Please help me satiate my love for crows.
February 8, 2023 1:51 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for all sorts of information pertaining to those lovable but oft-maligned creatures we call crows. Do you have a fascination for crows? Maybe you can help.

Please provide educational/historical articles, bird studies, folklore pieces, links to artwork and illustrations and photography, memes!, songs, poems - you name it. Now that I am thinking about it, having access to articles/folklore from various countries and ethnic groups would be helpful, as well.

Thank you in advance.
posted by captainsohler to Pets & Animals (50 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps you would like the Crow Scientist app, or the work of the Marzluffs generally?
posted by clew at 1:55 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

BoredPanda tends to have a lot of fun stories about crows.
posted by jabes at 1:56 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Build your own Crowbox!
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:58 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]

Some years ago, I saw a fascinating PBS documentary about crows. I'm not sure, but I think it was this one. It's free on Youtube.
posted by alex1965 at 1:58 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Tony Angell's In the Compny of Crows and Ravens meets most of your criteria.
posted by jamjam at 2:24 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

posted by changeling at 2:29 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

The Crows science comic is a great intro!
posted by potrzebie at 2:37 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

The Crowtographer (Instagram and FB)
posted by lapis at 2:37 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

CrowArtist on Etsy for your corvid merch needs.
posted by sukeban at 2:50 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

Bernd "Ravens in Winter" Heinrich is your man. Esp if you're also a runner. Ravens = Corvus corax.

handiwork by Sarah Baume has a chapter on hoodies Corvus cornix. Hoodies are the personification of the shape-shifting, sexy, Morrigan esp Badb Mórrigu the goddess of war.
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:52 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Meet Fable the Raven This eight minute clip has a lot of information about interacting with corvids, and is very light hearted and enjoyable. I hope you enjoy.
posted by effluvia at 2:54 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

We recently got this great informational picture book about crows at the library and it really increased my appreciation for them!
posted by donut_princess at 2:55 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

The Crow Whisperer
posted by crocomancer at 3:03 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Are you interested in ravens as well? because The Ravenmaster is a great book! He's on insta too
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:05 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

Vancouver, BC is home to tens of thousands of crows (and ravens). Every day, 20,000+ crows fan out across the city, and every night these same 20,000+ crows fly back to Still Creek in nearby Burnaby, where one of the largest rookeries in North America is located. It's like watching Hitchcock's The Birds every evening!

When the 27th Ornithological Congress came to Vancouver in 2018, a public art project called As The Crow Flies took place along a 10 kilometer span running from the neighborhoods of Strathcona to Marpole, thus becoming one of the longest public art installations in Canada. It featured multiple interventions ranging from public sculptures, to music and video projections as well as education, conversations, art-making workshops and community engagement activities, all centered around the theme of crows.

You can see images and more info there
posted by Bigbootay. Tay! Tay! Blam! Aargh... at 3:20 PM on February 8 [7 favorites]

Arabel's Raven
posted by srednivashtar at 3:23 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]

New Caledonian crows are known for making and using tools.
posted by Redstart at 3:32 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

Carl Bergstrom on How to Befriend Crows
posted by rockindata at 3:46 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]

An early episode of the Ologies podcast featured science pertaining to crow funerals and other crow facts.
posted by Liesl at 3:49 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

The Classical Romans believed that crows said "Cras!" which was Latin for "Tomorrow" Their cawing reminded you to be aware of the looming future. For this reason, as well as the fact that they scavenge carrion, crows and ravens are traditional momento mori.

This is why it was a raven that said "Nevermore" - It scanned and lent itself to rhymes better than the word "Tomorrow."
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:16 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]

John CROWley’s (see what I did there?) Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr is an exceptionally well-written fantasy novel about the many lives of an immortal crow.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:16 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]

Have you read Hollow Kingdom? It's a fictional book about a crow and his family that I saw recommended on Metafilter. I haven't gotten too far in yet, but so far it's hilarious and I think captures the spirit of a crow pretty well :)
posted by Eyelash at 4:28 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hey this is the best post ever!
posted by Corvid at 4:52 PM on February 8 [21 favorites]

Crow calling!
posted by mcbeth at 6:05 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

This amazing artist does a lot of crow-inspired work and is on Instagram as My favorites are her huge crow and raven sculptures made out of recycled tires.
posted by Empidonax at 6:26 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Here is a page of links to Native American Crow mythology from the website
posted by metahawk at 7:45 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]

I belong to the local Audubon society, and I found THIS presentation to be very enjoyable.
posted by SageTrail at 10:33 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Powerful magic, this thread has disturbed the Wikiverse . . .
Wikipedia's today's featured article:
The forest raven (Corvus tasmanicus), or Tasmanian raven, is a passerine bird in the family Corvidae native to Tasmania and parts of southern Victoria and New South Wales.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:21 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Corvus by Esther Woolfson is a lovely book about the different corvids the author's family have known over the years, starting from her daughter rescuing a fledgling rook. It's a great mix of anecdotes about the personalities and quirks of the individual birds mixed in with broader natural history about the species.
posted by Lluvia at 1:21 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I too am enamored with crows.

