crow affection towards this human

by Jamie Lutton

The crows I see in my walk to work have been scarce, the last month or so. The four birds who occupy the two nests near my house have not been making themselves known; mostly I see the trash-eating birds who eat out of the bags of garbage left by the Thai restaurant on Broadway.  Unfortunately for their neighbors, they are leaving their trash out in thin plastic bags, and the crows know what to do with those. They rip them open with their beaks, and are learning to love Thai leftovers.

There is constantly a group of about eight to twenty crows picking the bags open and feasting on the bags of leftovers piled up on the side street by the garbage bin. By the time they are done, the trash is scattered everywhere. These crows are  very fat and happy looking, by the way. They have very shiny looking feathers, and they strut about like they own the street. They cluster in groups on the sidewalk, openly just hopping away from humans who pass by them.

 I hope all that spicy food is not making them sick.

They do not bother to hit on me for treats very seriously. I watch them eat the garbage; they hop over to me to see if I will give them a dog treat or two, but they are very happy to just munch on Phad Thai, and there is enough for everyone. They  hop about the bags as if it was a buffet.

A neighboring business owner took the bags one dawn and slashed them open, and left them in front of the restaurants door one day, to protest the mess, but they still use the same flimsy bags.  I saw the crows in front of the restaurant that day; they were having a wonderful time, as their work was done for them getting into the bags.

Some of these particular crows have no fear of me. I sat down about a half a block from this area, on some steps with a metal railing overhead, and watched them for a while with my treat bag in hand.  A few of the fattest, biggest crows would land on the railing, or right next to me on the steps, six inches away, both times, and keep me company; just sitting and staring at me while I stared back.  One of these crows had a crow shit stain on its face;  bright white, meaning he or she was feeding babies, as that is how they get a mark like that.

I have had this happen sometimes. A crow will just sit with me, or near me, and not ask for food, or take the food offered. I think they are just saying hello. I will quietly look back, and enjoy their dark beauty.

This morning I was leaving for work, and as usual my little black cat raced out between my legs onto my open leni, running down towards my neighbor's doorway, where sometimes the door is open and she can run inside and bother their cats.   I walked down and grabbed her gently, telling her she was a good cat, but I had to go to work. I felt her head swivel over my shoulder; she was staring at something behind me.  I looked back, there was a crow on the railing, staring at me.

I popped my cat in my apartment and turned around. The crow was still there, looking at me.  I threw a treat over to where he was, on the floor of the leni.  He shifted from one foot to the other. I put a few treats on the railing; he continued to stare at me, and walked back and forth on the edge of the leni.

He eventually took one of the treats,  walking over to it slowly, and  flew away.  His motive might have been just to drop by and say hello; maybe not hunger as the first motive.  And he forgave me for having a cat, which he could clearly see was mine, as I picked her up in front of him.

He stayed with me awhile, and we stared at each other  for a quiet moment. 

When I went outside, he was not in sight; I scanned the skies carefully, looking for him in the trees near my building, holding still so he could see me, and come down .  I did not interact with another crow till I was well away from the apartment.

In Crow Planet, the author said that if a crow is fond of a human, it will perch near him, and spend time with him. A crow does not want to be touched, as that slides into the predator/prey relations; in the wild if it is being touched, it is on the verge of being eaten. So, in the wild, a crow showing affection to another crow sits near it, and possibly preens it.  A crow could not preen a human; so a crow will just sit near a human,  I believe.

Crows are showing they like me now and then, and just sit near me, and let me look at them.  Usually it is very fat, older crows, who have figured out that  I mean no harm to them, that I am just a food tossing human.  The skinny,  younger crow are always still skeptical and skittish.

Other birds I have seen recently include a family of finches on my balcony. The nest on my balcony was never used, though completed. This made me sad, as I thought possibly one of the finches had been picked off by a predator; perhaps even a crow. But I had been putting out unsalted sunflower seeds on my balcony, as I heard finch song some mornings. And the seeds were being taken. One day, I looked out, and there were about 9 finches lined up on my balcony, and some of them were fat and were crouching on the balcony railing, instead of perching on it. Standing by them were a male and female, and they were all singing songs I had not heard before. Now and then, they flew down and ate out of the little bowl of seeds I had left for them.  Held my breath, peeking out at them. My little black cat ran from window to window, chattering her teeth, getting very excited.

One by one, however, they dropped into the air and flew away, though I would swear to it that the their parents were giving them flying lessons, by the way the older birds were chirping at them and the way they left, one by one, and not perched on that railing, but hugging it, hunched down and sitting on it, as if a bit nervous about the seven story drop in front of them.  They did fly well, however, and very fast, much faster than any crow I have ever seen; blip, and gone.

This was not my last  sighting of these finches.  These fat babies have come back to eat out of my bowl feeder, each time in the company of their dad.  I have seen them sitting, squatting, not perching, by the bowl, stuffing themselves on seeds, while the dad was perched on the other side of the bowl, shifting from one position to the other, hopping about, guarding the chick. I have seen him twice, with a baby finch, who was stuffing him or herself on seeds.

Maybe I know why they look so fat. I did set a good table; I kept the bowl full.

On my way home last night, and this morning, I spotted a starling's nest in the wall above a shop, from the noise the parents were making. I stopped, crained my head up, to watch them getting fed.  The nest was in a tiny hole in the wall of the shop, 15 feet up, above a tiny projection from a metal bit. The parents perched on the metal bit sticking out of the wall, and fed the babies, who stuck their heads out of the wall. You could barely see the hole, except from the bright white streak of their bird poo.

The mother or father would fly in, disappear into the hole for awhile, fly out, and the little heads would stick out, cheeping. The mother or father were making regular visits, as I watched, flying to the hole, and flying out and towards Dick's Drive In, looking for crumbs, I guess. I wanted to stay, and watch them, but my neck was giving out, and I had places to go.

This morning, on my way to work, after being visited by that crow, I looked up and I saw the parents visiting this nest again.  The babies were still sticking their heads out ,and making cheeping noises, as the parents flew back and forth to the nest.  Yesterday, I had gone inside to one of the business where I have friends, and told them about the nest. They knew about the babies, and had been watching them, too. They said that earlier, the parents had dive-bombed them,  when they took too close an interest.

I am resolved next spring to take the time to go looking for more nests, so I can see more young birds and their parents.  These glimpses have made me want to see more, and learn more, about birds in general, not just my magnificent crows.

There is one crow's nest I know the location of. I am going to check it and see if there are any youngsters in it right now.  I will report back if I could see any young crows.

I hope not to be attacked by irritated a papa and mama crow. 



  1. Hello John and Jamie,
    I can report that the crow we rescued and began raising a month ago--but who lives outside and has some contact with his crow family-- is very affectionate indeed. He loves to perch on a hand, shoulder, or foot, and will relax so deeply there that his wings and head droop. He can be very persistent in his grooming of us and playful biting of ears, nose, etc. As I say he is completely at liberty, but has come to love human company. He can in fact be soothed to sleep by gentle stroking of the feathers on his neck.

    Neil, BC

    1. That you! That's wonderful. I hope he lives a good, long life.



Post a Comment