Our neighbors are likely to have pets: the cats we enjoy watching, the dogs who are eager to greet us. But keeping a domestic animal seems like a big responsibility to me; we don’t even have a houseplant. Most of our inter-species encounters therefore involve what you might call wildlife.
Since the Middle Ages at least, certain animals have gained a reputation for their . . . unique . . . relationship with humans. In point of fact, it doesn’t take much to become the kind of person with whom a crow might wish to associate.
Crows are masters not just of cunning in general, but of disguise in particular. To many people they are indistinguishable, one from another. With crows, though, you have a friend wherever you go.
Years ago, a colleague was surprised when I mentioned “plumage” as a reason for admiring crows; but I think their satiny blackness is just unbeatable. If they want to use it for anonymity, that’s their business.
Some crows will reveal their identity. One we sometimes see near Vine Street wears red and green bracelets on both legs. Another, whom some called “Whitey,” had white feathers on his face and neck, year after year. This bird preferred not to greet you directly, instead sending an emissary to assess your intentions, before appearing in person.
The crow shown at right is now our nearest. He and his mate guard the Grange Life Insurance building across the street from us. They are the ones who may actually come when called, depending on their mood and location. Sort of like cats.
Or perhaps I am the one who comes when called: when the birds visit our balcony, I usually go down to the street with an offering for them. The crow at the top of the page is pictured at the Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park; the crow standing on the brick wall works at the Fremont PCC and often meets me there. The crow displaying his plumage, above, has a territory to the west of us. Here’s our neighbor Bandy:
During much of the year, crows like to socialize. Once a week or so, two or three dozen of them will meet atop one or another of the buildings in our neighborhood to gab and show off. Their favorite venue is the roof of the Bay Vista Towers. Here’s a bootleg video of a meeting in October showing crows enjoying a southeasterly breeze.
On the roof of our own building, a big fake plastic owl protects a patch of blueberries, among other crops. The owl is no match for our crows though.
Every crow has to start somewhere. This little fledgling’s parents, at Tillicum Place, have left on some important crow business, with instructions not to move and to be very quiet, relying on the kindness, or inattention, of strangers. Note the still-short feathers and the bit of red color remaining at the rear of the beak.
Living near downtown, we share our crows with a lot of other people; but when we had an old house with our own yard and trees our relationship with our familiars was much more intimate. For those who have not heard it, here is that story.