Speaking Of Crows : Part 3

If you’ve been following the blog for a while you’ll know I’ve been working on making friends with the small murder of Crows that resides near my house. And what better way to befriend a wild animal than to feed it?

Last year I noticed they were over at the neighbors quite often, eating under her front pine tree. Not sure what she was putting out there, but I was eager to have some ebony-winged visitors of my own. After some research I found out that they really like peanuts in the shell and pet kibble so started tossing a bit of that into the side yard between my house and said neighbor.

It didn’t work all that well. The Crows would come, but they acted very, very uncomfortable about the location I’d chosen. I suspect it had to do with the big forsythia bush and the woodpile being fine places for cats to hide. Especially after I saw our local prowler out there lurking in the bush, eyeballing the array of bird feeders my son maintains.

After some consideration, the feeding spot was moved to the back corner of the property, some twenty feet from the new deck we put up just before the wedding in August. Not so many hiding places for the cat and a comfy place for me to sit and watch my future feathered friends should they ever got over their obscene level of paranoia.

More research had taken place between the start of the experiment and then and I’d learned to use some sort of call every time I went out to scatter the goodies.  I considered an actual Crow call, but was quickly talked out of that idea when my fellow Corvid enthusiasts said it probably wasn’t a good idea if I lived in an area that permitted Crow hunts. Sadly, I do. In fact, I pretty much refuse to patronize a certain bar in nearby Pennsylvania because they sponsor a Crow hunt every year. Shame… it’s a nice bar, but I just don’t feel right giving money to a place that encourages the senseless killing of my totem animal.

Be that as it may … the feeding place was moved and in a way I allowed the Crows to train me at first. I’d wait until I heard them cawing away in the front maple tree. That told me they were nearby and that they’d see me, unless they flew away, of course, which they did for awhile. Thus, leaving the peanuts to the ever-vigilant Blue Jays instead. Blue Jays are Corvids as well, so I can’t really get too annoyed at them for being clever like that. From my studies, I knew the Crows watched the Blue Jays, so I’ve let it slide and besides, running back out there shooing away the Jays won’t encourage the Crows that it’s a safe place to fly down and feed.

Since returning from our honeymoon, the tactics have been changed slightly. I’ll sometimes still go out if I hear the Crows in the tree, but not always. And when I do, I’ll look to see where they are – usually in the front maple watching and waiting – give the whistle, rattle the plastic dish, then toss out the goodies. I want them to associate that whistle with food, Pavlov’s Crows, if you will.  Just this past week, I’ve found that I can go out on the back deck, shake the dish and whistle and eventually, the Crows will arrive. It’s slow and not always guaranteed. On Saturday I went out three times and when no Crows came the first two times, I went back inside after fifteen minutes without putting the food out. This did not sit well with the Jays, but they’ll get over it, I’m sure.

My third attempt was a success. Maybe the first two times they just weren’t within hearing range of the whistle, but the third time, within ten minutes after stepping out the back door and whistling, the first Watcher Crow came to perch in the maple before moving closer to pine beside the one I feed them under. I waited a bit, whistled again and then another showed up. Of course, the Jays were already bouncing around in the tree oh-so-eager. I’m surprised they don’t dive bomb me while I have the dish in hand.

Knowing the Crows won’t come down until I walk away, I had no choice but to toss out the nuts and kibble. They had seen me, they heard the whistle, they knew I had the food and well, it was up to them to get rid of the Jays if they wanted to get any of it.

They are getting braver and don’t fly away quite so quickly as they used to when I step out. In fact, the Watcher Crow doesn’t even move from his perch now. He, well, watches. When he deems the coast is clear, then they will come down and feed. And, when I first started there were only three Crows. This weekend, there were four. Maybe Jr. got himself a girlfriend?

It’s going to be tougher now with the time change in effect. Crows go to roost before sunset and now I won’t be getting home from work until after that. Kind of sucks. This leaves me only the weekends or days I have off to try and call them in. I’ll keep at it though and post another progress report in a few more months… sooner if something phenomenal happens!