In the spirit of contribution; Ted Hughes' crow poems:
posted by NatalieWood at 3:12 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

On the sad side of crow information, the introduction of West Nile disease into Connecticut about the turn of the century devastated the crow population. There has been some rebound, but we are a long way from where we were. Crows are still used as an indicator species for the presence and prevalence of West Nile as you can see here.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:09 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

The Twa Corbies
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 5:27 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

This episode of of the Smithsonian's Sidedoor podcast about a Tlingit creation story: Raven and the Box of Daylight

The illustrator of the False Knees comics often features crows and ravens (he's Canada-based).
posted by Drosera at 5:32 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Crow Time: sweet, funny, strange little cartoon-comic featuring crows
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:42 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

"Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

"Black Birds" by Lisl auf der Heide

When the crows come
black against the darkening sky
their wings obscure the sun
and small sounds drown
in their strident caws.

They storm the walnut tree
snatch the green fruit
drop it from great heights
retrieve the cracked kernels.

Again and again they dive
From tree to ground
feathers gleaming
where stray sunrays touch.

And when the mountains turn blue
with the haze of evening
the crows lift off in ebony formation
head toward some secret roost
where they blend into the night.

Full moon with crow on plum branch
posted by gudrun at 6:19 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Amazed nobody has mentioned Youtube Channel "rpetsandus" by a sweet Canadian couple who live with a few rehabilitated but unreleasable crows and magpies.
posted by bluesky78987 at 7:32 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

"The Wake of Crows: Living and Dying in Shared Worlds” by Thom van Dooren, Columbia University Press, 2019 is on my TBR list

The book is organized into five chapters, each of which reflects on a unique theme and takes place in a different part of the world. At the end of each chapter is a complementary vignette that enhances the reader's connection to crows. Among the chapters, the five themes include community, inheritance, hospitality, recognition and hope.
- From this Oryx review, which goes into more detail on the individual chapters, which include "interviews with conservationists, both white and Indigenous"
posted by to wound the autumnal city at 9:00 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I really, really liked Lyanda Lynn Haupt's Crow Planet, which inspired me to get my own crow call. True crow communication is hard, but there's a few basic calls like the "hey, everybody come here" call that are usually understood.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 11:31 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I love this crow revenge story so much. I want my own crow army (and look, they give you prezzies!), but I'm scatty and I'm also afraid they will turn on me if I forget to buy nuts one day.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:44 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

I celebrated Crow and Raven Appreciation Day (April 27) on Facebook last year with poetry and art.

Art Gallery

The Crows Start Demanding Royalties
Gentleman, Crow
Crows (Mary Oliver)
Crows (Doug Anderson)

This book was written by a gentleman in my town, so some of the crows in it are very possibly those who visit our yard on occasion for hot dog bits from my wife.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:41 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Every late afternoon / early evening the crows in north Seattle commute to UW Bothell. I've been to see them in person a few times; the videos do not do it justice.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:09 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]

When my dad first became obsessed with crows, he read all the books about them marketed to the general public, then moved on to academic research articles in peer-reviewed journals, then started emailing fan mail and questions to the scientists who had written those journal articles. He had some nice correspondence with them and IIRC even got added to one of their research email groups just to lurk and read what they were talking about amongst themselves.

So, once you've read enough introductory material that you can begin to understand academic research articles about crows, I suggest calling your local library to set up an appointment (or find out their drop-in hours) to sit down with a reference librarian and have them teach you how to access and search databases of the relevant scientific journals and how to look up contact info for article authors, if you didn't already learn how to do this in college or need a refresher on how to use those databases. The vast majority of academics never get any fan mail from the general public, so the crow researchers were delighted to hear from my dad and would probably be delighted to hear from you once you have enough background knowledge to ask questions that aren't answered by Wikipedia or introductory books, especially if you're asking follow-up questions about their articles.

If you're able to access and read the full article text (not just the abstract) then a lot of journal articles include a section that lists possible future research topics. That section on an author's most recent publications is often a good indicator of what they would be most interested in chatting about. Those topics are generally their "I have a hypothesis that I'm pretty excited about but I don't have enough data to publish it yet" ideas and many scientists will be delighted to have a new person to infodump to because everyone else they know is already sick of hearing about it.

(Caveat: Dad used to be a software engineer for the Human Genome Project, and while I don't think he mentioned that experience or did any name-dropping in his introductory emails to the crow scientists, he had been included in the co-author list in enough of his principal investigator's papers that if anyone had looked up "who is this rando who just emailed me" then Dad's name would have popped up as a published author in databases of scientific journal articles. So that might have made the crow scientists more inclined to write back to him even though his publications were in a completely different field and you might not get as enthusiastic of a response. But IMO it's still worth reaching out because crow research is a niche enough topic that most of those scientists likely don't get a lot fan mail unless they've also published books for laypeople or been in documentaries etc. I worked at a research institute myself for three years and emails from the general public to scientists on my team were so rare that they would brag about it at lunch for weeks. Meanwhile, the advantage of NOT being a fellow scientist is they'll know that you're definitely not one of the anonymous assholes who has been shooting down their research proposals or writing nasty comments on their journal submissions during the blind peer review process.)

