Over the past year, we’ve established a new kind of rapport with the birds who live on as well as protect our property. Allow me to explain. In the past day and a half, we’ve had a fairly accurate bird reenactment of the Battle of Britain take place on the sculpture field in front of our house. We have a threesome of bad-guy, predatory birds that are terrorizing the rest. One is a common red-tail…common but potentially lethal, a Merlin (a type of falcon), think of an ME-109 German Messerschmitt, and a sharp-shinned hawk, the nastiest of the bunch.
As birders, Pamela and I have made friends with all the rest of the birds. In the past few months, with the aid of a crow call, I’ve learned to call them for breakfast, as well as warn them when an attack is in progress.
The sharp-shinned hawk is predictable. He roosts on a limb of a dead tree at the edge of a pond, takes off and then swoops down for his strafing mission which takes place fast and quiet at an altitude of about 15 inches. He bears down on our main feeding station and strikes with amazing speed. The victims seem to actually explode in a puff of pale feathers which take about a minute to float back to the ground. Well…that was until I learned the warning call. Now, as soon as the hawk begins his strafing run, I sound the alarm and every bird takes off…crows included.
We have two families of crows and as the red tail or sharp shin swoops by, the crows…very much like Britain’s best WWII fighter, the Spitfire, launch as a four-ship formation in pursuit. High in the sky, the four-ship of crows climb far above the hawk and then take turns diving and hitting the hawk, hard, over and over. Being of smaller mass, they can get away with this.
Most recently, the crows who are raising little crow babies come over early in the morning. They land on the wire fifty feet from our bedroom and then one of them comes over right next to the window, looks in and Caws in a loud voice, till one of us gets up, gets the bag of bird-chow and boogies down to the feeding station. None of the birds has any fear of us anymore, and they hang around till we’ve filled everything up for the day.
The four feeding stations for the humming birds plays out similarly. If we forget to fill one of the feeders, they come over and tap on the window and then fly around in circles till we get the message. Is this a one-sided relationship? No, it is not. Twice now within as many years, the hummingbirds have warned Pam of snakes in the area. They’re black snakes (good snakes) but they’re big and the hummers are quite forthright in showing us what’s going on.
And often, if someone wanders onto our property to look at the sculptures, the crows let us know within a minute.
In the past year, Pam and I have erected an embarrassingly large number of birdhouses and bird feeders. It’s noisy here from the sounds of songbirds singing, “Hey! Wanna get lucky?” songs to their mates.
And we have the occasional humming bird war on our deck. Four feeders and maybe a dozen hummers in feisty moods zinging by, inches away, chasing new intruders away.
The only misunderstanding we’ve had so far was short but scary. We installed a new “sculpture” on our property, a huge bird’s nest, approx. ten feet across with pale blue eggs slightly larger than footballs. The people who drive by LOVE it! They stop and take pictures. As we were finishing installation, however, a growing contingency of crows flocked around us and then landed in the trees above our heads. If you ever watched Hitchcock’s, The Birds, it was a lot like that. Thirty or forty very loud and very pissed-off crows. After erecting it, we made a symbolic move of filling the feeding station to over full, and the crows finally came to the conclusion that the nest was a lot of baloney.
All is well, but if we sleep too late, the crows come now and peer in the window to see what’s going on. …….works for us!
Pamela and Henry
P.S. A few months ago, I alluded to one of the foursome of crows who lives very close to us as having a phobia about caterpillars. He’ll walk twenty steps, then come in contact with a caterpillar and leap five feet in the air. Happy to report, he’s alive and healthy, feeding the babies and still jumping at caterpillars.
P.P.S. There’s a terrific documentary titled: Beak and Brain: Genius Birds from Down Under, comparing crows to Kea parrots for their title to most intelligent birds. It’s funny, insightful and I’d pit either of these birds against your average man on the street as far as problem solving goes. It’s on Netflix and You Tube if you like our flying buddies and allies.