Legends of the crow
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Media contact: Jessica Basham
It's not a typical winter morning in Florida. Most of the state
is 70 degrees and it's January! Everything outside the window looks
brown, bare and dull. The world feels asleep right now. The only
noise is the rustling of leaves and the coo of a mourning dove.
Then, I hear it, loud and clear…the caw of a crow. It is a sound I
hear daily, even on the dreariest of winter mornings.
There is a large, dying oak tree in the yard next to mine and
many other tall trees in the neighborhood. The crows like to perch
in these tall trees. They talk to each other all the time.
Sometimes I wonder what they chatter about. Are they telling each
other about a nearby predator or laughing about something funny?
These all-jet-black birds (from beak to feet) are crafty,
intelligent, social creatures that live in family groups.
Crows, ravens and other black-plumaged birds are often seen as
dark, scary or mysterious. However, there are just as many positive
legends about these clever birds that people don't know. In many
Native American legends crows are messengers to the gods and carry
prayers. Ravens, a species similar to the American crow but much
larger in body and beak, are important legends of the English
Crown. They are as famous as the Tower of London. Legends say if
the ravens ever leave the Tower, it and the monarchy will fall.
Despite legends, good or bad, American crows are extremely
social birds and congregate in flocks, sometimes by the hundreds.
They say there is power in numbers, and this is true for these
birds. Often when a predator such as an owl or hawk appears, crows
will attack and harass the offending animal until it leaves the
Once at a local lake I witnessed these actions firsthand. The
day was sunny and quiet, and I sat on a blanket at the water's edge
admiring the beautiful herons, soft-shell turtles and other
wildlife when the loud, distinctive caw of crows interrupted the
silence. It was borderline annoying, but then I saw the reason for
their chatter. A beautiful Cooper's hawk glided through the air and
into a nearby tree. A few minutes later the hawk soared into top of
the same tree the crows were gathered. The noise was almost
This often misrepresented bird is a good problem-solver and has
been known to make tools from twigs and other objects to forage for
edible treats such as worms, grain, seeds, nuts and berries. Crows
are omnivores and also enjoy small mammals, eggs, clams and mussels
from oceans or lakes.
While crows are found in Florida year-round, the best places to
see them is an open place that offers a few trees to perch in and a
reliable source of food. This is almost anywhere: fields, parks,
lakes, backyards and near bodies of water.
Learn more about American crows and other birds by downloading
the free iPhone application "Nature Viewing Along the Great Florida
Birding and Wildlife Trail" (other platforms coming soon) or by
visiting floridabirdingtrail.com. Click on "Birding
Resources" in the left-hand menu to take part in the "Wings Over
Florida" program and learn about the FWC's Junior Birder Program.
You can also download a copy of the Bird Detective checklist.