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Sunday, July 10, 2011

a man who would stomp on baby crows

By Jamie Lutton


I have not been observing much that was unique about my local crows lately;  I did see a nest of pigeons, and they were cute, up in the rafters of my dry cleaner.  But I did not observe them for long, as it was upsetting the mother. They were in a very bare nest, in a crack high up in a wall, about 15 feet up.  I spotted them because they made a fuss while they were getting fed. The mother had the sense to fly away, but he babies creeek-creeked after she left for a while. Two of them; grey, and mostly feathered, almost as big as their mother.  I kept my distance, but watched them for a while. They were very cute, blind, bobbing their heads about.

On my way home last night, I saw a crow standing in the street behind QFC. I thought it was old or injured, as it was just standing there, without the alert atitude of most crows; looking unhappy and confused. Of course I had to check on it.  I noted that its feathers did not look long enough; did not come down towards its feed far enough, and when it cried out, it was at a higher pitch. It let me walk right up to it, and the inside of its mouth was pink. I realized it was a baby. It was the same size of its parents; but not completely formed.  Overhead, there were two crows, scolding me; the parents, I assumed.

This anxious young crow was too young to fly. I got down and looked at it, to encourage it to take off; all it did was walk away from me, back into the middle of the street. This street is not very busy, but I realized that there was a crisis on hand. I was going to have to keep an eye on this baby, until I figured out what to do. I did not want to see it mauled by a dog or a car or a cat.

It really wanted to walk back and forth in the middle of the street. I kept shooing it back out of the street. At one point, I tried to feed it a crow treat, but it would have none of that. I even tried picking it up; the parents overhead really scolded me then; the cawing got louder and angrier then. I had to motion several cars to go around us, as I crouched in the middle of the street near it, moving with it. A passerby called out that it had been wandering about for hours.  He said 'arent you afraid of it's parents?" I said 'no, I know them, I photograph them (my fib) in the early morning. They won't hurt me" but they were diving at my head. I ignored them, and focused on that baby.

I felt so helpless. Even if I took it home, I couldn't help it. I have a very energetic cat. And what would I feed it?  Best thing would be to shoo it off the street somewhere safe, so the parents could deal with it, and feed it.

I finally shooed it, using my bag, into a vacant lot with a lot of tall grass half a block away. I saw it walk far into the tall ragged weeds and flowers.  Overhead, one of the parents peeled away, flying into the distance. I hoped she was going to get food for the baby crow.

I left them to it, hoping that the crows would not be angry with me for interfering.  The curious thing was, that evening, I was doing my laundry, and a elderly white haired resident, a man, someone I have known for years who was friendly to me (I thought)  came up and asked me,  as I emptied the dryer, if anything interesting had happened to me lately.   I started to tell him about the young crow. I did not get to the point to where I shooed it out of the street, just that I had seen it. He started to scream at me, leaning into my face, screaming  that I should have stomped on the baby crow. He said 'stomped' several times.

He said that the crows ate all the songbirds in the neighborhood, and that they were an invasive species, not native to North America. I interrupted him, and said (mildly) that he was confusing them with sparrows. And he leaned in, screaming at me, saying no, no, no, I was wrong.  I blinked, and (being in sales at work) I tacked and said, we would have a lot fewer crows if we, as people, covered our garbage.That the reason we have so many crows about is all the trash up at Broadway.  The crows are eating our garbage, mostly. And he calmed down a bit. But then he contiued to scream at me, waving his arms.

I pointed out, mildly (I hope) that for every crow he saw, that was one Norway rat he did not see, as crows ate the garbage the rats would eat; and rats ate baby birds too. And that Western man had brought the rats with us, when we came to the New world.  He bellowed 'I never heard that one before'. and stomped off. I called out to him that I was taken aback by his behavior, his raising his voice, and that he acted like I had admired a burglar in the street, not a baby bird.

This man really expected me, or would himself, stomp on a lost baby bird wandering in the street, because it might, due to its nature, eat other birds. I wonder if he eats eggs himself, from chickens kept in terrible conditions in factory farms, suffering by inches daily. Yick.  Or eat meat of any kind. Crows, at least, catch their prey fairly, and yes, they are a native bird. And yes, if you want fewer of them, don't drop garbage, food leavings everywhere.

It is a mass cultural problem, not to be solved by screaming at someone who had compassion for a stray baby bird, fallen from it's nest, with its parents flying overhead, panicked and distraught. 

So. Be careful if you admire crows. They have dire human enemies, who do not hesitate to lean in to your face and scream at you if you admire them, even if lost baby bird in the street.  And it is true about the Norway rats.  This city is full of them, and they eat young birds and eggs, if they can get to them.  They live everywhere.   And, if you hate crows, and love songbirds, do you eat commercial eggs?

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