In the winter and spring, when out for a dog walk, I’m sometimes approached by the neighbourhood crows for food. The crows down the street recognize me and fly over. I leave a few pieces of popcorn in the lower branches of the trees along the sidewalk. The crows watch, and then fly to the trees and find the treats.
This summer, the crow couple who live in the area that includes my home, have 2 new fledglings. The couple like to feed popcorn to the young ones. They will gather up some of the popcorn and briefly soak it in the water dish in the Bird Park.
I tried plain popcorn, but they definitely prefer popcorn that has a topping. Greg came up with this recipe:
Melt these ingredients in a small pot on the stove:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tbsp margarine
1/8 tsp salt (probably frowned upon by biologists)
Pour over a bowl of air-popped popcorn.
Keep the popcorn in a paper bag. Give some to the crows around your neighbourhood—it’s a sure way to make friends.
- Lesson from crow mother: We help our babies leave the nest.
- Fledgling crow says, “I can fly!”
Yesterday morning there was a lot of crow activity on the corner of Woodland Park diagonally across the street from us. I could hear the adult crows—the ones who built their nest in the nearby tree—and their two off-spring from last summer. The adult crows called with excitement. I got up from my office chair to look out the window. The male adult was sitting on the baseball diamond fence scolding too-close people as they walked by. The two juveniles were walking around the lawn not far from the base of the tree that housed the nest (in the photo behind the red car).
Through the binoculars, I could see into the tree one of the crow babies perched on the nest’s edge. This year, the adult couple had a slow start with their babies. They had two nest failures; nests abandoned after damage from strong winds. They finally had success re-using a previous year’s nest in the tree at the edge of the park. The baby was flapping his wings, testing things out. The mother flew from the ground to the tree, over to the telephone wire, and back down to the ground. She seemed to be coaxing the youngster to make his first flight. The male kept guard, continuing to scold humans, while calling to the female. The juveniles walked around the grass pecking at things, seeming ready to provide back-up if needed. Juvenile crows may help their parents with nesting activities until they’re about 3 or 4 years old. This is how they learn to be parents themselves.
After the pedestrian and car traffic settled down, they stopped calling. Then, in this quiet moment, the fledgling swooped down from the nest onto the lawn. His first flight! The mother greeted him and regurgitated a bit of food into his mouth. Crows will prepare a mixture of food and saliva to feed their babies. This mix contains good bacteria for the babies health. I felt happy to have witnessed their group effort getting the baby launched! I went back to work.
After about 20 minutes, I heard the couple calling. The calls were coming from our roof. It was one of their typical calls caw-caaw—caw. The first and second caw paired with a slightly longer space between the second and third caw. The second caw slightly rounder sounding. I went up to the roof to give them their daily popcorn. Every day since their eggs hatched, I’d put a handful of peanuts and popcorn on the roof.
When I approached the edge of the deck I saw three crows, the two adults together on the neighbor’s roof, and the baby on our roof! He sat calmly and watched me put the food out. He had downy feathers on his chest and looked a bit ragged. His parents called a few times. I greeted the youngster and the parents. I felt honored—hello world!
Kilham, Lawrence. The American Crow and the Common Raven. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1989.