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.”

Crows and ravens can nest as early as February

The Crow's Nest.jpg
The Crow's Nest.jpg by Tony Margiocchi (Snapperz)

Most birds start to nest in the late spring and throughout summer but there have been observations of crows and ravens nesting as early as February. According to these observations, ((http://www.newsleader.com/article/20110202/SPORTS/102020330/1006/SPORTS))

  • American crow: Allen Larner observed adults nest building on Feb. 23, 2000, and Feb. 21, 2005, both in Staunton. American crows live on territories the year round in family groups of 2-10 birds. Adults and young of the previous year may assist in raising the young of the newest brood.
  • Common raven: Our earliest breeding record is a pair carrying nest material on Feb. 3, 2008, at Fishersville. Beth and Harry Lumadue made this observation. It was on a large billboard. They kept close track of the nest and discovered eggs on Feb. 28.
  • Allen Hale discovered another nest with eggs on Feb. 28, 1988, at the quarry on Statler Boulevard in Staunton. It was unusual to find a raven nest right in town.

Now is as good as time as any to put out things in your yard for the birds to find to make nests. Twigs, scraps of light material, etc. But please as always it is important to not let plastic bags end up all over the place. Recycle them properly or better yet, commit to not using plastic. Use your own reusable canvas bags, most grocery stores offer them for like $1 and you can use them time and time again. Or use paper. Plastic is so detrimental to birds not to mention the entire plastic island that is accumulating in the middle of the ocean. =( *jumps off soapbox*

A Crow by any other name

Crow – Kråke

Pronounciation with an extra syllable – Kråkerøy:
http://forvo.com/word/kr%C3%A5ker%C3%B8y/

Magpie – Skjære

This one is kjære – but he pronounces it wrong so it comes close to skjære
http://forvo.com/word/kj%C3%A6re/

Raven – Ravn

An american tries to pronounce navn, he doesn’t quite get it, but its close. The r is pronounced with the tongue at the front barely touching the teeth.
http://forvo.com/word/navn/