Crow Conversations

Marvin and Mavis stopped by for a chat over the garden fence yesterday.

I reliably see them each morning when they stop by for a breakfast snack of peanuts and kibble. They’re usually in an “eat and run” mood at that time day, being hungry and having  a full crow-tinterary ahead of them.

Occasionally they stop by for a more leisurely afternoon visit. Yesterday they were in a particularly sociable mood. I almost thought that one day I might get Marvin, the bolder of the pair, to eat from my hand. Not there yet, but Marvin was at least ready to give the matter some serious consideration.

Marvin seemed particularly curious about me yesterday, and prepared to get quite close.

Mavis prefers to keep an eye on proceedings from a bit further away.

Marvin steps a little closer …

Marvin finally got to about a foot away from me and then retreated back in order to do some thinking out loud. You can see his thought process in action in the following video.

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I was so pleased to be part of such a close up performance of the lovely crow “rattle” call. I’m not sure if anyone knows for sure what this type of call means, but it really did seem as if it was part of his consideration on the subject of how much I could be trusted. It was combined with some branch pecking. This, I’ve noticed, is done when they’re feeling a bit frustrated or not sure what to do next.

You can see in this close-up how the tongue seems to move about quite a bit when they make the rattle call.

Quite a bit of rattle calling went on in my garden yesterday. I’d never seen such a long session of it up close.

Mavis keeps looking on silently from her branch.

Eventually they both came down from fence and tree and had a little hop around the back yard.

And so we passed a happy hour or two. If you read my earlier blog post, Home Décor for Nature Lovers, in which I reveal a rather laissez-faire attitude to housework, this post might help explain why that is.

After all, who can find time for dusting when there are such brilliant conversationalists hanging out right in the back yard?








11 thoughts on “Crow Conversations

  1. I am in love with your pair! Not only are they so sleek and black in a crow way but so smart.

    Have you ever tried clucking or rattling back at them? I tend to think that those noises are more crow family talk and you should be honored he wanted to chat with you.

    • Thanks – they are very charming. I agree that those rattles seem very family directed, so I felt quite thrilled. I’ll have to listen to that video of Marvin doing the rattle call over and over, and practice myself so we can have a better conversation. My husband is learning Spanish online, so he’s always repeating phrases in his office, so I could be repeating crow phrases in mine … 😉

  2. In Michael Westerfield’s book, The Language of Crows: The Book of the American Crow; Ashford Press, 2011, he describes rattle vocalizations as, “One of the more commonly observed non-caw vocalizations…a series of low pitched rattling sounds or clicks, rather like the sound of a ratchet being turned rapidly or a higher volume version of the chittering of a squirrel. These calls sometimes appear to be addressed to humans…The context for the use of rattle calls often is when a crow is interested in something or someone— crow, human, or other animal — but is uneasy about approaching too closely.” (p. 179)

  3. I have some regular Corvid visitors who stop by every morning like yours. If my neck door is closed they sit on one of our patio chairs and make the crow rattle noise to get my attention. Have you ever heard them make a low pigeon like cooing? I spent 45 mins once very close to one of them who repeatedly cooed at me. I’m sure it was an affection call – the crow was very relaxed and close and the coo was clearly directed at me.

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