Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A very expensive crow

Photo by Patrick Wilken 
The police officer who pulled me over last week because I'd turned left at a light with a clearly-marked NO LEFT TURN sign didn't really want to hear my explanation that a crow was to blame. 


Y'see, sir, it was eating something on the road and my daughter was admonishing me to slow down so as not to run it over and I was opining that crows are so smart they know to get out of the way of cars, while squirrels, for example, well, you'd best slow down and give a squirrel time to dither--and so we paid more attention to the crow's well-timed lift-off than to that sign. (I also would have liked to mention in my defense that my daughter is usually quite prompt to point out any error I might even be considering. There is, perhaps, no one outside of a driving instructor who is more willing to correct your vehicular transgressions than a teenager in the passenger seat.)


But back to the crows. They are the hooligans of neighborhood birds. They're brash, they talk too loud, and they swagger when they walk. They're not your typical songbirds--but songbirds they are. Crows use over twenty calls to relay information to one another. A crow who discovers an intact dead animal too large to break into on its own, for example, may summon reinforcements to help open up the carcass. 


And each crow appears to have its own personal call that distinguishes it among its family. Incredibly, a bird separated from its mate may mimic the other's unique sounds, as if calling it home by "name." 


These birds are so smart, in fact, that you'll never see a crow getting a $490 ticket for turning left in a no-turn lane. 

20 comments:

  1. Loved this short piece about the crow, Pat. The library computer is about to shut me down so I can't add much more. I will,however, at a later time tell you about our local crow researcher who has trained the UW crows to dislike Dick Cheney.

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  2. Poy, I will eagerly await the next time in your travels that you land at a computer! Happy trails!

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  3. Hilarious!  And I have a new respect for crows.

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  4. wonderful story! sorry about the ticket. so very true about the teenage driver eeeek!

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  5. Well said! Crows are my favorite bird because they have such attitude and can survive the human infiltration.

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  6. You could blame the whole thing on the teenager and make her pay half. Our police officers should have a better sense of humor too.

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  7. I had heard stories about crows dropping nuts on pavement from high in the sky to crack them, or to let cars run over them but when you actually see it happen, it is quite awe-inspiring.
    I could talk for days about crows, I am enraptured with them.

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  8. Yeah! $490! But I can go to court and throw myself on the mercy of the judge to try to get it lowered. That's what I'll be doing instead of going to work on Sept 27. Think good (cheap!) thoughts on that day!

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  9. Oh Pat, that crow was clearly "mobbed up." No doubt a soldier in the Crowsa Nostra.  The Godfeather probably assigned him to sit there, distracting drivers, so the gang can take kick-backs on those outrageous traffic fines.  Those lads in the shiny black jackets are nothing but trouble.

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  10. Oh! It all makes sense now! The attitude, the "happening to be" in the same area that a police officer was. I was set up!

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  11. yikes---Is that the west coast standard? highest ticket I've heard of around here (GA)  is $280  (mine for speeding)    I can't get over 490 enough to think about your crow--- 

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  12. I am torn between outrage on your behalf (whoever heard of a $490 ticket for one measly no-left turn turn) and admiration for the wily crow. I saw a documentary on crows and the scientific tracking of their learning behaviors.  Pretty amazing.  But that said, maybe Roxie is right and they're Crowsa Nostra. Can't trust those Godfeathers.  Alice

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  13. I seriously think you should tell the truth if you go to court about this. I'd sure give you a discount. Start out, "if it please the Corvid..."

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  14. Yeeeeooooowww!!!!!  I am not a fancier of crows.  But I have made illegal turns without a crow's help.  It is unbelievably unfortunate an officer was standing by.  Hopefully, he had oxygen in the car to resuscitate you after handing you the ticket.  I'll be thinking anti-crow thoughts on the 27th.

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  15. OMG!  Expensive ticket!  Betcha won't do that again!  My cat is scared of the crows and will run back into the house when one appears in the backyard or she hears one. 

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  16. Oh, man! I feel for you. I hope you got it reduced in court.

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  17. crows are quite smart. i saw a video with one sliding down a snow covered roof on a lid like a snow board-repeated it several times before he flew off with the lid in his beak!

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  18. Turns out that throwing yourself on the mercy of the court doesn't do much good. The Legislature has curbed judges' discretion. And the clerk tells me all traffic fees are about to nearly double--to $600-$1000. Craziness!

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  19. Yeah, that's a great video--here's a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRnI4dhZZxQ

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