"If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows."
-Rev.Henry Ward Beecher mid 1800’s ("Bird Brains")
Harsh laughing woke me up this morning. A staccato laugh…HA!….hA!….HA! Only to discover it hadn’t really woken me but was being played out in a dream of spinning on a wheel with the laugh in the background.
When finally the laugh broke through my sleep to really wake me I discovered 2 things. One, there was a crow outside my window and two, I was falling down dizzy. If I hold my head just right I can get about and the crow was just trying to get my attention to tell me that another day had arrived. To hell with roosters, some people have robins, but I have crows. Seems sort of fitting.
I’ve always associated crows and ravens with dad for some reason. Perhaps it was the crow we had as a pet when I was small and the story of him having a crow when he was young that makes the connection. Perhaps it is the mythology of crows and ravens that I feel drawn to or the symbolism of the large black birds with the ugly call.
Is it the crow or is it the raven? Well it was definitely the crow that woke me today, you could tell by the noise, but there are differences between the two.
- A raven weighs about four times that of a crow.
- Crows have a wing span around 2.5 ft., and ravens about 3.5-4 ft.
- A raven’s wing sometimes makes a prominent "swish, swish" sound, while a crow’s wingbeat is usually silent.
- Ravens have pointed wings, while crows have a more blunt and splayed wing tip.
- Crows have a fan-shaped tail (squared-off), while raven tails are long and wedge-shaped.
- Besides having a bigger, more powerful bill, a raven’s bill is curved, while a crow has a more-or-less flat bill. Additionally, atop a raven’s bill is a tuft of hairs absent on crows.
- As a result of being larger and more powerful, ravens are the more efficient predator. (Predation is a very small percentage of crow and raven diets.)
- Crows are more at home in the urban landscape, given their ability to be more socially inclined than ravens
- Ravens at times will fly wing-to-wing with their mate, with the females just below the males.
The biggest difference though I think is that the crows are more social while the ravens more isolationists. Sort of like people – they come in groups but there are a percentage of them that prefer to be less a part of the group. It has been reported that ravens will use crows as lookouts or indicators of danger. If the crows are disturbed by something the ravens know not to approach. If there are no crows at a garbage site or a kill site the ravens are more cautious. Again, sort of like the isolationists among us – using the general population (the crows) to act as a warning system should there be danger. The general population is noisy and attracted to shiny things and prone to make a lot of noise when something seems not quite right, giving the ravens among us time to evaluate, move further away and then laugh.
Maybe reason I associate these birds with dad is the curiosity. They are flexible, adaptable and have an unending thirst for knowledge. Just like dad. While he may not have been distracted by shiny things, he was distracted by anything new, he often made a lot of noise about it and he had a sense of play. The crow’s harsh caw, caw, caw sounds much like a critic on some human foible. If we listen we will likely hear some sense in the crow or raven’s quorking.
The crows are smart, witty and quick with their intelligence, but the raven seems more wise and while still laughing at us, will place things in our way to try to help us along….if we are smart enough to see it. We are likely a great source of enjoyment to the crows and ravens – funny pink things with their silly antics, or maybe they are just waiting for us to drop dead so they can eat.
"Though the birds have a wide variety of sounds and calls they may not be willing to divulge their secrets to us." Quote the raven? Aaarrck!