Saturday, July 7, 2018


"I suppose you want something," I said to the crow on the wire, who emitted a noncommittal squawk. "I've got walnuts. But hey. Since I have you on the phone line, what the hell was that all about the other day, when you and your gang mobbed me halfway down the block? I was already walking away from your kid. You guys are supposed to be smart. Recognize faces, and all that. You know perfectly well I've been nothing but friendly to you."

I fetched the walnuts, squinted up at the wire, and decided to hold out.

"Yeah. So smart. And they say a crow is as smart as a seven-year-old human."

The crow emitted a noncommittal squawk and then cleared its throat.

"Easily. And age seven is the pinnacle of human intelligence, after which you all dwindle down to Candy Crush and reality TV. So."

"You DO talk?" Dave had been hollering "Hey, Walnut-Boy" for years as he placed nuts on the patio, hoping someday the crows would start saying "Hey, Walnut-Boy" to him.

The crow ruffled briefly and sleeked back down. "Tsss. Remember when you used to stare up into the trees and go 'Caw, caw, caw?' Were you expecting some kind of reply? As if. How about if we sat outside your window and yelled 'Dude, dude, dude' over and over again?"

"That would be awesome. That would be cute. It's not like you don't say the same things over and over again already."

"Hardly. You're so provincial. If you hear something that doesn't fit into your narrow world view you just ignore it. But have somebody put on a minstrel show and say Dude Dude Dude and you brighten right up. It's offensive."

"Well, I do like Chucklehead over there in the cedar. He's cool." Chucklehead rarely caws. Chucklehead starts with pairs of hoots and then cuts loose with a virtuosic string of clicks and ratchety noises.

"Her name is not 'Chucklehead.' Cecilia Clickenheimer is a sage."

I was willing to believe that.

"Anyway, glad we can make you feel good about yourself with the walnut distribution."

"You never even take them until I go away."

"They're not going anywhere. And we see no reason to reward you for a blatant case of cultural appropriation. We've been eating walnuts for generations, but you discover them and now it's all about you. You don't even know where walnuts come from."

"I do too. They come from Costco."

"They come from trees. Trees you people keep cutting down and replacing with fancy non-native bullshit trees or something."

"Walnut trees are messy. You should see what they do to cars."

"You should see what we do to cars."

"Hey. I plant plenty of natives. I leave the seedpods to ripen for you guys."

"So occasionally you manage to not mess everything up, and then you want credit? Anyway we just saw you pull out the foxgloves as soon as they quit blooming."

"Oh. You saw that. Well you don't eat seeds anyway."

"The hell. Besides, sparrows eat seeds, and I eat baby sparrows."

"That's disgusting."

"Cry me a river, Veal-Girl."

"The point is, there's no reason to scream at my head if I get near your baby. You know I'm not going to hurt your baby. You know all, see all. Wait. Is it because we let Tater out on the patio with us at Beer-Thirty? Is that it?"

"It's not the cat. It's perfectly obvious your cat is only out here to eat grass and throw up. Awesome little sidekick you have there. A real Einstein. But remember when you put that baby robin in a shoebox and dropped an earthworm on its back? And then you couldn't get it back off again?"

"It was wiggly. I missed. I was only six."

"That poor robin! Peeping away with a worm wriggling through its little feathers."

"That poor robin you would have happily scarfed down?"

"As is my wont. I can take care of myself. You would starve to death in a full pantry if you didn't have a can opener."

"Not true. I saw a Life Hack. You can rub a can against the pavement and the top will pop right off."

"Excellent! It's Cling Peaches and cold goopy black beans for the rest of your days! Honestly. The fact is you people are wrecking everything, and you know it."

"Now, now. I've read that crows do very well in an urban setting."

"Of course. We're smart."

"So you're all high and mighty about the sorry state of the world when you know perfectly well you'll do just fine."

"I see! You think I'm all 'I've got mine, I don't need to worry about anyone else! Howdy, howdy, howdy!' Typical."

