Okay, I love birds. I adore them. I watch them, feed them seeds even when it annoys my downstairs neighbours, share my home with one, the lovely and unnecessarily fierce Dora, the parrotlet. I try to admire them, even when they are pesky – pigeons and seagulls and like that have their good points and as soon as I can think through the groaning of a mating couple of pigeons on the upstairs balcony, I’ll write of them.
But Crows. Crows. Lots of crows. I don’t like them. There is a murder of them hanging about the ravine behind my house. There were a bunch of them hanging around my house in the country, when I lived in the country. Which accounted for the complete lack of songbirds in the area. Because the crows eat the songbirds. They chomp them down like a wee snacklet before supper, and they let the other crows know all about their snack site, so none of the wee birdies survive. The crows caw for about half an hour here twice a day – first in the morning over their AM baby bird break, and then in the evening over aperitifs and eggs. Or maybe they are eating the cats in the area. Or the squirrels. Or the wild pheasants who also holler in the ravine.
If only they’d get a good nip at the baby who is screaming upstairs. It hasn’t stopped since the parents brought it home from the hospital. Wait. It’s quiet up there tonight.
But no. They just scream at me and the dog and wave their tremendously sharp beaks at me when I head out for walkies. They don’t even move when the dog goes toward them – they just stare at him, beady eyes gleaming, calculating how many recruits they need to call in to take him down and separate him for din dins. He’s a miniature poodle. I figure three of them could take him, easy. And they are there, hanging upside down in the trees, pulling all the leaves off, shouting to each other, flapping and gliding past with malevolence in their glance. Heck, they frighten me, but then, I’ve seen “the Birds”, and blame Hitchcock for my immediate reaction to being mobbed by a mass of crows.
Even seagulls, in their packs, with those pre-bloodied spots on their beaks, are less intimidating. Because seagulls, god love them, aren’t smart. They are crafty, yes, they can eat anything, yes, and I once saw a mass of them dive bomb a parking lot in a demonstration of tremendous flying ability and timing. But smart, no.
Crows, though – well you know they are thinking about things. Studies have shown them using tools to achieve their goals, one of those things we used to use to decide if animals were as smart as humans. They understand speech. They know poor Chutney, my dog, has no ferocity in him unless you are a rubber squeaky toy. They know they could beat him, one wing tied behind their backs. Every time we go out, I see them thinking more about whether he’d be worth taking on. I’ve started avoiding the ravine as they gather when we walk there and shout down at us from the far too near treetops. I am soon going to disguise Chutney by dressing him in black and attaching wings in the hope they think of him as one of them.
Meanwhile, every crack of dawn, when the crows start their Henny Youngman type joke telling and raucous laughter, I think about their collective noun, and how appropriate it is.
A murder of crows…..sign me up!
(to all crows reading this….just teasing….I love you all, really. Truly I do.)