It’s been awhile since we posted. Sorry! We haven’t given up our love for crows, life just gets busy. We are back now and look forward to posting more regularly. We saw this beautiful crow by the waterfront. I wonder what he was thinking about…such intelligent birds. As it is a Sunday, we will throw in a corvid stamp — and start a new tradition — Stamp Sunday! Hope you enjoy!
What a beautiful little bird! According to the Crater Lake Institute, four of the six birds mostly like to be seen at Crater Lake in Oregon are corvids: Ravens, Gray Jays, Stellers’ Jays, and Clark’s Nutcrackers (see yesterday’s post about this clever little corvid!)
A member of the corvidae family, Clark’s Nutcracker is a lovely bird slightly smaller than the Spotted Nutcracker. It eats mostly seeds from the pine tree. And it has a pouch in the floor of it’s mouth in front of its tongue (a sublingual pouch — See below) which can hold up to 95 pinyon pine seeds (depending on the seed this number can vary from 50 to 150).
To put this in perspective, 95 Pinyon pine seeds weigh up to 13% of the total weight of the bird!! How neat is that? They have a pouch in their mouth where they can store and carry almost 15% of their own weight! The Clark’s Nutcracker also has a “long, heavy, sharp bill… used for hacking open green, closed cones, many of which are covered with pitch. Nutcrackers can open the green cones of most of the pines. The bill is also used to thrust seeds into the substrate with strong japes of the head and neck. As their name implies, nutcrackers can open thick-hulled pine seeds by crushing them in their bills.”1 Most jays must wait for the cones to open naturally, but the Clark’s nutcracker (and the pinyon jay) are able to open the tightly closed green cones. Lucky for them, they don’t have to wait for a good seed.
In a year with a heavy cone crop a single nutcracker can cache between 22,000 and 33,000 seeds in over 7,000 individual cache sites (Vander Wall & Balda, 1977). Birds may place between one and 14 seeds per cache. Birds continue caching until the crop is depleted or snow covers the caching areas (Vander Wall & Balda, 1977). Possibly, birds curtail caching after snow remains on the ground because to cache in these conditions would reveal cache location by their foot prints left in the snow.2
The Clark’s Nutcracker possesses a number of abilities and physical attributes that help them thrive. They have excellent spatial memory abilities which allow these clever corvids to “learn and generalize geometric rules about the placement of landmarks.” They use the landscape and even the sun (as a compass) to help them cache seeds. Their strong beaks help them crack open seeds, hence their name. Their long, pointed wings help them for strong flight to great distances. They can cache up to 22 km (a little over 13 and a half miles!). The Clark’s Nutcracker “can carry seeds 1,900 m up the side of the Peaks.”3 They use ‘bill-clicking’ which is the rapid opening and closing of the mandibles, to help determine if the seed is full as well as determine the thickness of the seed coat which saves time when seeds are abundant in the spring and summer.
So intelligent are they, the Clark’s Nutcracker can discern between pinyon pine seeds that have nut meet and those that are empty just by observing the color of the shell. WOW! Corvids are so intelligent!
While driving around a beautiful university campus I came across a monastery with a lovely statue in front. It was a bronze statue of Saint Benedict of Nursia with a book in one hand a crow on his shoulder. I had not previously read about this saint or his story. But I found it interesting that he is depicted most times with crows. Here are a couple pictures of the statue I saw on the lawn near the abbey at Saint Martin’s University in Olympia, Washington. (They are not the greatest because I felt rude going on the lawn to get head on shots. Maybe next time I go I will ask if for permission.)
According to the Saint Martin’s University website,1
The dynamic, larger-than-life, bronze statue of Saint Benedict of Nursia, Father of Western monasticism and patron saint of the Catholic Benedictine order, stands near the Abbey Church. The statue, by Russian-born artist Simon Kogan, is a reminder of the 1,500-year-old Benedictine heritage that is part of the fabric of Saint Martin’s. Among the hallmarks are hospitality, service and a commitment to work, prayer and learning.
Crows were important to Saint Benedict of Nursia according to the French legend of the monk, Benedict of Nursia, who is known as the father of the monastic rule of the Benedictines. In French, a saying, “D’or aux trois corbeaux de sable posés deux et un” which translates into “Of gold, three sand crows posed two and one” denotes this very legend. It was said that Saint Benedict lived within a cave far away from the people and shared his food faithfully with a crow who visited him daily. This crow grew to love the monk and Saint Benedict grew to love the crow(s). A jealous priest sent poisoned bread to kill Saint Benedict but he was wise and gave it to the crows telling them to throw in a place far, far, far from any man. And so the crows did as he said and became the symbol of obligingness, intelligence and fidelity.23456
Another spin on the legend makes it Saint Benedict and the raven from the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great,7
When as the foresaid monasteries were zealous in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and their fame dispersed far and near, and many gave over the secular life, and subdued the passions of their soul, under the light yoke of our Saviour: then (as the manner of wicked people is, to envy at that virtue which themselves desire not to follow) one Florentius, Priest of a church nearby, and grandfather to Florentius our sub-deacon, possessed with diabolical malice, began to envy the holy man’s [Benedict’s] virtues, to back-bite his manner of living, and to withdraw as many as he could from going to visit him.
