Yes. I admit it. I want bird friends. Personal ones. I run the cafeteria but I still want to sit at the popular table. I plant for them, I leave the plants alone for them. I maintain clean feeders and I put out suet. It probably helps them at least some of the year, and it’s pretty much a mainstay for our winter hummingbirds, but the real reason anyone keeps a bird feeder going is to get closer to the birds. It’s for us, in other words. But we have to be alert that we aren’t endangering them too, spreading diseases, that sort of thing. Nothing is ever simple.
I miss Studley something fierce. Studley Windowson was one hell of a bird. Everyone goes on and on about the crows. We’re all crow experts now. They’re so smart! They know faces! They pass on knowledge! Sure, they’re a solid pound of brainpower. Well, not to take anything away from the crows, but chickadees have all of that packed into a half an ounce. Studley did, for sure. I think people underestimate animals all the time. As a general rule, now, I assume all the birds around here know me better than I know them, and they pay attention, and pass judgment.
So yes, right now I’m trying to suck up to a crow, but he’ll never replace Studley. I hoped with enough mealworms I could get intimate with one of Studley’s kids—she’s hanging out in the hibiscus—but although I’m pretty sure she knows who I am and what I’ve got, she can’t quite close the deal on landing on my hand. So be it. There’s always next year.
Anyway, after a lot of fruitless standing around with a palmful of worms like a big dummy, I gracefully relinquished this year’s chickadee seduction project. I’d stuck a small birdhouse up on our raspberry structure just in case and some chickadees started hauling in furniture right away. Then a crow landed just above the house and the chickadees deedled bloody murder. They were Up. Set. I realized the flaw in my nest box placement right away. Corvids are murder on eggs and nestlings. I think the nest was abandoned but I’m not sure.
Booboo the crow had buddy potential, though, so I turned my attention to him. He’s astonishingly beautiful, close up. Not a feather out of place, and if there’s a combover hiding the spot where his mom keeps spindling him on the head, it’s a good job. I’d hate to think I am drawn only to the beautiful among us, but the truth is, if you love someone, they acquire beauty no matter what. I mean, some people admire those freaky hairless cats even though they look like they should be on a charcuterie tray.
It bugged me, though, that my chickadees—my possible future Studleys—were watching me being intimate with a crow. I felt like I’d been caught out. Because I had. So: should people be feeding crows? Should I google it?
Here’s the thing about crows. All over the world, the crow population follows people. People are where it’s at, for crows. You’re not going to find them in the woods. You’re going to find them at the Burger Barn. Ever and always, people are either dropping garbage or dropping dead, and it’s all the same to the crows. They score either way. Wherever there are people, there are crows scouting the property for a new subdivision.
And encouraging crows leads to more crows and less of everyone else. According to one source, the urban crow explosion has led to a paucity of warblers and vireos and other cup-nesters because crows and jays are the main predators of their nestlings. Sure enough, in my yard, the main birds are chickadees, nuthatches, and wrens—all cavity-nesters and a bit more protected from the corvids. And song sparrows and juncoes, that nest in dense shrubbery. Haven’t seen a robin’s nest in years. The house finches are doing okay, but they’ll plunk a nest down in a shoe. We have lots of hummingbirds too and they’re cup-nesters, but anyone bothering a hummer is going to get his eyeball poked out, and that’s a fact.
Marbled murrelets are adorable little birds. And they’re so reclusive no one knew where the hell they nested until recently. Turns out they refurbish a shallow mossy spot on a branch a bazillion feet off the ground, and they’re endangered. Lots of reasons. Mostly it’s because people keep mowing down their big trees. But on top of that, people leave garbage in woodsy campgrounds and that draws in the jay population, and the jays proliferate and predate the little murrelets. I hate people.
But other people are hand-painting little chicken eggs so they look like marbled murrelet eggs, and injecting them with a chemical that makes jays want to throw up, and the jays are starting to steer away.
I love people.