Friday, April 02, 2010

For the Birds

So I was walking Penny, and just down the street from our house, I saw a hawk standing on the sidewalk. Weird. As I approached, I realized it was hunched over the carcass of a pigeon, eating it. When I got still closer, it abandoned the carcass and flew up to a nearby wire. Then a murder of crows (yep, that's actually the word) swooped in and chased it off.* Meanwhile, coincidentally or otherwise, a group of (non-dead) pigeons circled large loops overhead.

That's a whole lot of avian excitement for our urban little neck of the (non-)woods.

* Crows apparently hate hawks. Often, as a kid back on the farm, I saw them mercilessly harassing lone birds of prey. (Why? Are they competing for resources? I assume crows are too big t0o big to become prey themselves.)


  1. Crows don't like anyone who ain't a crow.
    Aside from that... it's just tough to be a boid.

  2. “Take care when you handle Cliche’ lest you draw offense of Metaphor, as neither will honor what they seem in life nor what you would wish of them in death.” …said Down the Gravedigger to his apprentice.

    Hey, Slimbo,
    I can tell you one reason, perhaps, that it is called a Murder of Crow.
    Before the flood I lived over by the seawall, right by that non-dog park on Decatur. Some mornings (I think weekends usually) this little bald gay man would feed the pigeons along the sea wall. He'd apparently been doing it for a while as the birds would congregate at sunrise on the corner eves of that Tea Warehouse, or along the top of the wall, and wait for him to walk over from Royal or Chartres. You could always tell he was getting closer as the birds would all start tweeting and getting excited. Really. They All Knew This Guy.
    So he would arrive with a big bucket of bird-seed and the show would begin along the bottom of the seawall between S. Peters and the wall.
    There would be Crow there too, but not as many as you'd expect.
    I learned from this fellow that the pigeons would make coveys of about 20, and hang together their entire lives. He'd studied them and corresponded with the Bird Specialists at LSU. So, we are talking about 6-7 Covey of Pigeon there cooing along the bottom of the seawall, fluttering up to the top of this little gay man's bald head...mostly pigeons though.
    It was a pretty cool thing to see, since these pigeons obviously loved this man to death.

    I found all this out as he walked me through the feathers, broken bones and few carcasses left in the car tire tracks along the seawall after someone had driven though our friends one morning after our now little sad bald man had gone back home.
    He was telling me all this crying. Someone had gone back and forth with their car and killed almost every single pigeon. He had discovered it the next day when coming to feed them. He said he knew something was wrong when they didn't follow him from his house... then they weren't clouded around the eves of the building... but then he said he Really knew it when he saw the Crows lined along the top of the Seawall above the dead pigeons. He said about 2 dozen Crows were stretched out from one end of that block to the other all along the sea wall, not on the ground. Then he saw the pigeons, and he could hear some of them still alive.
    We're talking over 100 birds here, and he picked up nearly every one of them that morning.

    He was telling me this about 3 days after it happened.
    The Crows were still sitting on top of the sea wall, but only about a dozen of them that I saw --though still, that's a lot of Crows when you think about it. And another thing, they were silent. Just sitting there, facing away from the river, watching.
    There wasn't a Pigeon in the sky right there. He said they won't come back. And he said the Crows wouldn't eat anything there either.
    He said that he had heard somewhere that Crows Witness Murder. Or that they simply bare witness to Death, as if they are some sorta Fowl Undertaker.
    I saw them sit on top of that seawall for at least a week after the murder.

    I mean...Cardinals get to wear Red, the Pope wears White...but the Reaper? Crow-black, which can get even darker than "Starless and Bible Black."

    I don't come here nearly as often as I should. Crows are like that.
    Thanks again

    ps-Your Word Thingy Formicator? WTFr? for this comment is: "equer".
    Hmmmm...I'm tollin'ya, Slimbo... it's getting closer.

  3. I saw a similar scene in Balto once--red-tailed hawk, clutching limp squirrel, being attacked by a flock of small birds.

  4. Avian vigilante justice?