Avianism: Something to Crow About

While walking through the neighborhood yesterday, I heard an alarmingly distressed flock of birds not quite cawing, more a nails-on-chalkboard symphony of “keeer!” from a tree. I pictured a combination of Tipi-Hedren-meets-Norman-Bates gently taking twine to wrap each “keering” bird and dangle it, in a bound Christmas ornament-style, to the tree (I should mention that I’ve watched a lot of scary movies lately).

In reality, I’m pretty sure they just sensed that the approaching rain would drop the temperature more than 20 degrees and they were digging their creepy nails in, like the rest of us, protesting the true coming of fall. That, or maybe these were the 99 percent, engaging in Occupy Evergreen.

Regardless, nearly every time I think to myself, “I really don’t like birds,” I’m reminded of how cool they actually are, aside from the distressed screams, the threatening beaks, the oddly colored poo, the beady eyes and the talons. My latest appreciation: Crows, thanks to a story called “For This Menace, Only One Thing to Do: Ready, Aim, Fireworks!” in today’s New York Times. The piece follows around anti-avian activist Joy Sacopulos, a 72-year-old Cadillac driver in Terra Haute, Indiana, of the Terra Haute Crow Patrol, who shoots fireworks at the birds (groups of which are known as “murders of crows”) in hopes of dispersing the 100,000 crows that winter there, in the city of 60,000, and sending them squawking to, say, Gary, Indiana (I would caution even the crows to avoid Gary, unless they’re trying to find a Michael Jackson birthday party).

Dan Barry, the writer of the story, refers to it as “avian nimbyism,” and goes on to detail the many intriguing facts about crows– “they care for their young and sick. They communicate through a vocabulary that goes well beyond ‘caw.’ They use tools. They take note of our behavioral patterns and even, our faces.” Oh, and they create 4,000 pounds of crow droppings to shovel.

To love, or to hate? Quite a crownundrum.

The piece brings to mind a story I heard a while back on Radio Lab about pigeons, and their indefatigable internal compass. You can dizzy a pigeon, see, and it’ll always know where it’s going.I’m admittedly jealous.

I know there’s more avian literature out there, attesting to why birds are so fantastic (like Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird, which I gave as a gift to my brother-in-law, years ago, agreeing to read it once he finished, but never got around to it–See? Conflicted). I mean, if they weren’t so respectable, would so many seniors care to watch them? Maybe my next project will be to understand this whole bird allure, and address my own avianism.


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