Appalachia Crows

A Craziness Of Crows

 Murder of crows

A CRAZINESS OF CROWS 

Written by Jim Casada (Copyright 2011)

When Tipper told me she planned a series of blogs on crows and asked if I might be interested in contributing, I immediately responded with an enthusiastic “yes.” Crows and their close brethren, ravens, have always fascinated me. In the seventh grade, under the tutelage of a masterful teacher, Mrs. Mildred Wood, who could absolutely make Edgar Allen Poe come alive, I memorized “The Raven.” Then there was Grandpa Joe, who detested “those thievin’ scoundrels.”  That was back when crows were notorious for raiding corn crops and gardens rather than their modern-day preferences for gourmet road kill.

Older readers will almost certainly recall a time when crows were considered worrisome indeed for farmers and were, along with owls and hawks, shot or at least shot at, on sight. Such doin’s are mostly illegal today, although many states do have a crow hunting season. During my boyhood though, you had to answer to adults in no uncertain fashion if you had a gun in hand and failed to shoot (or at least shoot at) crows and raptors if they were within range. Every hawk was a “chicken hawk,” owls were just generally considered no good, and crows were deemed the worst of the avian lot.

Once I learned about collective nouns, one of my two favorites immediately became a “murder of crows” (or ravens). As an aside, my other favorite, and Lord a-mercy is it apt in today’s political climate, is a “congress of baboons.” While crows may not actually “murder” with regularity, they will rob eggs from the nests of songbirds and ground-nesting game birds such as quail, grouse, and even turkeys. Although they have to be given full marks for their intelligence, crows are also loud-mouthed bullies. Anyone who has spent much time outdoors has seen them “deviling” other birds, notably hawks and owls, and once one of these black rascals starts fussing it seems every crow for miles around wants to get in on the harassment.

Crows love to devil turkeys, especially gobblers, during the mating season. Maybe that’s because the call of a crow will often make a wild turkey gobble, but more likely it’s just pure meanness. Whatever the cause, years ago I had experience with these black boogers which momentarily had me believing a hunter’s time warp had somehow placed me squarely in the middle of Alfred Hitchcock’s frightening terrifying thriller, “The Birds.”

While hunting turkeys in the Low Country of South Carolina, I struck a bird (that’s turkey hunter talk for getting one to respond to my calling). The lovesick old gobbler starting working my way on slow-paced turkey time, no doubt wondering why that seductive hen heard (my calling) wasn’t coming to him like she was supposed to do. After he gobbled three or four times, the tom turkey got the attention of crows. The closer to me he got and the more he gobbled, the bigger ruckus the crows raised. They were wound up tight as an eight-day clock, and so was the old tom. His normal wariness forgotten, that longbeard was convinced that my plaintive calling held promise of a romantic rendezvous of woodland delight.

The turkey with his one-track mind set on love pretty well ignored the crows, never mind the fact that they were dive bombing him, making enough noise to rival a whole host of tone-deaf singers auditioning for the Tower of Babel Oratorio Chorus, and darting in and out of the open pine forest like a band of black banshees. Old tom turkey may have paid no heed, but I sure did. Under the best of circumstances I lose all semblance of calm as a turkey nears shooting range, and for those of you who don’t hunt them, let me assure you that a big tom strutting through the spring woods looks like a runaway black Volkswagen beetle with the doors open. When he gobbles, the earth shakes, or maybe it’s just me. Anyway, something shakes.

This time, though, it was worse. I could see the turkey long before he came within gun range, and the cacophony produced by well over a hundred crows was like date night in the insane asylum.

Still, the gobbler came on steadily; somehow I didn’t become a complete basket of nerves, and when the majestic lord of the big woods was within 35 yards I squeezed the trigger. The longbeard began flopping in a way which will be familiar to anyone who has ever chopped off a chicken’s head (that’s likely lots of Blind Pig folks), and I excitedly raced from my set-up spot to lay hold of my trophy.

What I hadn’t counted on was the reaction of the crows. My shotgun blast did not spook them in any way. In fact, when the turkey began to flop, they went berserk. Evidently they somehow thought they were responsible for the turkey’s death. Worse still, they began to dive bomb me as well, flying within inches of my head. Only when I jerked off my camouflage headnet and cap and began waving my arms and yelling did the raging rapscallions finally decide they had urgent business elsewhere. That experience, while not a murder of crows, certainly must be reckoned one to justify the title of this tale. It was a craziness of crows, and honesty forces me to admit that for a brief time sheer, abject, almost wet-your-britches fear was a close companion of mine.

——————————-

I hope you enjoyed Jim’s story as much as I did!-Jim Casada is a full-time freelance writer who has written, edited, or contributed to close to 100 books. His articles have appeared in most of the major regional and national hunting magazines. He is Editor at Large for Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazine. He considers this the strangest of all his experiences in the sport. You can learn more about Jim or sign up to get his free monthly e-newsletter at www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com.

Drop back by tomorrow for more crow as The Week of the Crow continues.

Tipper

 

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Judy
    September 29, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Loved this story. I, too, memorized The Raven in school and am fascinated with these birds. Just recently I saw a bunch of crows chase a cat across my back yard. They were not at all afraid of it and like this post said, they were squawking and yelling so loud it caught my attention in the house.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    September 27, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Wonderful post, Jim! Crows are such smart birds, I always enjoy seeing them around, even when I have to take special measures to protect my sweet corn.

