Crow Calligraphy

Nest Building Triptych

It’s that time of year again.

Most of the local crows seem to have suddenly become enrolled in some sort of corvid witness protection program.

The normally gregarious garden visitors, and dog-walk-followers, are suddenly either absent altogether, or shifty and secretive.

It’s nesting time, and I’m resigned to not seeing so much of Marvin and Mavis and the others until later in the summer when, if we’re lucky, they’ll come back to show off their offspring.

But I don’t give up on watching crows for these few months.

Instead I watch for the calligraphy in the sky.

Big Twig

The crows start to exist in my consciousness as quick brushstrokes, furtively flitting by with tell-tale beak attachments.

The latest cargo for the nest in the poplar trees has been grass, leading me to believe that we’re at the finishing, soft furnishings, stage of construction.

Crow with Soft Furnishings for Nest

There are only a few short days to gather clues as to who’s nesting where. Just now, the trees aren’t quite leafed out, and the nests under construction are still visible.

But the crows are smart and have tactics to confuse.

I believe it’s Eric and Clara who are building in the poplars and  they have at least two nests on the go. I imagine they will decide which of the two to inhabit (or perhaps they have a third that I haven’t spotted at all) once the leaves give them full camouflage.

It’s a bit of a mystery/thriller, illustrated with simple silhouettes.



There are characters other than crows in this year’s storyline. Ravens have decided to try the charms of city living in our neighbourhood this year.

Raven Call in Poplars


I’m thrilled. The crows are considerably less happy. Ravens will steal eggs from the their nests, so they’re on the “naughty” list, along with eagles, hawks, racoons etc.

As such they are mobbed relentlessly, making for a very busy crow spring.

Not only must nests be built – but ravens must be energetically harassed from dawn to dusk.

Raven Mobbed by Crows

Sometimes, it all just gets too much for the tired corvids.

One day last week I watched this raven in a tree, surrounded for about twenty minutes by a harmonious crowd of crows.

One crow even seemed to getting very close – perhaps trying for a diplomatic detente.

Raven Crow Detente

Note: Video follows, so if you’re reading this in email format, click HERE to go to the blog so that you can see the video.

For a moment it seemed that a crow/raven understanding might be reached …

… but talks broke off and hostilities resumed. I guess the crows were just taking a much-needed breather.


So, at this time of year, keep an eye on the sky for calligraphic messages from the crow world. You  might just learn where it’s going to be best to avoid (or at least to use an umbrella when walking by) later in the season.

See Dive Bombed by Crows! for more on this …

Twig Gift




9 thoughts on “Crow Calligraphy

  1. And it’s so friggin’ cold out for them… feels like January out there! I always feel badly for them starting to nest-build when we have a spring like this. Brrrrr…. But they are a hardy bird, I know. I have seen the long sticks in mouths for the past week or two now, even downtown. So, I know the big ‘nest build’ has begun.
    Quick question, June – I recently spotted a crow with a deformed beak in my neighhourhood, the likes of which I have never seen. When I initially saw the bird, I thought it had a twig or something long in its beak, but unfortunately not. It’s got a very, very long beak, with kind of downwards turn on the end. Poor thing. It’s a small bird, and obviously, is having difficulty feeding. It’s a deformation I have never seen before. Wondering if you had. 🙁

  2. Now to this lovely article on crows and their mysterious way. The visual is spectacular with the black and white that just sets the stage for a good mystery.

    I have to say a few years ago a crow family faked me out in Renton. I thought I knew the nest and as time went by it seemed barren and I was sad. Then one day three baby crows danced across my tree line outside my window. They had been over only three trees from the sad nest. Totally hidden!! those devils

    This year I am watching a nest being built right outside my office window. LIke way close. I wonder if it isn’t the fake nest. Guess time will tell.

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