Caw, caw, caw!

Speaking of Crows : Part 2

When last I wrote of the crows, they (and the starlings and blue jays) were nibbling on stale whole grain Cheerios and left over popcorn.

I’ve been doing more research on my favorite bird since then and quickly learned that not only are they keen on in-shell peanuts, but dog and/or cat kibble. When grocery day came, I bought both and hoped for the best. If it didn’t work, I’d only be out about $10.

For nearly a week now I have been putting out 8-10 in-shell peanuts and a handful of dog kibble in the same place I’d put the popcorn and Cheerios, the side lawn just beyond the regular bird feeders. Consistency is important and I hoped that the crow family would eventually come around again.

When I heard the crows nearby in the morning as I was packing my lunch for work, I’d put the food in a plastic dish and shake it to make noise as I walked out to the feeding spot. I could tell SOMETHING was eating the peanuts as the shells would be cracked and scattered, but wasn’t sure what.

This morning, it was business as usual. I heard the *caw-caw-caw*, went and got my little dish and headed out. Within ten minutes, one of the crows had arrived. He was very, very wary – doing a little side step shuffle thing before grabbing one of the peanuts, hopping back quickly, then carrying it out a bit further into the lawn to crack it open. He came back time and time again though, taking some kibble then a peanut each time. Eventually he was joined by another crow who seemed a bit less timid. Of course, by then, most of the peanuts were gone, but it looked like he found one still left as well as noshing on some of the kibble.

I’m very excited about the progress. At least now I know that they know the food is there and I will continue with my efforts to make them my friends.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Campbell-Smith : The Corvid Blog :  http://coyot.es/thecorvidblog/

Speaking of Crows…

After years of dreaming, I have what I call ‘my crows’ now.

Saturday morning I tossed 1/3 of a bag of stale Cheerios out into the lawn, about 25 feet from the kitchen sink window along with three very blackened bananas. My hope was to entice the crows I’ve seen around, but that never seem to get very close. I had no idea if they were into bananas but the Cheerios seemed promising. I went out to the kitchen around 4:30 to start dinner and much to my delight, three crows were out there eating the Cheerios. Even better, it appeared to be a family unit of mom, dad, and baby though baby was just as big as mom and dad.

S/He kept hopping after one or the other squawking and open-mouthed while doing that wing-flapping FEED ME thing. Mom and Dad were having none of that. The food is right there, buddy. Help yourself! Junior was quite persistent until one of the parents had had enough of that nonsense, nudged its offspring rather roughly and flew away with an annoyed “Knock it off,” squawk. Junior seemed rather confused at this and turned around to find himself alone as Parent #1 had hopped off quite a ways during the ruckus. I’d like to say it was Mom that got pissed and stormed off, while Dad went about his business from a safe distance. Mom eventually returned and the family unit lingered a bit longer, one taking a few pecks at the offered bananas but otherwise, not much interest.

Saturday night I indulged in some popcorn and intentionally left a couple handfuls over to be put out in the same area as the Cheerios. Knowing crows are early risers, I’d planned on tossing the leftovers out early, but didn’t make it until around 8:30 or so. Way too late. Still, I remained hopeful and put them out.

Around 4:00, again, as I was doing some dinner prep, I looked out the kitchen window and there were ‘my crows’ checking out the popcorn, picking up more of the Cheerios and from what I could tell, still ignoring the bananas.

At 6:30 this morning while putting my lunch together and sipping coffee, I looked out. Guess who was there? Yup, “my crows” and I think maybe one was showing more interest in one of the bananas. Sadly, I had nothing new to put out before I left for work.  They are so much fun to watch and maybe one of these days I can be out there when they land and feed instead of 25 feet away and hidden behind two layers of glass. They’re pretty jumpy. One even did an impressive hop when my son coughed upstairs in his bedroom so this will take time.

I’m happy to watch them from afar for now, but I think it’s time to buy a big bag of peanuts in the shell and start putting a few of those out every morning. I’m told crows really like peanuts in the shell and it’s much more appealing to me than tossing road kill out there.