Posted by: atowhee | March 28, 2021


The corvids are good animal trainers. Given time they can get people to do their bidding. “Feed me peanuts, you careless caretaker!” That’s how they’ve trained me. Every home we’ve had occupied or visited had with it a different mix of corvids. In San Francisco we were near the Cliff House and Pacific Ocean. That meant ravens ruled. They nested annually in the park two blocks from our front door. On stormy days the young ravens would go into the wind and perform for one another. All lesser avians were hunkered down, protecting wing and plumage, Not so the ravens. The only times I saw them defeated was when they went after a small raptor. One pair tried to bully a Merlin into giving up his House Finch lunch. The Merlin drove off each with a frontal attack–talons toward the chest, despite being about one-third the size of his tormentors. Another raven pair attacked a migrating Cooper’s Hawk, driving him from the sky into a Monterey cypress. The two ravens sat on top of the tree croaking victoriously. The cypress is very dense and the Coop used that cover to sneak around and then he attacked one of the unaware ravens from behind–feathers knocked off. The two ravens beat a hasty retreat. I suspect the Coop enjoyed his last laugh. That same park was home to scrub-jays.

In Ashland we would get up to 14 Steller’s Jays at our feeders and usually a pair of bullying scrub-jays. Rarely a crow or raven would pass overhead, never landing. The Stellers elected one of their young males to come up onto our garden porch and dance a jig until I got up and gave them peanuts! There the Wild Turkeys would go onto the roof of the garage and look in the kitchen window, gobbling loudly until I fed them. They only came around the houses when the young could fly to escape the local dogs.

In McMinnville we heard crows, rarely saw ravens near our house and got only scrub-jays at our feeders. They fled the minute were outside.

Now in Salem there are usually five scrub-jays, two Steller’s and at least three crows at our feeders daily. The crows sit on the power line to the house and demand peanuts onto our driveway though most of them get taken by the bolder, quicker jays. When I go out to obey their command, they sit watching, no flying away, just impatience until I go back inside.

One of our garden crows, carefully selecting only the finest sunflower seeds.

When we lived in London we often saw magpies and Carrion Crows. The very shy Eurasian Jay was in larger, forested parks like Dulwich, Kew Gardens and Hampstead Heath, and usually hard to photograph. To get Jackdaws or Rooks you had to get into the countryside and smaller cities. Chough were in very limited range down in Cornwall or parts of Ireland. and the only ravens near London were captives in the The Tower. In Paris you could easily find magpies and crows in the parks. In rural Tuscany we saw the hooded version of the Carrion Crow, and jays. In Rome we saw the magpie and crow, of course, and around the many stone ruins we found Jackdaw colonies. Jackdaws nest in the stones at Stonehenge and on most of the large cathedrals and castles across England. On Lesvos we saw four corvid species–raven, crow, jackdaw and Eurasian Jay.

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