Scooter is Counting Crows for Halloween…Well, not really. But He and Vinny are Pretty Interested in Them. Here’s what they discovered!
American Crows have long since garnered a rather unpleasant reputation as harbingers of some loathsome doom. But, just like Florida’s bats and our vultures, this reputation is based mostly on folklore and a harsh misunderstanding of the species themselves. While many probably wouldn’t grimace toward an American Crow as they would a Vulture, and while we may not shriek upon seeing a Crow looping overhead as we would a Bat… many people do tend to consider Crows -with their sleek, black feathers and gleaming beak- a somewhat unpleasant guest in our backyards. While they can be a bit of a pest when it comes to Florida’s feeders and backyard habitat areas, the species themselves are actually quite intelligent and social animals.
Here are a few facts worth crowing about… pun intended:
- Crows are well-known to chase after prey birds such as hawks and owls. Conjecture
states that this is done in play but some surmise it is also a feature of territorial behaviors.
- Crows and Ravens, while in the same family, are actually different birds. Ravens are larger and have a more resonant, guttural call as opposed to the American Crow’s signature “Caw-Caw” which it chooses from a list of nearly 250 call choices.
- Crows are social birds, flocking together and working in family groups to secure territories and to procure food caches during winter months.
- Although they display different physical traits, Blue Jays are in the same family as Crows, Corvidea.
- Crows don’t “collect” shiny objects. Although they do like to play with objects that interest them, much as a human child would.
- Crows eat small animals, insects and reptiles and have been known to dine while sitting on the edges of bird baths; leaving a trail of carcasses in their wake. Not very pleasant, no. But they do keep these somewhat problematic Florida denizens in check.
- A gathering of Crows is known as a “murder”.
- Crows of all types live in every corner of the world except for the Antarctic. But, if they could find a way, considering their intelligence, Crows would be the first birds to do so.
- It is considered that Crows mate for life and will defend their mates against attack or danger.
- Crows are highly susceptible to West Nile Virus. Because of this, scientists and health officials examine dead crows as a means to monitor the spread of the virus. WNV has killed nearly half of the American Crow population since a count was started in 1999.
So, you see -myth and fiction aside- Crows are not anywhere near what has become a widely accepted misunderstanding and lore related to their species. These beautiful, graceful birds are the stuff of legend, yes. But legends based on generosity and kindness handed down for centuries by Native American and European tales related to first-hand experiences and retold in the best way possible. It is these stories that have been overshadowed by the meaner, leaner tales of dread so often more easily consumed. But, that, too… is nature. Like a train wreck we resist to see yet cannot break away from eye-shot, stories of Florida’s less than “attractive” wild birds (and bats) are more easily accepted when put in their more traditional perspectives.
So while -during Halloween and beyond- we fill our senses with the creepier side of things for fun’s sake, let’s stop to remember that not all is as it appears –even when filmed by famous people, or written by imaginative minds. There is beauty untold… even behind Florida’s favorite “beasts”.
Wild Birds Unlimited Clearwater/Safety Harbor wishes its friends and family a wonderful and safe Halloween!
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