Dad read about how all the crows in a region tend to roost in the same spot in the winter and he decided to find his local overnight roost. So he got a big paper map of the area and then every day about an hour before dusk he would go to different fast food restaurants and order a few large fries and scatter them in the parking lot. That would attract a large flock of crows, and then when they would all take off to go to the night roost he would watch which direction the blob of dots went and draw an arrow on the map.

He was eventually able to triangulate the location of the roost not too far from his home, so one evening before dusk he just hiked out in the woods to where he'd figured out the roost should be and recorded all the crows coming in. As a result, everyone had to sit through an hour+ long video at Christmas of blurry black dots against a rapidly darkening with narration that basically went "And here come some more crows... oh look, here's even MORE crows! That's a big group. Now here comes a little group. Oh my god, here's some more crows." Think triple rainbow guy but about crows. The rest of us were very bored, but Dad was VERY proud.

So, I suggest that you might try a similar project in your area, although maybe use unshelled unsalted peanuts instead of fries (they're healthier than fries, 0but fast food restaurant parking lots are still a good spot to find a bunch of crows hanging around looking for dropped food). And maybe look up who owns the land you think the roost is on and get advance permission and wear an orange vest instead of just wandering out into the woods like my dad did. It turns out that his local regional roost was on private land and he was wandering around out there during hunting season so he's lucky that he didn't get shot! Oh and please try to be objective about whether any video you've recorded of the experience would actually be interesting to the other person before you make them watch it over and over at family gatherings lol.

Dad no longer lives near the regional roost but he does live in an area with enough crows that there are a few dozen who recognize him or at least his hat and will follow him around sometimes while he's out and about. He walks the dog twice a day while wearing a broad-brimmed hat with a couple of crow feathers stuck in it, and he always has a pocketful of unshelled unsalted peanuts for his crow friends.

One time he was walking the dog down by the beach and there was a crow sitting on a picnic table. As he approached, she looked him over, realized who he was, and noticed the crow feathers in his hat. She then pulled out one of her own feathers to give him, dropped it on the table, and hopped down to the other end. My dad retrieved the feather, stuck it in his hat with the others, and left her a huge handful of peanuts in return. After he'd walked by, she hopped back and started feasting. When he told me the story later, I congratulated him on successfully establishing trade relations with a non-human species.

AFAIK the local crows don't regularly bring him gifts, but it's also possible that he can't tell the difference between deliberate offerings left by crows vs. random stuff that's blown into his yard by the wind. Most of his encounters with crows are while he's out walking the dog, not at home, and he hasn't set up an offerings platform at home. If you want to receive gifts from crows then it seems most people who set up a platform specifically for putting out peanuts for the crows eventually start finding little shiny things etc. on the platform.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:38 AM on February 10 [16 favorites]

@Jacqueline: That story about the crow pulling out her own feather is possibly one of the best things I've read on the internet...ever. Heck, your entire post had me fully engaged. I'd love to read a book about your Dad's Crow Research Years!
posted by theseventhstranger at 9:50 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

That's so sweet that she pulled out a feather because he wears feathers! Awwwww!!!!
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:50 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]

R.K. Laxman, India's most famous cartoonist (and political satirist par excellence) was obsessed with sketching crows his whole life. You can find a good selection of his crow images by searching in something like Google image search.
posted by thaths at 8:50 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]

I am very late to the discussion but will.add this all the same. Crows are violent inveterate nest robbers who kill and eat eggs and hatchlings. They do not migrate to collective roosts at night in nesting season but rather stick around wherever they nest until their hatchlings turn fledgling and fly away. Until then, they quite embody their most aptly well chosen collective noun: Murder.

They are smart and endlessly fascinating birds but never forget that in befriending them, you will find out over and over and over how violent and brutal Nature can be. So, choose wisely.

After our local crows attacked and killed a Steller's Jay chick in our apartment courtyard, I switched my Corvid allegiances. While they are as bad as crows when it comes to being hell on other birds, Steller's Jays do it in twos rather then enmass as a mob.

PS. My understanding is that the 'monster mask' Professor Marzluff and his students wore to frighten crows on the UW campus was one of Dick Cheney. Which they then took to Alki Beach, miles away across land and water in West Seattle. They put the Dick Cheney head on there and got attacked by crows who had never seen the mask before. Marzluff's conclusion was that crows could communicate across long distances by means unknown. My own personal belief is that crows can cast a glamour upon humans identifying one as their friend or foe no matter where one goes. I used to work for Seattle Housing and when I started feeding crows at home for a time, they approached me wherever I worked. So remember, if you choose to befriend corvids, that Nature is red in tooth, beak and claw. There will be blood.
posted by y2karl at 2:33 PM on May 20

« Older How do I fix my frayed/broken pants pockets?   |   Relationship Logistics (weeknight sleepover... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments