Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Life of crows

Here's a link to a beautiful gallery of photos of the Seattle Arboretum.

Walk the waterside trails of the Arboretum at night. Look up, and you will see hundreds (thousands?) of crows perched in the laced branches of the overgrowing trees. At night the Arboretum is home to the (baziillions?) of crows that commute to the University of Washington campus every day. Being surrounded by so many crows is awe-inspiring, and eerie. Birds are...unsettling. They have changed very little in 150 million years, and they are the closest thing to a dinosaur you will ever see.

Crows are corvids--related to the granola-loving gray jay that populates the subalpine Cascadian forests--known for their intelligence. This intelligence is demonstrated in their aptitude for problem-solving, their ability to communicate and work in groups, and in that way they look at you. (Think of the khaki-clad game warden, in "Jurassic Park", describing a velociraptor: "That one... when she looks at you, you can tell she's working things out. ") And crows--without being domesticated--have adapted their foraging skills to suit urban life. Just take a look at this video:

Crows have also inspired lots of Pacific Northwestern artists. Here are some papercut works by Nikki McClure, a (locally) well-known artist who lives in Olympia:

The Aboretum crows forage during the day all over the UW campus, where they often encounter perennial crow frenemy, research scientists. John "Corvid Man" Marzluff, a UW wildlife researcher, recently found that crows will remember the faces of individual people who have harassed or helped them, and respond to them accordingly, even years later. Here's an article about his research in the New York Times (and the answer to Dick Cheney's question: "Why do crows hate me so much?")

1 comment:

  1. Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlof paints a picture a man made murderous by, well, murders of crows in her novel Gosta Berling's Captain Kristian.

    "He hated them so bitterly that he would put on a woman's long garment in the autumn and tie a kerchief around his head, and make himself ridiculous to every man just to get within shooting range of them where they were eating grain on the fields.

    He sought them out at the courting dance on bare fields in the spring and killed them. He sought out their nests in summer and evicted the shrieking, featherless chicks or crushed the unhatched eggs."