The murder of crows

Is Corvus brachyrhynchosis more intelligent than Barry Coulter? The debate continues.

Over recent days a murder of crows has taken up residence in my neighbourhood. One thing I’ve learned about Corvus brachyrhynchosis in this time is that they’re not shrinking violet types, especially when they’re gadding about ensemble.

The neighbourhood murder is up with the chickens. Now, usually my yard is host to all manner of birds — robins, chickadees, sparrows and swallows, warblers, flickers come through, even hummingbirds … It’s quite pleasant to drift slowly awake in the pre-dawn light as the benign chirp and chatter of these smaller birds begins. But when the crows stop in, it’s a different story.

The other morning, the crows flew in at dawn’s early light, perched in the Rocky Mountain juniper just outside my bedroom window, and began the most murderous brouhawhaw, shouting at each other like some parliamentary debate gone out of control. The caw-caw-cawing jolted me awake like a bucket of water dumped on me.

“My gawd,” I groaned, “Shut up! Shut up!” But they did not shut up. I got up and went outside to remonstrate with the crows, but I could not shoo them away. I threw a frisbee into the tree (the only projectile I could find close to hand), but that didn’t faze the crows at all. Defeated, I went back to bed, and lay there with a pillow over my head until they flew away.

The next morning I heard them again, but they were a couple of blocks away, and the sound was muted. I woke up and heard them faintly, caw-caw-cawing away like mad by some unlucky neighbour’s house. “Hee hee,” I chuckled to myself unkindly. “We all have to take our turn.”

And so the murder of crows circulated around the neighbourhood, making an endless racket, especially at dawn and dusk.

Crows are reputed to be among the world’s most intelligent animals. I don’t doubt it. For example, the region of their brains that perform some types of executive functions and other higher cognitive tasks — the nidopallium — has been found to have the same relative size as the neocortex in humans. A crow could actually be smarter than I am. I’m not going to rule it out. But regardless of their cleverness, crows are subject to the same possible misadventures as the rest of us.

On Sunday evening I was engrossed in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” when I heard a loud ka-boom! from outside. The power immediately went out, and a clangor of caw-caw-cawing began. “I bet I know what that was,” I said to myself as I went outside. And I was right. There at the foot of a power pole lay a crow, dead as a doornail. At the top of the power pole was the transformer, which looked askew. I called BC Hydro and went over and looked at the crow. It looked smaller up close, especially its head. It was hard to imagine this animal could theoretically match my own relative executive functions and some other higher cognitive tasks. My brain is obviously bigger, therefore I must be smarter, no? Then again, maybe not. If I tried to rewire my kitchen I would probably meet with the same fate as the smoking crow at my feet. “Rest in Peace,” I said to it.

All this time the murder of crows had gathered in the trees nearby, caw-caw-cawing and shrieking over their lost fellow. Occasionally they would lift off and fly around in lazy concentric circles, cawing away.

BC Hydro, I must say, was Johnny on the Spot. A unit pulled in and had the power back on within minutes. They even took the dead crow away.

On Monday morning, the neighbourhood trees were silent, except for the chirp and chatter of small birds. After the death of their flockmate, the murder had left, to seek a new beginning.

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Cranbrook Arts has opened the doors of their  new gallery space to the public with their inaugural exhibit, Kootenay’s Best.
‘Kootenay’s Best’ opens Cranbrook Arts’ new gallery

This exhibit has been in the works for the past several months and features the work of more than 50 emerging and established artists from across the Kootenays

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Most Read