Roving Crows

A raucous October has spilled over into a riotous November.

No, I’m not talking about the political landscape, just the local crows.

I’m planning to write some individual updates for my various crow acquaintances, but this post is more an overview of the current crow atmosphere.

October is always pretty wild, in a “woohoo the kids are self-sufficient and there are nuts and berries to harvest” sort of way. See last year’s post —Corvid Flash Mobs — for a taste. Usually things quieten down once the nuts and fruit are all consumed, but this year things seem to remain tense on the territorial front.

Almost every crow I come across has an eye to the sky.

Sometimes it’s a well-recognized crow-foe that has them on edge. We’ve had groups of young bald eagles, a Northern Harrier and the occasional raven causing crow alarms.

But the most common cause of crow nerves this fall seems to be other crows.

This fall has been particularly fractious on the crow territorial boundary fronts.

In the city, each half a block or so “belongs” to a crow family and, once the corvid Octoberfest is over, these boundaries are generally respected . Not this year.

I wonder if it’s because so many crow couples this spring didn’t succeed in raising any young ones, so they’re pressed by neighbouring crows who have extra offspring sticking around. Partly these new crows just don’t seem familiar with the “rules” and also they need more space for foraging. Eventually they’ll probably find a mate of their own and carve out their own territory, but in the mean time lots of them are still hanging out with mom and dad.

Marvin on guard at our gate.

Marvin and Mavis lost their nestlings to an eagle this year and they have Mabel’s growing family on one side and young  Ada and her parents on the other. Since our house is part of M & M’s territory, I get to see their efforts to repel “invaders” on an almost daily basis.

Mabel and family sauntering just a little too close for comfort.

Mabel and family throw caution to the wind and fly right into the Marvin and Mavis zone.

In this case, there was a lot of cawing and raised head feathers, but no actual hostilities broke out.

Marvin’s “Hold It Right There” look

Met with Mabel’s “Don’t Mess With Me” look.

Meanwhile, on the Northwestern front, Marvin and Mavis face incursions by the lovely baby Ada and her family. Constant vigilance, and much cawing, is required.

This morning, for example, saw a rather spectacular series of skirmishes in the borderlands.

One minute you’re just sitting, minding your own business and enjoying the view from a nice rotting old washing line post …

For all the flapping and pecking and pushing, no-one was injured and everyone flew off to their respective territories, ready to tussle another day.

I see Marvin and Mavis’s predicament repeated around the neighbourhood with borders being tested every day. Since the dog and I, on our walks, tend to be regarded as “territory on the move,” I’m being careful not to ignite peanut-driven civil war. This means few peanuts, dropped discretely and far from boundaries.  Even then, I’m finding myself being followed by the new generation of roving crows.

Ever have that feeling you’re being watched?

Stay tuned for more detailed individual updates on Marvin and Mavis, Mabel and Gus, the Pants Family, Ada and the Slocan Trio.

In the meantime, keep your eyes open for those short-lived, but very dramatic, territorial sky squabbles.

Was it something I said …?




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10 thoughts on “Roving Crows

  1. June…
    Wish you could mail an excess crow family my way, as I seem unable to attract more than one or two at a time, and they don’t stay. When I do see them, they are outdoors in one of my squirrel or quail feeders, so they do have a variety of nuts and seeds from which to select. On the other hand, I do have one or more sparrow hawks who play havoc with my quiet little songbird families. I admire their beauty, but I wish they would find a home elsewhere!
    As always, I look forward to your updates and periodically review events of past months and years. I so appreciate your love of these beautiful creatures, and for sharing your adventures with all of your many enthusiastic fans.
    Diane Spellman

    • Hi Diane, Lovely to hear from you. It would make a raucous parcel at the post office as I tried to mail you an excess crow family. Lol. New blog post coming up soon about bird predators in our neighbourhood too. Hope your little songbirds stay out of the way of your sparrow hawk for the most part. Although I guess as sparrow hawk’s gotta eat too …

  2. I have lots of crows around my building in New Westminster. What are some tips for learning to identify individual and coupled crows. They all look pretty much the same to me, except the slightly smaller juveniles.

    • It’s harder to identify individuals when you’ve got a lot of crows at once. It can help if one of them has a visible difference of some sort as a starting “clue” to the puzzle. A bad foot, broken beak, wonky feathers, something like that. Then you can watch for who that crow mostly hangs out with and assume they’re part of a family group. Basically I just build on the clues like that. In my neighbourhood they also generally stick to their half block or so territory (except for this time of year) so I can tell who’s who by which corner they’re defending.

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