Murder, Crow-Style

Like a certain other New Orleans blogger, I've always had a fascination with crows. I don't know what it is about them--I guess I just think they're incredibly cool birds, with their jet black feathers and eyes that, to me at least, have always seemed to emanate intelligence.

As mentioned in a couple of previous posts, I work on the roof of the Tidewater building, now the Tulane SPHTM. Next time you're driving into the city on I-10 and get close to Canal Street, look for the Tidewater/Tulane building--the relatively tall building right next to the now-defunct Radisson (which is right next door to the now-defunct UNO Technology Building, which is right next door to the now-defunct Days Inn--thanks, Katrina!) that has the big red and white antenna on top.* See that trailer attached to the roof up there? The one with the Tulane logo on it? That's my office. Sometimes it scares the hell out of me that my office is a trailer on the roof, which makes up the 25th and 26th floors of the Tidewater Building, but it survived the Cat 3 winds of Katrina, so I figure I'm okay. (And the view is amazing--I can see the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain, depending on which window I'm looking out of.)

But anyway--I digress. As it turns out, the roof on my building, otherwise known as the big expanse surrounding my trailer, is a prime roosting spot for crows. On the nights when I work late, it's fascinating--because a whole bunch of them--either one-by-one or in groups of two or three, no larger--show up over a time span of about 10 minutes at sunset. And then they have a big crow party up there, all cawing at each other. And I can sit and watch, through the sliding glass doors in my office/trailer, which have tinted glass on the outside. Sometimes, I just watch them walk around, hanging out with each other. Other times, I am the unfortunate witness of one of them chasing some smaller bird, like a sparrow, up on the roof, where they then proceed to work as a group to kill and eat the smaller bird. (I don't really like that part and have been quite disappointed in the crows. But it does make me wonder--is that why a group of crows is called a murder?)**

Recently, PBS did a Nature special on crows. I made sure to record it, even though I really didn't know that there was that much to know about crows.

As it turns out, they're fascinating creatures. They communicate with each other, both within their family unit and within the flock--they have separate "voices" for each type of communication. They mourn the death of a member of their flock, and have even been known to visit a site, en masse, where one of their flock has died.

They are, as it turns out, as intelligent as the great apes and are the most intelligent of the bird species. They can use tools and think ahead up to three tasks, unlike African Greys. And, most amazingly, they can recognize individual human faces, recognize danger in those faces, and pass that information along to their young, who have never actually seen that particular face, but will still know it and recognize that it represents danger, years later. I'm sorry, y'all, but how amazing is that?***

Anyway, if you ever want to watch it, here's a link for it.

*I recently found out, after six and 1/2 years of working in the Tidewater Building, that the big antenna on the roof is the WWOZ tranmission tower.

**Did I mention that I'm an ultra, super, mega-geek?

***Geekness times 100--I still think crows are cool.


Mark Folse said...

Damn, it says the episode is not available, but it must be out on the Internets somewhere. I wonder if Netflix does things like that.

Where I'm staying now on Fortin Street is between the track and an immense murder of crows, who commute over my house morning and evening to whatever they're up to at the track (scavenging horse feed, I suspect). I love to sit and watch them over my coffee or an evening beer.

esphixiet said...

This was fascinating. I've always felt fond of crows.
On a vaguely related note, I've always referred to myself as "a magpie" (for my love of shiney things), but since moving to MB, I've been able to see magpies in their natural habitat and in turn I've fallen in love with them.
I guess I'm saying I can relate to this post :)

Anonymous said...

My brother and sister-in-law for the last 23 yrs have traveled from Iowa City to Michigan to buy "the latest" crow from a fella that does nothing but spend his time carving them from a single piece of wood!! They have a TV room with an entire wall of stone built around a fireplace and it includes natural shelving built into the wall!! On this shelving are now 23 crows in various states of flight?? Murder??? grief??? They are very big and black and whenever we spend a weekend with them I never enter that room without a grain beverage!!! Loved this post but hate dem crows!!! Kathy in Des Moines