Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Crows and Ravens

“People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can't rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.” 
- James O'Barr, The Crow

Last Friday we were enjoying some really beautiful morning.  It was sunny and not very cold so I went out and decided to continue the clean up on my back porch.  There is so much to do after the winter.

As I was busy removing plant skeletons out of my pots, I heard a racket up in the trees.  There were three crows there and they were very excited.  Something
was going on.

As I looked on, I noticed a squirrel in between the crows which appeared to be the reason of all this excitement.  The crows were upset with the squirrel and were chasing her from branch to branch.  At some point the squirrel left the tree and ran to another one but the crows found her very quickly.  One of the crows swooped down from the first tree to the one the squirrel was currently on and knocked the furry critter off in mid flight.  I could hardly believe my eyes.  The squirrel landed on the branch below and after few more pushes and shoves from the crows, eventually got away.

Every since Friday I've been watching and listening a little more and I happened to witness another altercation between the crows and the squirrel.  I know that the squirrels love to steal and eat the eggs, so I'm pretty sure that the crows must have a nest nearby and the nifty squirrels are trying to get themselves a protein filled breakfast.  I wonder if they have succeeded.

Watching the crows made me think of a blog post I should write.  About the crows and how absolutely intelligent they are and how crows, together with ravens, are my favourite birds.

Indeed they are.

Crows and ravens are often associated with darkness and death and in the literature they are often presented in the negative light, often doing the bidding of an evil character.  The popular culture is really not doing enough of communicating how wonderful, interesting and intriguing these animals really are.

Here are several interesting facts about crows and ravens:

1. Both crows and ravens are extremely intelligent birds rating right on par with chimpanzees and dolphins. They design and use tools if needed to get food. If a nut is found, they will take it to the busy road and leave it there for the car to run over the nut and open it for them. They know the local garbage pickup schedule by heart.

2. They can recognize human faces and hold grudges. If you ever hurt a crow or raven, you can expect their whole family to hunt you down and make your life miserable for a while.  That brings forth another point: their communication skills are superb.  Hurting one crow will bring a murder of crows to your doorstep and when they die, their children will take their place.

3. Both ravens and crows love snow and are sometimes seen playing and rolling around in it. Unfortunately I haven't been able to witness this with my own eyes, but I have seen enough videos to know this is for real.  It's very entertaining too. Here on the right is a video of snowboarding crow.

4. They can imitate human voice.

5. They show empathy for one another. If one raven is hurt, others will try and console it. When a raven or crow dies, the remaining ones grieve. They will hold a funeral. A large number of birds will converge in one spot as to give their respects to the fallen friend.  I'm quite certain that at the same time they are holding a brainstorming session to try and figure out what happened.

6. A flock of crows is called a murder.  A flock of ravens is called unkindness.

People often confuse the crow with the raven and vice versa.  Up until few years ago I did too. Ravens are usually larger and have larger, more protruding beaks than crows.  The cawing is also different.  Crows like to live and converge around human settlements while ravens live in more secluded areas, further away from humans.   In the area where I live, we mostly see large groups of crows but we are close enough to forests and wild areas that we see some ravens too.  I love hearing their excited cawing and always head for the window to see what's going on.  Because when crows are cawing things are happening in the hood.

Yesterday when I went out to get the photo of the crow for today's blog post, the crows were watching me.  I could see it their curious glances as I walked up to the tree.  As I was pointing my big camera lens towards them, I wondered what there were thinking.  I'm sure they made some mental notes.

Next time you take a walk in your neighbourhood watch and listen for these feathery wonders.  Stop and say hello if you see one. Chances are she knows exactly who you are and where you live.



  1. We have quite a few crows here in Brooklyn. There is a small wooded area at the subway station and they were actually quite boisterous. I used to love watching them waiting for the train, sometimes was disappointed when the train arrived and I had to go.

    1. they are indeed very interesting to watch. :)

  2. That was a very interesting post. I'm one of those people that love nature shows. I watch them all the time because I'm fascinated by the creatures around us. I never knew those things about crows and ravens so learning something new about them was a nice surprise... :)

    1. Thank you Dee! Most of the people don't know these things about crows and ravens. I was shocked when I found out too. :)

  3. We don't tend to have ravens on the prairies because they like wooded places but we've got a gazillion crows and magpies (another member of the corvid family). They are among my favourite birds too, except when they're squawking non-stop outside my bedroom window at 4:00 a.m. in the summertime. I knew about a "murder" of crows but not about an "unkindness" of ravens -- very interesting!

    1. Ha ha ha, they can be quite loud and 4 am is a little early. :)