Crows
"Blackbird singing in the dead of night -
Take these broken wings and learn to fly...
Black bird fly - 
into the Light of the dark black night.... "

         song by Paul McCartney

 

"Edgar Goes to the Light"  oil painting on pressboard canvas  

Click below to skip Edgar's story and go straight to:  
Tips on Crow Care

(Some things I learned while caring for Edgar....)

 Edgar’s Story   
(on the advice of a few readers - I am hereby issuing a formal "hanky alert")
In the first days of Summer, a few years ago,  there came to me one of those moments in Life when a door is opened and - if you walk through it - you are never the same again.  

The door was opened by a friend who works for Animal Control.  She showed up on my porch with an injured baby crow that she’d picked up.  I knew nothing about birds - let alone wild ones.  Let alone injured ones.  And least of all - baby ones!  Fearful of my own ignorance, I almost turned away.  But convinced by my friend that our local shelter did not have the facilities or man power to care for the little guy,  I took a deep breath and stepped over the threshold.

I named him “Edgar Allen Crow” (what else?) and made a nest for him in a large empty pond on my front porch. There he could heal and spend his days socializing with the other crows in our neighborhood.  At night, concerned about raccoons, owl and other predators, I brought him in to the safety of my herb room (where he lost no time in making a mess of everything!)

Edgar immediately let me know that he expected to be fed every hour on the hour.  When not sleeping, he liked company, please!  My schedule at the time allowed me to spend almost every daylight moment with him and a bonding developed between us that was almost frightening in it’s intensity.  Through Edgar, I rediscovered that timeless sense of wonder from my childhood: I was surprised to realize that nothing was so pressing or immediate that I didn’t have time to spend simply “being” with Edgar.  I would lie on my belly in the grass like a little kid for hours on end – totally absorbed with watching what was quickly becoming a very large black bird hop about exploring the yard.  Occasionally, he would bring me a treasure he’d discovered – a fallen leaf or flower… then he would hop in my lap or on my head so I could tell him how wonderful he was.  He believed every word!

  I will never forget the thrill of the day those great wings of his gained enough strength to finally achieve lift off!  I’d gone to the grocery store and of course, immediately checked on his “pond nest” when I returned.  He wasn't there!  I called his name and received an answering caw.  He was on the roof!  He spread his wings and wobbled unsteadily toward me through the air, missing my shoulder and tumbling beak first into the boxwood hedges – not exactly graceful, but it was a start!  I felt the bittersweet pride of a mother who sees her child heading off for college and the big wide world. My baby bird was growing up!  Soon I was sure he would leave me –an event I anticipated with both sadness and joy. This was as it should be.

 In the next few weeks, Edgar made many boxwood landings… He no longer needed to be brought into the Herb Room at dusk, but he seemed to feel it was his right to be there.  My husband finally made a roost for him outside the herb room door where he could spend the night and Edgar had to be content with that.  As soon as I went outside in the morning he would swoop and land on my shoulder and playfully nip an ear or groom my hair in affection.  
He helped me in the garden, gleefully pulling up the flowers I’d just planted.  He assisted my husband as he cleaned the swimming pool – until the day he fell in.  From then on, Edgar supervised this chore from a safer distance!  
He played chase around the yard with our dogs – it was amazing to watch them play “Tag" and taking turns being "It".  And when neighbor cats would come into the yard and pick a fights with ours, Edgar would soar to the rescue and chase off the intruder.  Whereas most kids have a dog following them to school in the morning, my daughter had Edgar.

 In fact, far from taking off and joining the other crows as I’d expected, he considered our family to be his flock and that where ever we were was where he belonged.  He banged on the dining room window while we were eating and constantly tried to enter the house.  One day, he almost succeeded.  I was holding the front door open, letting in the multitude of critters that had been “helping me” with my gardening. They paraded single file beneath my outstretched arm: a cat, a 2nd cat, a dog, a 3rd cat, another dog... and bringing up the rear, wings tucked in his pockets, casually whistling and trying to look nonchalant was Edgar!  I had to explain to him yet again that outside was for birds.  But, oh, how he hated being separated from us!

  Getting into the car and pulling out of the driveway became a challenge!  If the car window was open, Edgar would hop in as soon as I started the engine.  No matter how hot the day was, I learned to make sure it was rolled up - at least till I turned the corner of our street.  After that he resorted to landing on the hood of the car and staying there. I yelled.  I honked the horn.  I tried carefully backing out of the driveway.  I even drove slowly down the street once with my live hood ornament.  Nothing would budge him!  I finally got in the habit of pocketing a piece of boiled chicken (his favorite food) whenever I wanted to go somewhere.  When I reached the driveway, I would throw the morsel as far as I could.  Edgar would dive after it and I would leap into the car and make my getaway.  When I returned, there he would be waiting for me in the tree next to the driveway and as soon as I got out of the car he would swoop down and land on my shoulder, grooming my hair-feathers and noisily giving me “what for” for leaving him. 

