Allen and I have been looking for sandhill cranes at Harts Basin. The sky has grown a deeper gray, with ragged clouds spreading over the West Elks.
But we've found 10 cranes this evening. Maybe not a lot, but they're always fascinating to me! The water has been drawn down for irrigation, so that means less comfortable roosting for the birds. To date we have had over 390 sandhills with us this fall.
I become aware of movement overhead ... look up and there are three large, black birds ... raven or crow? Check the tails ... the tails are narrow or fan shaped. If these birds were ravens, the tails would be wedge-shaped. And ravens are usually seen alone or with a mate, while crows are family oriented and appear in groups.
So we have some crows. Now I see five more. Dip and dive and then ascend again. Fly fast over the hilltop, make a sudden turn, and zoom down at each other. Two of them are close together ... one dives and the lower bird turns onto its back, then flips upright. It's a game!
As I watch them, I attempt to recall what I know about "crow." They're smaller than ravens at 17 inches long (raven is 24 inches), they weigh about one pound (raven weighs over two pounds). The size difference is easy to see if they're on the ground, but in flight it's much more difficult.
They're both members of the Corvid group of birds that includes ravens, crows, magpies and all of the jays. They each have special talents: ravens are mimics, jays can find their buried food under snow, and they all have a number of calls for specific purposes. But the most fascinating aspect to me is the extraordinary intelligence of this group of birds. Nearly everyone remembers the Aesop fable about the crow adding pebbles to a pitcher to raise the water level.
What did the crow have to understand to do this? Soft things like twigs or leaves, fur or fluffy seeds would not work. The object has to be solid (like a pebble) and the right size to fit the neck of the pitcher. I could study for a year and not know all there is to know about crows!blog comments powered by Disqus