Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Will To Survive - Crows are an Example For Humanity

Canuck the Crow (left) and his mate Cassiar share a "tender moment" on a break from feeding their new brood of chicks. Shawn Bergman / Canuck and I

I've been thinking a lot about crows lately.  It's high nesting season and all around our neighbourhood you can sense the intensity of their struggle for the survival of their chicks.  The mortality rate for crow clutches is incredibly high.  Predators are all around, in the form of squirrels, cats, raccoons, and, most commonly, other, larger "raptor" birds like eagles, falcons and owls.  Please read the latest account of Vancouver's most famous crow, Canuck, that appeared in the global news yesterday.  I will have more comments to follow:

Vancouver’s most famous bird has started a new family. Canuck the Crow and his mate Cassiar successfully hatched a nest of chicks on Friday, according to Canuck’s “friend” Shawn Bergman.

“Did you hear the Big News?! Canuck and Cassiar’s eggs have hatched! The proud parents are busy with feedings and all is well at the nest. As for how many little ones are there? Not sure, but I’m going to guess 3,” wrote Bergman on the Canuck and I Facebook page.

Bergman said both crows are making “non-stop” trips to the nest to keep the hatchlings well fed.

According to Bergman, this is Canuck and Cassiar’s second attempt at breeding this year. Another brood of chicks died in early May after a predatory bird attacked their nest, Bergman said.

The pair immediately started construction on a new nest and Cassair laid a clutch of eggs not long afterward, Bergman said.

The hijinks of Canuck, an unusually human-socialized crow known by a red zip-tie fastened around his left foot, have become legendary in the city.

The plucky crow has been the subject of multiple media features and has his own Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Greencrow says:  One of the stupidest songs ever written about birds is this one, sung by Nellie Furtado.  Here are some of the lyrics:

I'm like a bird
I'll only fly away
I don't know where my soul is (soul is)
I don't know where my home is
And baby all I need for you to know is
I'm like a bird
I'll only fly away (I don't know)
I don't know where my soul is (soul is)
I don't know where my home is

The person who wrote those lyrics hasn't a clue about birds.  Birds are all about where their home is.  Particularly at nesting time.  They are very economical in their movements.  They never just "fly" away.  They're always busy building their homes...then feeding, defending and training/parenting their family.

In this time of the opioid crisis, when human young are "dropping like flies", humans could take a few pointers from birds...who are experts at survival.  Crows, in particular, defy the odds by creating societies ("murders") that are close-knit and highly specialized.  I've been watching crow behaviour for years and have discerned that each crow fulfills very distinct roles in their close-knit communities.  There are no doubt role cross-overs and each bird has the ability, if called on, to step into another duty in an emergency.

Here are some of the roles that I have observed:

The Sentry - This is the crow that you will see, especially early in the morning, at the very top of the tallest tree in the neighbourhood.  He or she will sit for hours on the lookout.  Watching and warning the others with loud caws, if there is a predator in the vicinity.

The Scavengers:  These are crows that singly or in pairs hang around fast food outlets, picking up stray crumbs of discarded food.  You will see them break the food into even smaller pieces to store in their crop.  They do not swallow it, but bring it back to the nest to share.

The Ambassadors:  This is the role that Canuck the Crow in the report above, fulfills.  He deliberately interacts with humans and forms relationships with them.  The reward is more food left out by crow-lovers, such as little moi.  I have "ambassador" crows come into my yard while I'm gardening and just sit close by and watch.  When we have guests over and use our deck for entertaining, the same crow will come and perch on the nearby eaves, listening in and enjoying the conversation.

The Border Patrol:  These crows often operate in pairs.  Mated pairs usually.  They will patrol the borders of their "territory" and watch for intruders.  When I'm walking my dogs along the wooded path by the salmon stream, there are crows who will swoop down at the same place along the walk every time.  They plant themselves right in front of me, flick their tails authoritatively with the implied "Who Goes There?!"  Just like the border patrols in old times....they demand a toll.  I always remember to keep a few peanuts in my pocket for the border patrol.

The Warriors:  These crows are the most impressive and have the most to teach humans about survival.  In our neighbourhood...which is bordered on the north by wilderness mountains, we have raptors like eagles, hawks, falcons and owls.  These huge birds have a wingspan of six crows, side to side.  When they invade the neighbourhood and start slowly soaring, circling the sky above the nearby playing fields, the crows go into the highest alert.  There is absolute silence from the nests below--but the warrior crows take flight together, rising to challenge the raptor.  There are usually between 15 and 20 of them, depending on the size of the threat.  They surround the raptor in the air...some flying on either side, some above and some below.  They begin to take turns dive-bombing the large bird.  They make a huge racket, cawing and screeching at the bird, while they force it to fly away from the nests and back towards the mountains.  It's obvious to the observer that the predator could turn on the birds in a heartbeat and take one out, particularly a falcon, who is known to flip upside down in mid-air and grab a prey from underneath.  But, honestly, in 30 years of observation I've never seen a raptor attack a warrior crow.  It seems to understand that the "jig is up" and fly, desultory, back to its own territory.  The warrior crows escort it all the way. My theory is that the raptor depends on the strategy of "surprise attack" for its modus operendi.  

Still, the skill, co-ordination and sheer courage of the "Warrior" crows is inspirational.  They don't go to battle for the sport of it, but simply to defend what's theirs...but in doing so...they lay everything on the line.

Human beings think we're so smart.  But IMO, we've become so separated from nature, from who we really are as a species, that we've lost the essence of survival. We don't even know the true meaning of the word anymore.  Our reptilian overlords have separated us--one from the other, and all of us from nature.  We don't have any "survival" roles anymore...we only have the phony 2SLGTBA roles that they've forced on us.  That's why our young are dropping like flies from the opioid threat.

"Lost Together" Blue Rodeo

The above song by the Canadian band Blue Rodeo came to mind while I wrote this.  If humanity is "lost", then hopefully, like the crows, we can find ourselves again by acting together for our survival.


Penny said...

Thanks GC

because birds are all about their home (anyone who say's otherwise is a dork)
their nest
their offspring
often going back to nest in the same place, generally speaking.
Even if it means flying half way across the world.

and the lyrics to that song are horrid- wouldn't even want to hear that being sung!

greencrow said...

Hi Penny:

You've probably heard that song hundreds of times....it's played ad nauseum on the radio. The Music is as crappy as the lyrics.

Penny said...

GC said "Human beings think we're so smart. But IMO, we've become so separated from nature, from who we really are as a species, that we've lost the essence of survival. We don't even know the true meaning of the word anymore. Our reptilian overlords have separated us--one from the other, and all of us from nature."

and I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

Ed(itor) says: I blame it all on Descartes. We have forgotten with we are two-legged upright animals and, while we have mastered tools with our special thumbs and our big brains and our language skills, we have gotten too uppity, We think we are better than the rest. We have forgotten how to tap into the rest of the reality of the universe. What's on TV tonight?