Sunday, January 22, 2006

Counting Crows: Corvid Stereotypes

This past weekend a raucous flock of crows descended on our neighborhood to roost for a night in the expansive oaks near Clog House Est. 1935. I decided to google, in the spirit of the Prejudice Map, "what crows are known for". I likewise tried other corvids as well. The results, which I think may be a little less prejudicial than those of religious sects I recently queried, are presented here.

Crows are known for:
Meticulous hygiene; ability to make tools; loud raucous cawing; eating carrion; stealing food from eachother; landing on and plucking hair from horses; eating eggs of other birds.
Ravens are known for:
Intelligence and complex social dynamics; love of shiny objects; problem solving abilities; remarkable memories; playfulness and versatility.
Grackles are known for:
Decapitating the heads of unwanted neighbors.
Blackbirds are known for:
Colorful hypnotic songs; fiercely defending territory; loud rattling alarm calls.
Blue Jays are known for:
Their crests and beautiful blue color; loud vocalizations and repertoire; caring for young after they’re independent; aggression; intelligence.
Magpies are known for:
Swooping at people that stray near their nest; engaging in play behavior; ravenous and nondiscriminatory appetites; staying in pairs; thieving ways; collecting bright shiny objects.

How this works
, with starlings:

I grew up in southern Idaho. My horse-trading great uncle Al Baldwin, one of the last of the old Idaho horse traders, constructed a magpie trap from old corral posts against the side of one of his barns, and baited it with the hindquarter of a goat. He sold/traded magpie wings and tails with Shoshone-Bannock Indians living on the Fort Hall Reservation near Pocatello, the old home of both of my parents' families.

For me the resilient
Magpie has been a constant wonder and source of interest and remains one of my favorite birds. I can't wait to see them in their irridescent black and white domino plumage congregating in the pasture of my family home in Boise upon my yearly visits.

Folklore surrounding crows, ravens and other related birds abounds. A smattering of corvid folklore, some of it British, is found here.

Raven, the trickster, was a common element of the mythology and folklore of the indigenous peoples of the NW coast of North America.

In my outdoor activities I've come to know the wiles of the Stellar's Jay and Clark's Nutcracker, which, among my family and friends, have always been classed as "camp robbers" for their bold forays onto the camp table when the humans are away or otherwise momentarily distracted.

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Anonymous said...

I do remember a trip to our favorite camp site near Stanley where a "camp robber" made a perfect play. As Mom turned her back the bird swooped and landed on the windscreen of the Coleman stove, plucked a strip of cooking bacon from the fry pan and flew away. It sat and ate the bacon on a tree branch within our sight. Mom, cussed the bird the whole breakfast.

Dave said...

Another fan of Corvids. Nice post.

cpbvk said...

Very enjoyable post. Yet another fan of corvids here...and of starlings, grackles and blackbirds as well.

CALL said...

My interest in corvids was heightened by an essay David Quammen wrote in the 1980's. If a species has the time and inclination to play, as corvids seem to have, they must be very very intelligent, and thus worthy of our attention and wonder.