shy daughter reconnecting with her father who’s been gone a long time to war.  They slowly re-establish their relationship with “Daddy” taking Liz out for a very special breakfast and then a trip to the woods where she calls the crows to wake up and come to her. Daddy has brought his gun to hunt, but easily sees where Liz’ heart is. The story itself is touching, but the illustrations are magnificent.

The feel of the woods and the trees, the capturing of the crows in flight, and the beauty in facial expression and body language of Liz and Daddy are just superb.   ScarecrowsDance-JYolenIbatoulline was born in Russia and is the illustrator of many acclaimed books, two of which will welcome Crow Call to my bookshelves, Scarecrow’s Dance and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane. His illustration graces picture and middle grade books of all kinds from fairy tales to history to wonderful stories by some of our best modern day authors and poets.

If you are a fan of brilliant children’s book illustration, Bagram Ibatoulline will certainly inspire and delight you.

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Something unusual has been happening on my back porch. I’d love to get a photograph of it, but it’s not going to happen. Well, not unless I suddenly have the time to sit out there stock-still for extended periods of time. But first let me show you the photo I can get. Not very exciting, I know. But to know what I can’t photograph, you can see the other half of the picture – the stationary items.

These are the food and water bowls on my back porch adjacent to my back door. They’re there to feed aforementioned feral cat, Little Fee, and the cats next door whenever they’re inspired. The other day while busy working, I heard a nasal, one syllable, repeated caw. I knew it was a crow, but he sounded mighty close. Where was he?

I tip-toed slowly back to the kitchen, and there he was, sitting on the railing, eyeing the cat food. I stationed myself at the back door and watched as he, after surveying his surroundings for safety, dropped to the porch deck and ate a few pieces of food. This was new! And then he flew away. That’s one of the photographs I would like to have gotten. Maybe a week earlier, I had spotted a blue jay – same routine – but he took one piece and flew away, and returned some time later for more. Whether or not it was the same jay, I’ll never know, but that was also a great shot I’ll never get.

The day following the first crow’s appearance, I heard more crow chat on the back porch, and now there were two – one eating from the bowl, and another on the railing. The latter soon hopped down, pushed the other aside, and ate a bunch. I guess the word is out, so I may have to adjust what I do with the food – I don’t really need to be feeding high quality, holistic cat food to the local crow population, nor do I need them on my porch, as much as I love crows.

Did you know that crows have the highest brain-to-skull ratio of any living bird? They are considered one of the most intelligent birds alive with several species topping the avian IQ scale and as demonstrated by their construction and use of tools, creation of mid-air games such as jousting and “air-chicken” to determine the pecking order, and other feats. It is reported that although humans cannot generally tell individual crows apart, crows have been shown to have the ability to visually recognize individual humans, and to transmit information about “bad” humans by squawking to one another.

Although crows are, and have been, viewed in many different ways throughout history to the present, their presence is often thought to be symbolic of magic and creativity. (Ted Andrews discusses this at length in Animal Speak.)

Will I ever get a photograph of the crows on my porch? I’m sure not, but maybe someday I’ll be in the right spot at the right time in some other location to get just the right photo. Meanwhile, I think I have to look out for Little Fee, and make sure his food supply is not commandeered by these opportunistic black beauties.

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