Friday, February 20, 2015

Carrion Crow

To most people there's only one crow. It's the carrion crow, Corvus corone. There's something about the latin binomial that puts me in mind of the Godfather. Not inappropriate perhaps, given the bird's reputation. It actually derives from the Latin for raven (corvus) and the Greek for crow.
The sharp witted will have noticed that I missed a couple of days: Wednesday I didn't get back from work until half-midnight and yesterday I had a bit of collapse in front of the TV after running my daughter hither and thither. So today there's three posts to do and I thought I'd cover three regular visitors to the garden from the crow family - the corvids.
Crows hang out in groups if not breeding but are essentially very territorial during the season. Unlike their cousins the rooks who are colonial nesters and hangers-out. I still find it difficult to tell these two apart from a distance or in flight. The rooks tend to be in flocks, often with jackdaws, whereas crows are usually alone or in pairs. They have a lower pitch call and slower wing beats than rooks.
There's a great old country saying: "Thar's crows; thar's rooks. Thar's a rook; thar's a crow." Essentially pointing out that if you think you're looking at a large group of crows you're probably looking at rooks and vice versa.
We have had a pair of crows nesting in the trees surrounding our garden for the last five or six years. A couple of times in the tall, spindly ash trees; once in the Lebanese cedar (February 12th); and a couple of times in our neighbours mature beeches.
Crows are common and probably ignored as a result. They are amongst the most intelligent animals on the planet and can use tools to solve problems. If you ever look one in the eye you'll get a sense of this.

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