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Crows, Crows, Crows

W e ’ v e often heard them cawing in our woods and many times, we’ve seen them launching from our compost heap with a piece of rotting fruit in their beaks, but the crows have never lit on the railing of our back deck until this year. I saw one up close and personal about a month ago. I glanced out the back windows to look at the cardinals, finches, chickadees and other assorted wild birds hanging on our bird feeders, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something big and black perched on the rail. The crow seemed like a giant compared to the other tiny birds we are accustomed to seeing around here. I stood at the glass and watched as it shoveled seeds into its beak. Like a model on a catwalk, it strutted across the railing to the bird bath and drank water — big gulps of water. Then, the crow turned and looked right into my eyes before flying away. The following day was a repeat performance. I studied it. Pure black. Its feathers were brilliant and shiny. Its beak was charcoal gray. Its eyes were as dark as midnight. “That crow is out on the back deck again,” I said to my husband, who hurried over to see it. Again, the crows are nothing new to our property, but seeing them up close was a treat. We both enjoyed seeing it. Then just like the day before, after it ate and drank water, it looked at our faces in the window and flew into the woods. “They say crows remember the faces of people,” I said. My husband nodded then added, “And they are known to be very intelligent.”

The next day, as I made a cup of coffee, I watched as my husband filled the bird feeders just off the back deck. He poured streams of sunflower and wild bird seeds on the railing, then as he walked back toward the garage, he looked out into the woods and in a loud, crazy voice, called, “Crows, crows, crows.” He took a few more steps and repeated the call before coming back inside the house. “In the next few weeks, when you fill up the feeders, put some on the railing and call the crows,” he said. “Maybe we can train them to come when we call them.” My mind whirled. I remembered standing in the backyard at eight years old and calling, “Kitty, kitty, kitty.” The little kittens and mama cat emerged from their hiding places and hurried to my feet. Then I thought about all the times my cousins and I stood at the fence of my grandmother’s hog pen calling, “Sooie! Sooie!” Animals learn to respond to calls. They come running to get something to eat. Would my husband’s idea work?

For the next several days, we spread the seeds on the back railing and called to them, “Crows, crows, crows.”

Then just a few days ago, just as the morning sun illuminated the backyard, I put fresh water in the birdbath and seeds on the railing. I turned to the valley behind the house and hollered, “Crows, crows, crows.”

As I walked inside, I caught a glimpse of something landing on the deck behind me.

There it was. It looked at me, turning its head this way and that way, then began eating the seed like there was no tomorrow.

The American Crow is in the family Corvidae with crows, ravens, jays and magpies. They are omnivores, meaning that they eat whatever is available. They have the same body-to-brain ratio as humans. Research cites that they learn behavior and use tools. They also hold funerals and wakes. They can remember and recognize human faces, and yes, they hold grudges when a human has caused their community harm.

As for our amazing backyard crow, we plan to live in harmony with him or her and even give it a name — Onyx, Midnight, Ebony, Cosmos, or Jet. We haven’t decided yet, but we will. Until then, we’ll continue to place food on the rail for it and call, “Crows, crows, crows.”

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