Diplomacy —peanut and regular — is tricky. It’s only now that I sit down to write about this topic, I’m forced to face how much actual time pondering the the pitfalls and potential of the practice.
Here’s how the Merriam Webster dictionary defines run-of-the-mill diplomacy:
1 : the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations. 2 : skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility
Pretty similar, really, to my theory of Peanut Diplomacy:
1: the art and practice of initiating and maintaining diplomatic relations with another species (in this example, crows.) 2: skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility (towards yourself, or amongst your diplomatic counterparts.)
Why Peanut Diplomacy?
Let’s face it, unless you have inadvertently tipped a plate of french fries onto the sidewalk, you are of little specific interest to the busy crow population. If you want to open talks with them, peanuts are a great place to start.
Benefits of Peanut Diplomacy
Practiced with finesse, the art of judicious peanut distribution has many benefits. You can have the thrill of being greeted daily by your new crow friends. I am sure they love you for yourself, but the peanuts really help them discover your interesting side.
Over time you can come to observe individuals and small crow families and learn to appreciate how different, funny, and interesting they all are.
Pitfalls of Peanut Diplomacy
As with political diplomacy, things can easily go sideways. You don’t want to bring any harm to your new crow friends. You also don’t want your neighbours starting to hate you.
Peanut Diplomacy Tips
Keeping the Peace
One of the things you don’t want is to create friction amongst various factions of your new friends. In the years I’ve been engaged in the PD field, I’ve always managed to keep the backyard visitors to one family of crows. This takes a bit of diligence, watching out for “your” crows to be nearby before you put out the peanuts and bringing the treats in again if “invaders” try to horn in.
Over the last decade there have been several peaceful coups.
First we had Eric and Clara and their offspring. They moved down the street, of their own accord and Hank and Vera took over. H & V didn’t come back after the mating season one year and we entered the George and Mabel years. Since we lost George in 2018, Mabel has moved down the street and found a new mate and we now have Marvin and Mavis as our corvid garden guardians.
Currently, there is some local tension because Mabel has two juvenile crows from last summer and, while Mabel herself (well versed in the rules of territorial rules) doesn’t come to our garden, she doesn’t discourage the two teenagers from exploring this end of the block. Marvin and Mavis are not pleased, so I’m careful not to put peanuts out unless they are right there. I’d hate to see them attacking Mabel’s young ones because of me.
A subsection of keeping the peace, is distributing peanuts while out walking. In effect you and your peanuts become mobile territory to be squabbled over. I try to avoid this by observing the local boundaries and never dropping peanuts in the “no crow’s land” between domains. Some years it’s more difficult than others to keep the peace.
Mr. and Mrs. Pants didn’t have any surviving fledglings last year — but their neighbours did, and the larger family is trying to horn in on Mr and Mrs P’s corner. We had a few near “diplomatic incidents” when I tried to leave a few nuts for the Pantses earlier this year, so now I either walk another way, or if it seems quiet, try to leave a few nuts near them but out of sight of the bossy neighbours.
If I find I’m suddenly feeling like an extra in Hitchcock’s The Birds, being followed by a small murder of crows, all ignoring the customary boundaries, then it’s time to change my walking route for a week or two to break the pattern.
If there are challenging conditions out (snow covered or frozen, or drought-baked ground) I will offer more nuts. For Marvin and Mavis, when Mavis had pox on her foot, I put out more nutritious food too until she got better. Generally though, I try to just put out enough peanuts to assure my crow pals that I appreciate their letting me take their photographs, and value their friendship.
I don’t want them to come to rely on me for food — for their own good, and so I can sometimes go on holiday without fretting about their survival.
I’ve often read that crows prefer peanuts in the shell, and they do! But all those peanut shells end up everywhere. In your roof gutters. Even worse, in your neighbours’ roof gutters. In the interests of human diplomacy, I find it’s better to offer shelled, unsalted nuts. Good quality cat or dog kibble is good too.
Extra Peanut Fun
While Marvin and Mavis always get a “no strings” breakfast, sometimes they come back for visits later in the day and then we have some fun with doing tricks for peanuts.
I “trained” them to pose with my crow calendar at times during the last couple of years, but a favourite is putting the peanuts in more challenging spots. Here Marvin competes in the Picket Fence Challenge.
I’m sure some of you are already accomplished peanut ambassadors, so do forgive my ramblings. And, if you’re just thinking of exploring the world of peanut politics, don’t let me make it seem too complicated. Have fun and make friends!
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