I don’t think I’ve written about Ms. Wing before, even though we’ve been acquainted for a few years now.
I see her less often than some of my other crow friends because she lives on the outer range of my dog walks. If I go another way, I won’t see her at all — and I didn’t see her for weeks this winter when my foot cast kept me tethered within a smaller radius of home.
But the thing about White Wing is that she knows me instantly, and I know her instantly too. She doesn’t really have a white wing: it’s more of a wonky feather. The first time I saw her, about three years ago, the light hit the crooked feather in a way that made the whole wing look snowy, so her name stuck.
And White Wing does sound more romantic than Wonky Feather, right?
I thought I’d write about her now because, while the present moment is really tough in most ways, it IS a good time to get out and get to know some local crows — and Ms. Wing is good example of the kind of crow that can be the key to starting to figure out the Who’s Who of your local crow-munity. Solving that identity puzzle is good motivation to get out for a walk, and figuring it out can be a great distraction from other news.
As soon as I’m near the block that the Wing family lives on, I can tell for sure that, of all other crows, this one is definitely her. Even from a distance.
And I can tell that her companion must be Mr. Wing. I determined that she is the Ms. in the equation because, of the two of them, she’s the one who disappears for a few weeks during the nesting season when she’s sitting on the eggs. Mr. Wing doesn’t really have any distinguishing features, but I can identify him because of his proximy to Ms. Wing.
This is how Crow Cluedo works.
A couple of times a year, at moulting season, and sometimes during nesting, White Wing’s twisted feather comes out, and she looks, briefly, like any other crow.
However, it always grows back in the same crooked way and, luckily, it doesn’t seem to affect her flying ability … or her self esteem.
Mind you, she can look just as bedraggled as any of the crows on a wet day …
As I mentioned, I didn’t see her for at least a couple of months over the winter, but as soon as I got to “her” corner she picked me out and came down, with a slightly aggrieved expression, as if to say “where the heck have you been?”
Most of the crows I’m lucky enough to have become acquainted with have some sort of physical anomaly that allows me to pick them out from the crowd.
- Mabel has one damaged eye
- Mr. Pants has his pantaloons, in season
- Marvin, when he first appeared has somehow spilled paint on himself, which lasted all summer until moulting
- George had his broken beak (although it was intact when we first met.)
Sometimes the differences are easily visible, like White Wing’s feather.
Things like Mabel’s damaged eye are harder to spot, but I have my long camera lens to help out. A small pair of binoculars would do the trick too. Crows are very territorial during the day, so if you see the same “different” bird in the same spot a few times in a row — congratulations — you’ve solved the first layer of the corvid Rubik’s Cube!
See also: Peanut Diplomacy.
Stay safe everyone, and try to balance the understandably constant craving for news with a spot of Crow Therapy.
Some other posts you might enjoy at this unsettled time:
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