I learned that when I was gone, Edgar had certain friends among the neighbors whom he would visit with. Some neighbors were startled and even frightened by the aggressive friendliness of this huge black bird. (Edgar grew to be a third again bigger than the other crows in our neighborhood!)  Once,  a startled workman repairing the roof a few houses away almost fell off the cupola when Edgar swooped down next to him and playfully made off with one of his tools!  By the time the roof repairs were made, a few days later, he and Edgar were best friends and sharing sack lunches!

But, according to the neighbors who knew him, Edgar always seemed to know when I was returning.  They told me he would suddenly leave and they would see him take his position in the tree by the drive and that, sure enough, in a few minutes my car would pull up.

 T hen one day in late October, I came home and Edgar wasn’t waiting.  I called for hours and even wondered if he’d finally found a wife or joined the rest of the crows that he’d made friends with – but I couldn’t shake my feeling of foreboding.  

 Edgar had never learned to fear dogs. He was also convinced that every human was his friend and protector. His inquisitiveness had landed him in the wrong backyard and a neighbor's  dog decided to show him the error of his ways.  When the huge injured bird ran directly toward the dog's owner for help, the frightened person tried to finish the job.  Neighbor's on either side, drawn by the commotion and who knew me and knew Edgar, tried screaming over their fences that Edgar was a pet and and not to harm him.   Finally he was  hosed into an empty trash can, 4 inches of icy water at the bottom, the lid was clapped on tight, and there he remained for many hours until the child living in the house finally noticed me wandering up and down the street calling skyward.

I cradled Edgar in my arms, begged him to hang on (the only time in a crisis of any sort that I’ve ever become hysterical) and called my animal control friend. She recommended a vet who treats birds.  In the meantime, I did everything I could think of.   But by the time the vet returned my call, Edgar was dead and  I felt that part of me had died too:  the part that had reclaimed the ability to stop Time like a little child and simply Be One with the natural world around me…

 ...Yet,  nearly five months later, while out working in the garden, I passed the little headstone where we buried him.  “Hi Edgar,” I whispered as I always do.  Suddenly, I felt a weight on my shoulder!  I froze.  The weight remained and a softness against my cheek like….feathers?  I resumed moving about the garden – but slowly, carefully, overwhelmed with joy and amazement.  My ears were suddenly filled with the loud excited caws as at least 50  wild crows swooped out of nowhere and landed in the trees overhead.  The deafening cawing and the weight on my shoulder lasted for about 10 precious minutes.  Then, as I bent to move a hose, the weight seemed to transfer to my back – and, with a slight pushing off, was gone.  In the same instant, as though at a signal, the crows in the trees above and around me fell silent and, within moments, they too had left.  The sense of Childlike Wonder that I thought had died with Edgar however, remained and does to this day…  

And so, in a way, Edgar and I are still together.  And we always will be.

 Afterward...

Since my experiences w/ Edgar, the neighborhood crows (one pair in particular) and I have developed a wonderful, unique and often comical relationship. 
Every morning I take food out to their dish in the "fairy garden" and then give 2 loud "caws" to let them know breakfast is served. (I'm sure the neighbors think I'm nuts!) 
Occasionally I'm late and  they fly around the house til they spot me through a window. Then they'll perch or pace outside that window making a very strange sound - rather like a "caw" but not quite. My husband was present for this ritual one morning and burst out laughing. "They're imitating you! The way you sound when you're "calling" them!" I listened more closely - and he was right!

 

By the way....the amazing performance by the neighborhood  crows that I witnessed in the story above when Edgar's "ghost" (spirit, whatever) landed on my shoulder,  I've since read described in precise detail by other witnesses and crow researchers  - where between 50 and 200 crows will land in trees over one of their dead fellows or nest mates and set up a deafening ruckus - and then suddenly, as though a conductor had waved his baton, their voices stop. 

 Then, individually or in small groups, they all fly back to their respective roosts....often a mile away.  It is called a "Crow Funeral".  I'd never heard of it back then...and I've never witnessed one since. 

Tips on Crow Care 
(Lessons learned from Edgar)

2003 Rescues:

Macha & Stickers

Damas

A Crow Story ...with a Happy Ending!

2004 Rescues:
Beakers
a tale that hasn't ended...


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