Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Girl Who Gets Gifts from Crows

Eight-year-old Gabi Mann puts out food for her neighborhood crows, and in return they bring her presents, including all the items in the picture above:
In 2013, Gabi and her mother Lisa started offering food as a daily ritual, rather than dropping scraps from time to time. Each morning, they fill the backyard birdbath with fresh water and cover bird-feeder platforms with peanuts. Gabi throws handfuls of dog food into the grass. As they work, crows assemble on the telephone lines, calling loudly to them. . . .

The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn't a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically - anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow's mouth.

One time it was a tiny piece of metal with the word "best" printed on it. "I don't know if they still have the part that says 'friend'," Gabi laughs, amused by the thought of a crow wearing a matching necklace.
The BBC consulted crow expert John Marzluff, and he was not surprised:
Marzluff, and his colleague Mark Miller, did a study of crows and the people who feed them. They found that crows and people form a very personal relationship. "There's definitely a two-way communication going on there," Marzluff says. "They understand each other's signals."

The birds communicate by how they fly, how close they walk, and where they sit. The human learns their language and the crows learn their feeder's patterns and posture. They start to know and trust each other. Sometimes a crow leaves a gift.

But crow gifts are not guaranteed. "I can't say they always will (give presents)," Marzluff admits, having never received any gifts personally, "but I have seen an awful lot of things crows have brought people."
Amazing.

2 comments:

David said...

Indeed amazing. Wonderful to think of a crow more or less processing, "I bet the being who feeds us would like this!"

G. Verloren said...

Crows, ravens, and other corvids, though historically reviled in many cultures throughout the world, are some of the smartest, most perceptive, and most clever creatures around.

Not only do they have amazing memory, but they can also tell individual humans apart, even through various disguises of clothing. That in particular blows my mind. I mean, how many people do you know who can tell individual crows apart?

It amazes me that even in this day and age, many people still think of animals as unintelligent drones, incapable of emotion, complicated thought, or complex and meaningful interspecies relationships. The cultural legacy, I suppose, of ancient theological doctrines placing humans on a pedestal as lords over all, with "creation" fabricated expressly for their benefit, to be dispensed with however pleased their whims.