When he saw that he could not hinder his virtuous proceedings, but that, on the contrary, the fame of his holy life increased, and many daily, on the very report of his sanctity, took themselves to a better state of life : burning more and more with the coals of envy, he became far worse; and though he desired not to imitate his commendable life, yet fain he would have had the reputation of his virtuous conversation.
In conclusion so much did malicious envy blind him, and so far did he wade in that sin, that he poisoned a loaf and sent it to the servant of almighty God, as it were for a holy present. The man of God received it with great thanks, yet not ignorant of that which was hidden within. At dinner time, a crow daily used to come to him from the next wood, which took bread at his hands; coming that day after his manner, the man of God threw him the loaf which the Priest had sent him, giving him this charge: “In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, take up that loaf, and leave it in some such place where no man may find it.” Then the crow, opening his mouth, and lifting up his wings, began to hop up and down about the loaf, and after his manner to cry out, as though he would have said that he was willing to obey, and yet could not do what he was commanded.
The man of God again and again bide him, saying: “Take it up without fear, and throw it where no man may find it.” At length, with much ado, the crow took it up, and flew away, and after three hours, having dispatched the loaf, he returned again, and received his usual allowance from the man of God.
In my research on Saint Benedict of Nursia, I found this other statue depicting him with crows, as well. The legends all include his love for crows and how he helps them and they help him. This makes him a memorable saint for me. An old-school corvid lover. =)
Let me introduce you to the Javan Green Magpie, also known as the the Short-tailed Magpie or Cissa Thalassina.
Striking bird, eh? The Javan Green Magpie is part of the Corvidae family. This beautiful bird is endemic to the mountain forests on the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Java. Yep, those are the only two places you can find the Javan Green Magpie. It lives in thick vegetation in the upper and middle levels of forests and makes only short flights.
The Bornean subspecies jeffreyi has whitish eyes. The nominate subspecies from Java, as well as other members of the genus (Cissa), have dark reddish-brown eyes. The Javan Green Magpie is considered critically endangered with a population of about 50 to 249 mature individuals.1 ” It has also been suggested that the total population probably does not exceed 100 individuals and could number fewer than 50 individuals, as there may be only one or two dozen birds at each of up to four sites where the species was recorded from 2001 to 2011 and may still be extant (van Balen et al. 2011).”2 These birds are endangered because of habitat loss and habitat degradation driven primarily by agricultural expansion, logging and mining. Unfortunately, they are also often trapped in cages set out for the cage-bird trade business. =( Only a small number have ever been recorded in bird markets which indicates they are caught but then killed because they are not necessary.3
As you can see from the photograph above, the Javan Green Magpie mostly eats invertebrates and small vertebrate prey as well as berries (I saw a photograph of one with a berry in its mouth). Breeding appears to take place throughout the year, with a preference for the months with highest rainfall (October -April). Clutch size is one or two (van Balen et al. 2011 and references therein).
It is slightly larger than a blue jay.
I couldn’t find much more about this beautiful bird but if you can, please share!
I have many bird visitors daily to my feeders. The past few days a crow has been visiting. This crow is beautiful, younger but this crow is injured. And it makes me so sad to see the bird limp. =(
You can see him/her nursing its leg. =(
The crow didn’t fly away like most do when I get too close. It is injured and worried but I was not hasty in approaching it.
I made some calls to the local wildlife organization to see if they could help. If you find an injured crow (or any bird) or an abandoned nest or hatchling (baby bird), you can call or visit the website of national organization to find your local facilities:
When in doubt, just call your local humane society and ask what to do or who to call. They should be able to help direct you to the appropriate people to contact. If you really can’t figure out anyone to call, write me at crowgyrls at gmail dot com. I will find someone for you to call.
My local wildlife organization told me to see if I can catch the crow and bring it in. They recommended using a towel or a sheet. Crows are nervous by nature (and rightfully so). It may take a bit to catch them, if you can at all. If the crow can fly, they will probably evade you. And crows have an amazing memory and can teach their young to avoid particular people. So, be prepared to be the bad guy for awhile. Perhaps permanently. It is not for the faint of heart, helping transport a crow to an animal hospital or wildlife facility.
I read an intriguing article about crows (and corvidae in general) and how they originated in an Australian part of Gondwana12, something I did not know. How very interesting! I learn something new every day! This article is worth reading but I won’t re-post it here, I will link it instead. Just visit here to read the original article by Stephen Debus.
Did you also know that Crows were most likely in the United States long before people?3 So, think of that next time you feel they are being pests and invading your land. Perhaps, the more likely story is you are invading theirs. It is a good idea to share and share alike with crows and humans alike. How much corn can they really eat? Plants a few extra stalk for them.
In paleogeography, Gondwana ( /ɡɒndˈwɑːnə/), originally Gondwanaland, was the southernmost of two supercontinents (the other being Laurasia) that later became parts of the Pangaea supercontinent. It existed from approximately 510 to 180 million years ago (Mya). [↩]