Corvus (Otherwise known as “Pesky Rotten Crows’

It was one of our all-too-seldom warm evenings, and so I grabbed two plates, piled some salad on them, poured some iced tea, and we slipped out into the garden. It is so lovely at the this time of year, with roses in full bloom and the scent of jasmine filling the air, and we have to take advantage of every opportunity to just sit and enjoy it. Charlie, the resident Jack Russell Terrier, was happy too, and after checking out the bushes for unwary lizards and such, settled down under our feet in the shelter of the big white table under the arbor. Just as Dr. Advice and I were toasting each other with our gourmet Lipton tea, a large, black and decidedly ominous shadow swooped low over the warm patio, and settled on the roof of the house. We glared at each other and set our glasses down. “They’re back”, was an unnecessary observation from my husband.

Whatever else they may be, and we all know stories of their superior intelligence and trickiness, they are loud, noisy and obnoxious as they scream out their attention-getting squawk, inviting all the other crows in the neighborhood to come watch us eat our dinner. Periodically we receive visits from most of the crow population of Northern California, and they take turns washing their food in the birdbath, and probably do a lot of other things in it too that I don’t want to know about. It was pretty cute at first, but then they began stealing food from other birds and hiding it. Dr. Advice remembers watching the crow cousin, the raven, in Homer, Alaska at a seafood packing plant. A worker was moving a large tarp-covered bin filled with shrimp. One raven sat at the front of the bin-keeping the worker busy, while his companion on the rear end was flipping the tarp off and tossing shrimp out to his waiting companions on the ground. They have discovered the great secret of humans, there’s safety in numbers. On another occasion, this time in Wrangell, Alaska, a large and lazy German Shepherd, having recently been offered a scrap of meat, painfully got up and ambled over to retreive it. A couple of wily ravens joined forces, with one awaiting at the dog’s head, and his friend annoying the dog from the rear. As the dog tried vainly to take the meat, the one at the front grabbed it and flew away.


While we bemoan the visitation rights of our crows, the famous ravens at the Tower of London are not only welcomed, but have clipped wings to keep them around and captive. The rule is there must always be six birds, and if one disappears for some reason, they have to bring another in. Only one bird survived the Blitz during the Second World War, so Winston Churchill ordered more brought in to bring the flock up to the correct size.

Superstition persists that “if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.” I have never heard the origin of this belief, or how they settled on six birds instead of ten, but they even have a bodyguard in livery, who makes sure they behave themselves. The ravens are enlisted as soldiers of the kingdom, and can be dismissed for unsatisfactory conduct. They are all named, and Raven George was dismissed and sent to Wales for attacking TV aerials. A few years ago another bird got his dishonorable discharge for visiting a local pub. You can’t blame a bird for lusting after a cool Guiness on a hot day.