Sunday, March 24, 2019

RAMBLINGS & RECIPES - A Murder in the Backyard


Don't get your tail feathers in a spin!

I don't mean the bodies-buried-here kind of "murder". No, I'm talking about a group of crows. Apparently, the term "murder" was used to describe a flock of crows as far back as the 15th century. 

These birds are not the evil omen that some people think. Some cultures actually consider a crow to be good luck... unless you are a farmer with a crop of corn that the crows have taken a liking to.

Crows (along with ravens and parrots) are actually very intelligent birds, with the biggest brain-to-body size ratio of all the living birds. In lab experiments, they show a degree of cognition similar to that of the great apes. In fact, research has shown that they have a much higher density of neurons in their forebrains than primates do. Huh! Interesting!

I've been here at my daughter's house for the past couple of weeks. These crows show up several times a day, peering in her windows, and sometimes calling her with that familiar "Caw! Caw!". That's because she feeds them. And now they have started to bring her gifts! Little things. A pretty little rock. A bottle cap. I'm just waiting for them to bring her some bling. A diamond earring? A ruby ring?  Hmmm...

Anyway, these crows have very distinct personalities. "Greedy" as she has named him, can fit up to four peanuts in his beak before he flies off. He's the boldest of the bunch... and the biggest.

"Starlight" has a little white spot on the underside of one wing. We haven't named the rest, but there seem to be about six crows in this particular murder. One seems to be nesting, so we haven't seen much of her lately, but Greedy takes food to her. Did you know that crows mate for life? And they make so many different sounds! Sometimes they immitate her dog's barking. And sometimes they sound like they are purring.

There is a lot I didn't know about crows including some interesting Indian legends.  

I found several books about crows. Here are just a couple...

In the Company of Crows and Ravens 
by John Marzluff and Tony Angell 

From the cave walls at Lascaux to the last painting by Van Gogh, from the works of Shakespeare to those of Mark Twain, there is clear evidence that crows and ravens influence human culture. Yet this influence is not unidirectional, say the authors  of this fascinating book: people profoundly influence crow culture, ecology, and evolution as well. Examining the often surprising ways that crows and humans interact, John Marzluff and Tony Angell contend that those interactions reflect a process of “cultural coevolution.” They offer a challenging new view of the human-crow dynamic—a view that may change our thinking not only about crows but also about ourselves. 

Featuring more than 100 original drawings, the book takes a close look at the influences people have had on the lives of crows throughout history and at the significant ways crows have altered human lives. In the Company of Crows and Ravens illuminates the entwined histories of crows and people and concludes with an intriguing discussion of the crow-human relationship and how our attitudes toward crows may affect our cultural trajectory. As the authors state in their preface: “Crows and people share similar traits and social strategies. To a surprising extent, to know the crow is to know ourselves." 

Gifts of the Crow 
by John Marzluff and Tony Angell 

Stan Coren’s groundbreaking The Intelligence of Dogs meets Bernd Heinrich’s classic Mind of the Raven in this astonishing, beautifully illustrated look at the uncanny intelligence and emotions of crows.

Playful, social, and passionate, crows have brains that are huge for their body size, which allows them to think, plan, and reconsider their actions. They also exhibit an avian kind of eloquence, mate for life, and associate with relatives and neighbors for years. And to people who care for them and feed them, they often give oddly touching gifts in return. 

The ongoing connection between humans and crows—a cultural coevolution—has shaped both species for millions of years. Scientist John Marzluff teams up with artist-naturalist Tony Angell to tell amazing stories of these brilliant birds. With Marzluff’s extraordinary original research on the intelligence and startling abilities of corvids—crows, ravens, and jays—Angell’s gorgeous line drawings, and a lively joint narrative, the authors offer an in-depth look at these complex creatures and the traits and behaviors we share, including language, delinquency, frolic, passion, wrath, risk taking, and awareness. Crows gather around their dead, warn of impending doom, recognize people, commit murder of other crows, lure animals to their death, swill coffee and drink beer, design and use tools—including cars as nutcrackers—and windsurf and sled to play. 

With its abundance of funny, awe-inspiring, and poignant stories, Gifts of the Crow portrays creatures who are nothing short of amazing.

Sorry, but no recipe today! When I looked through my vast supply of recipes, all I could think about was the term "eating crow", and although I actually found a couple of recipes for crow, I just couldn't do it. These crows have become pets at my daughter's house! I can't even print out my mother's recipe for pigeon pie. Nope! Not going to do it! 

See ya next Sunday for more Ramblings and Recipes!


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