Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Beauty in a Murder

Des Moines has a crow problem. Or at least that's what the city officials say. Each morning as I arrive at work I get to see hundreds and hundreds of crows heading out from their nightly roost to find food for the day. Each evening as I leave I see them return to that roost. They crowd into the trees and sleep together for safety and warmth (they only roost in the winter). The city says it's a problem. I think it's incredible. But then again I think crows in general are pretty incredible.

The Corvid family includes the smartest birds in the bird world. It includes crows, rooks, magpies, ravens, and jays. They are all smart enough that captive corvids require stimulation. Ravens are given toys to keep them from going mad. Crows and rooks have shown tool usage, what used to be the distinguishing feature between humans and animals. And not only are they smart but they are evolutionary marvels. Crows can live anywhere. Eat almost anything. They are the winning species in terms of evolving to live with humans. Which I think is one of the reasons, we as humans don't like them. We see them a lot. And their scavenger/opportunistic ways, make us uncomfortable. But they have won the evolution game with those same tactics.

The first time I saw a crow walk I could practically see the velocirapter in its movements. Crows strut. They bob their heads as they walk in a movement that looks prehistoric. It looks like they stepped out of the jurassic period. These are birds that existed before the most recent ice age. They have had a long history, despite human's frequent attempts to exterminate them. Crows are everywhere. They are listed as a species of least concern in terms of endangerment. We see them every day. But I wonder if we really think about how well this species has done. The city of Des Moines alone has thousands of birds most of them sleeping downtown. Enough that people have been complaining. Other cities have more. Plus crows live out in the country as well. I think the number alone say something. You can look at a crow and see their inky blackness as ugly or terrible. I see them as intelligent interesting birds that have learned to adapt. And we (as humans) can sometimes be tough to adapt to.


Keith said...

I love seeing a crow coming in for a landing where other birds have congregated. It's like watching a flock of geese scatter as a jumbo jet lands on them.

Big, glorious, loud, obnoxious birds, bless 'em.

Cat B said...

They do tend to scatter. It's pretty funny. Although I now have an image of crows as jumbo jets. :-) Thanks.

Keith said...

I swear, you can almost hear the engines as they touch down.