Saturday, August 29, 2009

Consider the Crow: Myths and Real Life Stories About A Very Smart Bird

This just in from the NY Times Review of Books
Did you know that crows recognize human faces? To prove this... a researcher at the University of Washington conducted an experiment. Volunteers who had captured and banded crows (something crows resent) while wearing caveman masks were cawed at and dive-bombed whenever they re-entered crow precincts...

Affectingly, Haupt describes “crow funerals” in which a “stillness” settles around a deceased bird as other crows “cluster about the crow in perfect silence,” and records evidence of crows at play — basking in the sun, “sprawled on one side with their wings hanging open . . . like black-feathered Madame Bovarys” or catching falling cherry blossoms.
The book in question is Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Crow Myths and Stories:

Crows appears in the myths and stories of any culture where they make their home.
What do the stories from your ancestral culture say about crows?

Charlotte Kuchinsky writes that "Egyptians, Romans and Arabs respected the power of these birds" and that the Irish believed they possessed second sight, while Ljubica Gojg in an article on crow myths for the Post-Gazette notes that:

A romantic soul couldn't hope for anything better than seeing a crow, because it means the heart's wishes will be fulfilled.

He also points out that

Crows have long been associated with death in many cultures, because they often could be found feeding on animal and human remains at battlefields or cemeteries.

and reminds us that

Many American Indian tribes saw the crow as a wise adviser and the spirit of wisdom and the law.

The Norse god Odin used two crows -- Hugin and Munin, representing thought and memory -- as his daily observers of the world.

And members of the American Society of Crows and Ravens, founded in 1982, like to quote American writer and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, who said:

"If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows."

Indeed. I've worked with them. They are amazing birds, and yes, as the video shows, they make their own tools. The ancient Greeks respected their abilities. If you enjoy Greek myths you might want to check out this entry on the intelligence of crows and the ancient story of The Crow and the Pitcher.



Video: Crow Makes Tools found embedded within this very interesting article titled: American Crow: Consummate Opportunist by Robert Rice

Related Links:

Information on the American Crow from the All About Birds guide published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology - great videos and recordings.

For the love of crows


Triple Crow Celtic Knot by Mike Sexton - you can buy a print here.


Anonymous said...

Aaaaah. Crows. My favorites...

One summer night I heard a huge crow commotion, late for them. I found a fledgling on the ground being stalked by cats. When I picked up the crow the commotion stopped. Not a peep the rest of the night. I put the crow in a dark quiet room.

The next morning I found her dead. So sad. I went out to the garden and the commotion started again. I told them outloud that I was very sorry but their friend had died in the night.

SILENCE the entire rest of the day.

Changed my life that experience.

WO Cassity said...

Awesome! Crows are highly unappreciated animals! Thank you for sharing how intelligent they really are!