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    September 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I have long been fascinated with Crows. As I grew up I heard about the crow my father as a kid had tamed and taught to mimic several words.
    Here outside of Lexington, VA we have a well-established murder of Crows. A year or two ago there was a huge gathering–a clan gathering of some sort–and scores of crows, at least 75 to 80, flew in formations, would land for a time and take off again. I took lots of pictures because it was an amazing sight.
    Finally, I’ve read scientific researchers at the University of Washington performed experiments demonstrating that crows can recognize individual human faces and hold grudges against individual humans for past acts. Here is a link to a 2008 NY Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/26/science/26crow.html

  • Reply
    Tom
    September 27, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Thanks for sharing Jim, I really enjoy your writing. Looking forward to the Christmas tale!

  • Reply
    sandyk
    September 27, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Loved the post! Jim painted such a picture – I was scared for him. I love birds and I think the crows are beautiful, but not beautiful like a little blue bird.

  • Reply
    RB
    September 26, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    The crows we’ve seen bedeviling hawks and owls are doing so because those birds are trying to kill their young, so I can’t fault ’em there. Plus, they’re mighty good watch dogs, errr…birds if you have a rookery of ’em nesting in your trees.
    God bless.
    RB
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  • Reply
    NCMountainwoman
    September 26, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    It was a great story. We have lots of crows around here. They drive our dog Lucy crazy. She can’t understand why they don’t fly immediately but just hop and hop on the ground. Perhaps the crows know that I have a tight grip on the leash.

  • Reply
    Ethel
    September 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Great story, thanks so much for sharing!
    While I have seen crows devil other birds, I have also seen sparrows gang up on a crow. Seems fair to me, and as a bonus, it is usually comical to watch!

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    September 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I always have been fascinated to see two or three crows harass a much larger hawk, yet the smaller B-Martin will chase crows(?)go figure.

  • Reply
    Charlotte
    September 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Yes, I did enjoy Jim’s story; great writing!

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    September 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Jim Casada knows crows. What a good story . Crows love to worry old gobblers. We too ate one old gobbler from Jim’s home state once upon a time thanks to a bunch of crows . Larry Proffitt

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    September 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I really enjoyed the story. Keep it coming Tipper!

  • Reply
    Susan L
    September 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    I love today’s post and can’t wait to see what else crow related you have for us this week! Ever since you mentioned it I find myself humming the song Three Raven all the time. 🙂

  • Reply
    Ken
    September 26, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Tipper,
    Thanks for letting Jim do his
    masterful thing. I was already a
    laughing when he started describing that black Voltswagon
    with its doors open moving through
    the woods. I could just see that!
    Jim, thank you for that enjoyable
    story “A Craziness of Crows.” .Ken

  • Reply
    Bradley
    September 26, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Jim,
    Great story and the story was painted well with your descriptions of that day. I too once had a fabulous teacher when I was a boy. As a treat for good behavior and good test scores, she would often read us short stories and poetry. She could make Poe’s “The Raven” (to mention a few) come to life. She had the greatest facial expressions when she would read. She could make you a part of what she was reading! She was unbelievable.
    Thanks again for the story Jim.
    Bradley

  • Reply
    georgie
    September 26, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Great story Jim. It was easy to visualize it because of your descriptions. I like the crows around here except when they attack seagulls and other birds. Even though the gulls are considerably bigger, that doesn’t stop the crows from berating them.

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    September 26, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Loved the story, Jim. I remember when I was growing up, Grandpa was always going crow hunting to keep them out of his corn. A dead crow was a good crow, according to him!
    Thank you for the great story!

  • Reply
    Cee
    September 26, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Jim can sure paint a picture – woke me up from my Monday morning stooper!
    Crows are pretty interesting characters. My husband tells me of one that befriended a cousin of his when they were in grade school. It would follow him everywhere he went. I’m not sure if that is typical behavior for a crow or if this was some type of fluke.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth K
    September 26, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Many thanks to Jim for his story. It’s interesting that people used to kill crows, owls, etc. and now it isn’t done which is good.
    I read some lore that if a crow came to one’s home it portended a death in the house. Also, if you wanted to keep them away from the garden, kill one and hang it from a pole placed in the garden – that would keep the rest away.

  • Reply
    Becky
    September 26, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Love the story, Jim. Your writing had me sitting in a tree watching and snickering a little. LOL
    What an experience that must have been.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 26, 2011 at 8:43 am

    I declare, Jim, you do have a way with words. A true wordsmith you are.
    The story was fun but the telling was better!
    Thank you for sharing with us.
    I am fond of crows they populate my back woods regularly. Possibly because I put food out.
    They work together as a team gathering the food.
    They appear as a relay team taking turns eating and guarding, watching and squawking!

  • Reply
    dolores
    September 26, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Thanks for the story! I, too, was fascinated with Poe and clearly remember his Raven tale. Crows have amazed me, but I must admit I don’t think I would want them to crowd around me. That would have been a Hitchcock revisted movie. Great tale!

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    September 26, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Great story, Jim! I now know why we don’t see turkeys when our murder is on site. Actually, I’ve gotten to “know” some of the older crows, and they know me. They know I’m the corn lady and start calling when they see me heading for the creep feed. They sit very gentlemanly and ladylike in low limbs around the feeder until I start walking away. Then it’s every crow for him/herself. Those are some pretty clever critters.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    September 26, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Great story, Jim, thank you. Crows and ravens are known to shadow predators so they can share in the prey. I guess they wanted a turkey dinner, too!
    Since ravens are very close relatives of crows, I’ll add that a group of ravens is called “an unkindness of ravens”. I’m not sure where that came from!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 26, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Tipper,
    Thanks Jim for a fasinating story…kept me on edge until the end…Glad you made it outta there with your scalp and eyes intact..Do you think in a time past those crows had outsmarted a previous hunter, scared him off and gotten the headless turkey for their supper? Scary…The movie, “The Birds” scared me to death as a teenager!
    Thanks Jim and Tipper this is going to be a fun week in crowland!

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