"I didn't say that."

"You just did say that. You assumed I'd be as oblivious and self-centered as you people. That's called 'projection.'"

"That's not true. I'm not like that. I am a Democrat and a dues-paying union member."

"Ooo, ooo, ooo. Somebody should give you a cookie. Where are you going? Leave the walnuts."

"Sure. I'll leave the walnuts. You won't eat them until I'm out of sight, but you always eat the walnuts. 'Cultural appropriation,' my bald fanny."

"Reparations, baby. Reparations."


  1. If they have the mental capacity of a 7-year-old than they are smarter than our current leader. I have seen them gang up on a bored and dangerous horned owl.

    1. They do devolve into mob rule from time to time.

  2. I have no doubt whatsoever that crows are more intelligent and caring than humans are. I only hope that they survive this shit-fest that we're perpetrating here at the end times and go on to take over the planet, as it is obviously their rightful place and not ours. The dinosaurs were here first, and they evolved from them. The dinosaurs were wiped out through no fault of their own. We can't make the same statement. We know exactly what the consequences are, yet we whistle past the graveyard and go back to plunging madly into amusement.

    I'm ashamed of our species.

    1. I heard the most interesting thing on NPR the other day, from a guy who wrote a book about civilizations that self-destruct. He first stated that there are no doubt gobs of other species in the universe that have reached our particular kind of intelligence, i.e. they've become technologically proficient, and some have survived and some probably haven't. But he says we should not blame ourselves for getting into this mess: it's inevitable that you learn to harness available energy to make cool things. What is unconscionable is realizing the dangers of it and failing to heed, which is of course where we're at. It did make me feel a little better about us as a species, up to a point.

  3. Yes, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

    1. Specifically, Republicans, Scaife, and the Kochs.

  4. Are crows the bird that will drop rocks into a tube of water to raise the water level so they can get at it and drink? I think they are.

    That's pretty smart.

    Plus, as your conversation here sort of brought out, they haven't devastated their environment. They pretty much live within their means.

    1. I like that analysis: "they live within their means."

    2. They can solve complex problems. This video shows how remarkable their problem solving skills are. I know many humans who wouldn't perform this test so well:

  5. Love it! Sorry you got mobbed, though.

    Crows ARE smart. And pretty bold, too. I saw three of them run off a bald eagle a few weeks ago. One came at the eagle from above -- dive-bombed it at a pretty good clip and pulled up at the very last second. There was another eagle nearby, too, so the scales could have tipped the other way at any point.

  6. I do envy you having a conversation with a crow. I talk to (caw at) the ones who visit us but am not entirely sure what I have been saying to them and not even remotely fluent in crow.

  7. I got a little confused there, wondering which voice was saying what. Had to read it twice. crows seem to be doing well here in Adelaide, I've seen several groups of them bobbing up and down behind rooftop facades where they are clearly buildings nests.

  8. Nothing like a little perspective! Your crows are much more clever than the ones I know. I just saw a post on California Birds (Facebook group) about a "murder" of crows that actually killed an owl (probably a sick one as what owl in its right mind would let itself get murdered?) Craig Childs also wrote about a group of ravens in a desert canyon (I think it was) that also murdered an owl. Perhaps one day they'll see Hitchcock's movie and get another idea....

  9. Thank for your very good article! i always enjoy & read the post you are sharing!


  10. One of my other favorite authors, Charles deLint, writes about the Crow Girls in several of his books. Their antics are spot on and leave me howling.

  11. Murr, hi. Mike here, the immigrant that made it eventually to Montana, hitting Oregon in '47. 1847, actually. Growing up in Bend, late 50's early 60's, I would have given the status to magpies. Obnoxious, skillful, thieves, etc. Now in MT for 20 some years, I'd have to say it's Ravens. Cunning birds, willful, and unafraid to speak their mind. read "A Fine and Private Place" by Peter S. Beagle, it'll take an afternoon and you'll be the better for it.