Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Talking With Crows

I became interested in crows many years ago.  At that time there were a number of crows living in the woods on my property.  I have no idea what began our relationship but I began to notice that there was one crow who took to following me outside.  At least I assume it was the same one.  I began to talk politely to her.  (I have no idea why I thought this bird was a female but that was my definite impression.) And the crow began to talk back.

This crow began to come to a tree outside my back door, checking in there several times a day.  When I would go out, the crow would caw at me.  Well, caw doesn't cover it.  This crow made a number of different calls.  It sounded like conversation. Then other crows started appearing.  I talked to them all.  They talked back to me.  I would wait until the crows had said their piece and then I would say mine.  They would wait for me to finish and then answer me.

When I would go outside there was often one crow waiting.  This crow would then call others.  There is no way to prove it but I am convinced the local crows had a name for me.  Yes, a name: a call either specific to me or modified to indicate me, such as "the human who talks to us".  The crow near my back door would tell the others, "She's here again, the one who talks to us!"  And other crows would come.

Back then I would take very long walks in the woods.  The crows would accompany me.  To be more specific, they would accompany part of the way, all of us blathering on, happy to be talking with one another even if we had no idea what we were blathering about.  At a certain spot approaching one of the local ponds, "my" crows would bank and turn and peel off and head for home.   On a number of occasions I saw other crows in the woods just ahead but these other crows never followed or talked to me.  I guess I didn't belong to their flock.

I have since learned that crows are extremely intelligent birds.  It is possible they have the rudiments of actual language and not "just" a sophisticated call system.  It is possible they have a culture as anthropologists define it, in terms of learned and shared behaviors.

Then I stopped taking long walks in the woods.  I have a spinal condition which worsened dramatically.  I spent far too much time with doctors and far too little in the woods.   I was no longer able to take long walks.  Recently, as part of my self-prescribed therapy, I have begun taking shorter walks in my own wood patch.  No crows follow me or talk to me.  I did hail one passing crow, who circled around to come back for a look at me but that was all.  No conversation.

I suspect my old friends are gone, which makes me sad.  But I also wonder.  Do crows pass on stories to their young?  Is it possible some local crow has heard of the human who talks to crows?  Perhaps that crow will find me.  I miss my corvid conversations.

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