Monday, March 16, 2009

There's Just One Problem With Crows...

[Note: I published this today on as a response in kind to some friends who are involved in a humor-writing exercise.]

I'm not a writer; I came to Gather to share my photography and learn some more about how to take better pictures. So I'm not involved with the Writing Essentials programs, and specifically, I'm not involved with Dame Ruth's Mirthday Monday humor exercises. But a lot of my friends are, and I've been chuckling over the responses to this week's assignment of writing about what makes you angry. It reminded me of a comment I posted on an article by Ina as to why it wasn't a good idea to make her yard a place for Crows to hang out in so that they'd chase away her Hawks. I didn't do that subject nearly enough justice. I'm here today to rectify that.

Now don't get me wrong. I love Crows. Crows are Nature's born comedians; I can't watch them do their thing without cracking up. Crow is one of my totems; I hang out with Crows, we have animated conversations, and we even play together at times. Crows are my buddies, my psychic twins. But I would never, ever invite Crows to make my home theirs. Why is that, you ask? Ah! Time for another Nature lesson.

Crows roost at night. Not as individuals or as little Crow nuclear families, stopping at the nearest tree to rest for the night. Oh no, they roost en masse, all the Crows in a particular territory, all in one place. We're not talking flocks here, we're talking hordes. We're talking "the buffalo blanketed the Great Plains before the coming of the white man" sized populations, literally thousands settling in the trees of one block, maybe two. They descend like an invading army. They are an invading army.

They're noisy. They settle into the trees in the target area around sunset and get to squabbling, fussing, telling jokes and passing them up and down the line, laughing, cursing, and just generally being vocal. And being loud about being vocal. And even after they settle down and drift off to sleep, there are still some holding late-night conversations. Even the sleeping ones make noise all through the night, chortling and chuckling in their sleep, whoofing, sneezing, burping, cutting Crow-farts. A roosting horde of Crows is never silent. And then, about an hour before sunrise, they wake up and hold morning services, chanting to the Crow God, in unison, back and forth, call and response, this group over here taking a chorus, then that group over there. This goes on for an hour, before sunrise, while you're still trying to grab that last little bit of sleep. and at sunrise they scatter to the four winds, yelling and chattering all the way.

Roosting Crows are messy. When they settle onto their branches they start preening. En masse. This lets drop a veritable blizzard of worn out feathers, down, seed husks (food spillage; these guys are really sloppy eaters), dead skin, and Crow dandruff. Unhygenic and indescribably disgusting Crow byproducts fall from the trees in drifts to settle on your lawn, your garden, your outdoor furniture, your house, and your car.

But it gets even worse. Because, you see, Crows crap. All night long. Also on your lawn, your garden, your outdoor furniture, your house, and your car. Unfortunately, not only is this unhygenic and disgustingly filthy, but Crow crap is the most corrosive bodily fluid known to science. It eats the paint right off your car, your house, your nice black wrought iron garden furniture. It'll permanently stain (as in being burnt on) any wooden surfaces like picnic tables, park benches, and cedar shingles. It eats vegetation and renders yard and garden soil acidic, making it unable to support growing organisms.

I've seen whole neighborhoods totally devastated. A one-night stay is disastrous; if they settle in for a week, the place looks like the countryside around the Somme after the invading German armies successfully bombed the allies out of their trenches - burnt tree trunks, shells of houses, cows and sheep feet up in the fields. Its not a pretty sight.

You can take preventative measures. Here in Newport various institutions have installed sound systems which play a "birds in distress" soundtrack here and there in the city, which they turn on about an hour before sunset and play until about an hour after that event. The soundtrack is comprised of clips of various birds screaming in terror, or screaming while being eaten. This gives the impression that this is a very unfriendly environment for birds, and the Crows go look for a less stressful area to sleep. But this is only done around the public parks (so that you'll actually want to sit on the park benches) and various churches and other public venues. If you live back in the residential neighborhoods, you have to fend for yourself. Good luck!

So my advice is - no matter how much the sight of Hawks dining on songbirds offends your sensibilities, DO NOT invite the Crows in to drive them off. The resulting devastation will ruin your life, leave your neighbors in an uproar, and cause your property values to plummet. You'll be the most hated person in your town or city for having opened that particular door. You may even end up swinging from a lamppost. It's not worth it!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. oh roy, it has been awhile since i took a stroll your way. this is by far my very favorite post. you knwo i so love crows.

    after my daughter passed, i healed using unconventional therapies and during several (appts.) i would pull the black bird card each time.

    coming to this tonight...a sign. one i needed, affirmation. my life has changed profoundly in the past several months and i have grown so much and endured on my own, scary.

    but alas a back bird, the's good.


  2.'re a great writer! Funny and concise. I liked the story and the natural history too. You definitely have a special blog here.

  3. This story reminded me of something I read about the extinct passenger pigeon. Once the most numerous birds on earth (I recall, perhaps erroneously), they would nest en masse, thousands, even hundreds of thousands strong, sometimes leaving layers of bird guano FEET thick from a single night stay.

  4. woke up this morning with the song of crows!

    thanks for this great tutoring on the every thing you want to know about crows.

    I had a back yard bird bath that I had to get rid of because the dam crows kept putting dead things, and food scrap in...I don't know if they wanted to wash everything or make a soup but what a fementing disgusting mess.

  5. Wonderful, funny post - and good information.

    I'll take my crows a few at a time! I need them to hold still after all, and I've already a mess around my birdfeeders, dogs who dig holes, and horses who churn up lawn to make "trip hazards."

    (Crow painting almost done...)

  6. caw, caw, caw

    what a wonderful post!!! I have a total weakness for crows and love learning all the new bits! you can be sure I won't be inviting any crows to move in....

    I agree completely with kelly - you are a GREAT writer.....

    oh, the portraits of brother crow - priceless!