The Crow from Six Feet Under

Copyright HBO (Six Feet Under)


I have been watching Six Feet Under and the opening sequence includes a corvid. I thought it was a raven because it is much bigger than a normal crow and its feathers around the neck are shaggier, it also has a larger bill. So, I did some research and here is what I found out. It was a trick. It is indeed a crow but not an ordinary crow which is approximately 40–50 cm (16–20 inches) in length. It is being portrayed as an American Crow but it is reportedly a painted Pied Crow (Corvus Albus) which is often thought of as a small raven and is approximately 46–50 cm (18.1 – 23.6 inches) in length.

In the Season 1 commentary, the Director mentions that they used a Pied Crow which is native to Africa for the opening sequence and they painted it black to look like an American Crow instead of using an actual American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) because it is illegal to film a crow in the United States under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,

All native species of birds, with exception of upland game species (chukar, pheasant, quail, grouse), introduced species (starlings, house or “english sparrows”, and feral pigeons) are protected by the MBTA. Migratory birds, their parts, nests or eggs may not be possessed, transported, imported, exported, purchased, sold, bartered, or offered for purchase, sale or barter without appropriate permits.

According to the USFWS Law Enforcement Division,

Use of birds for filming is not allowed in the United States, unless the film is produced for the purpose of wildlife conservation education (National Geographic or Discovery Channel films, for example). Commercial use of migratory birds is prohibited. This would include using birds in films produced for entertainment or commercials.

I guess we learn something new every day. The bird is beautiful but not right in it’s natural state for the opening sequence, not dark enough, or so I imagine. And our ordinary American Crows are not film-able in the United States. Thus, we get a painted Pied Crow in the beginning of every episode of HBO’s Six Feet Under. The ironic part of all this is… we are allowed to legally kill crows, just not film them for commercial purposes. Exploit them — NO WAY! Kill them, sure. What strange laws we have.

Copyright HBO (Six Feet Under)

According to HBO’s Six Feet Under Behind the Scenes,

Lane Jensen of Digital Kitchen wrote, “The thing we discovered about crows is that it is illegal to film true crows in the United States for commercial purposes. This crow was actually a pied crow. it has a white chest, so we painted the chest black. It was not very well trained, and it had to be on a leash, it didn’t want to fly. “

Alan Poul from Six Feet Under wrote, “The thing that sticks out the most is the crow. Every effects house had come in with some kind of death-related imagery. But the crow seemed like something that was not so literally tied to the show and not overly macabre, but so evocative of the darker feelings the show would conjure up.”

Meri C. Fox-Szauter (Crow artist)

A wonder colored pencil/ink artist contacted me to share her work and I would like to share it with you. Here are a couple of examples of her crow art or art involving crows,

Original art by Meri C. Fox-Szauter (http://www.wallofthorns.com/)
Original art by Meri C. Fox-Szauter (http://www.wallofthorns.com/)

You can enjoy more of her work at her website Wall of Thorns or on Facebook. Here is her artist’s statement from her website,

Artist’s Statement

Everything casts its own shadow; light, emotion, time. We move through these shadows day in and day out, and we shape our lives accordingly. I have long been fascinated, as artists are, by the effect of light on objects and the shadows they cast. But I have also studied the shadows that echo from strong emotions, the comparatively peaceful ones that emanate from the quieter, calmer emotions.

Sunlight leaves an interesting array of shadows as it moves over a potted plant, or peeks over the edge of the ocean to strike Otter Cliffs. A peaceful evening or a dance in a gentle wind also are worthy of attention, and therefore I spend my time attempting to catch these moments of light, shadow, reflection and introspection.

Tell her how much you appreciate her art and let her know that you seen her work on Corvid Corner (no, there is no commission for me…just to let her know where you saw her work.)

The Revered, Reviled Crow Clan by Howard Youth

I read an excellent article about corvids from their habitat to myths and legends about them in the May/June 2001 issue of Zoogoer. I think it is worth the read. Here is an excerpt:

For centuries, a dark specter haunted the bloody battlefields of Europe. Waiting to feast on the dead, common ravens lined up at bloody clashes between invaders and invaded, tribes and kingdoms. War-weary observers could not ignore the jet-black scavengers, with their four-foot-wide wingspreads and cross-shaped flight profiles. Ravens, not surprisingly, were branded harbingers of bad luck, or death.

Away from the carnage, common ravens (Corvus corax) also coasted into folklore, legend, and language, strongly hinting that these creatures and their 100-plus brethren in the family Corvidae are not your average birds. Two ravens, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), rode the broad shoulders of the Norse god Odin. In Inuit legend, the raven became creator and trickster. In the Bible, Noah sent not only a dove but also a raven to seek land, as did many ancient mariners. Tame ravens still stroll within the Tower of London’s walls, where for centuries they’ve been sequestered as guardians against invasion.

One reason why ravens, crows, jackdaws, rooks, magpies, treepies, choughs, nutcrackers, and jays stand out is that they have above-average brains—proportionately, they possess the largest cerebral hemispheres of the feathered set. Plucky, crafty, curious, social, vocal, and adaptable, corvids, as family members are known, are among our most familiar yet enigmatic neighbors. On all continents save Antarctica, they flourish in backyards and wilderness, although more than 20 species barely hang on within shrinking habitats. Ethiopia’s thick-billed raven (Corvus crassirostris), bigger than a red-tailed hawk, is the world’s largest songbird, while the dun-colored Hume’s ground-jay (Pseudopodoces humilis) of the Tibetan plains is the smallest family member. In between lies a broad spectrum of glossy, splashy, and plume-tailed characters.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Quotes with Crows

Only last night he felt deadly sick, and, after a great deal of pain, two black crows flew out of his mouth and took wing from the room.
—Unattributed Author

To shoot at crows is powder flung away.
—Unattributed Author

Even the blackest of them all, the crow, Renders good service as your man-at-arms, Crushing the beetle in his coat of mail, And crying havoc on the slug and snail. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Come, seeling night, Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day, And with thy bloody and invisible hand Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond Which keeps me pale. Light thickens, and the crow Makes wing to th’ rooky wood. Good things of day begin to droop and drowse, While night’s black agents to their prey do rouse.
—William Shakespeare

The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark When neither is attended; and I think The nightingale, if she should sing by day When every goose is cackling, would be thought No better a musician than the wren. How many thing by season seasoned are To their right praise and true perfection!
—William Shakespeare

As the many-winter’d crow that leads the clanging rookery home.
—Lord Alfred Tennyson