Sometimes life, at least mine, seems like a daily series of revelations. Most things are trivial but none the less, part of the bank of knowledge we accumulate in our ongoing trip through the time we are allotted to occupy a seat on this planet Earth. What I am about to reveal to you is not a life-or-death bit of information but knowing it will put you just a notch above your neighbor the next time the Crow comes up.
The first 70 years of my life, probably like most of you, I took the Crow for granted. I just considered him a large and noisy black bird that rooted through garbage and roadside kills and ate the farmers corn off the cob. Like people, he loves to live in flocks and frequently one flock bands together and attacks another flock if they cross into their territory or steal their food. He makes a noisy ”Caw-Caw” when an enemy comes around or if he finds food and wants to share. His feathers are “coal” black, as they say and quite beautiful.
Crows were one of the birds I practiced on when I was learning Taxidermy. I probably mounted 3 or 4 of them that crow-shooters used as decoys. There was a time when they were considered pests and then there was an “open season” on crows. Luckily, in time, we discovered the error of our ways and now know that they are a valuable asset in the balance of nature. They help keep the roadsides clear of dead animals and eat tons upon tons of insects that would over run mankind should the crows no longer do their job.
I had always known about another very large black bird that looked like a crow but twice as big. They do not live around Baltimore and the Metropolitan area and if Edgar Allen Poe had not stopped in Baltimore long enough to live and die here, the Raven would not be familiar to us at all. But when the king of the “spookey” writers did his thing here, we all knew what a Raven was. There is a species of Raven native to the Deep Woods in the Eastern United States but most Ravens are in the northwest and in the wilds of Canada.
Then one dark night, our football team rode out-of-town on the Colts they stole from us and until a flock of menacing large football players flew in from out-of-town, we were without a football team. After a contest was held, it was decided that the name Ravens was appropriate, in honor of Edgar Allen.
Now, In case you don’t know, Rise and Conquer, our two mascots, are hybrids, they are 3 years old and were born in the United States in Alabama. They are a cross-breed of a pied crow and a brown Raven, both from Africa but are closely related to our North American Raven. Our Raven is a protected species and the Fish & Wildlife Service forbids ownership of a Raven. It is said by animal behavioral scientists that the intelligence of a Raven is on par with an Ape, just a step or so down from us.
There is another sub-species of Crow that I knew nothing about until 10 years ago when we moved to our idyllic spot here on the Rumsey Island Canal in Joppatowne. When I saw them before, I thought they were just a smaller crow with a strange call.
I have been observing them and their habits more closely ever since we became acquainted and they are fascinating. First, they are half the size of the middle-sized Crow in your discussions. They are the same “coal” black and same general shape. They are the same social creatures that their larger cousins are and you have probably heard them calling to each other but did not recognize their voice. It is not the regular “Caw-Caw” but it is higher-pitched and sounds like they have a sore throat.
They are called a Fish Crow and fish is a staple of their diet. They would prefer to drag an already-dead fish out of the water or eat carrion along the bank of the river but they will hover in flocks over schools of fish and dive like gulls to catch a small fish to eat “on the fly”. When they get a larger one, they just land and tear it apart like their cousins the sea gulls.
Any time you would like to observe a Fish Crow, just give me a call. They come to visit every day somewhere along the canal. You could say we always have something to crow about around here. Sorry no Ravens.
Don LangrehrAre you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine? If not, click here!