12 Feb 2015
We have some ducks that live in the back yard. Three to be exact. They eat bugs and weeds, lay eggs, and chase away the occasional stray cat that wanders into the yard. They also “talk” to the other birds in the neighborhood. You can regularly hear the ducks in some sort of call & response “conversation” with the many crows. It was creepy at first, as if they might all be plotting to take over the humans. But I’ve come to accept it now.
Today I heard the crows squawking, as they often do, but then I heard the ducks shuffling down a little hill. I went outside to see what was going on and saw the ducks had taken cover underneath some bushes near the house. Overhead there were two hawks circling my backyard. Each one was being trailed closely by a crow. Shortly thereafter the hawks broke their pattern and headed off to the northeast, with the crows hot on their tails. A few minutes later, the crows returned to their perch in a neighbors tree with no hawks in sight.
This isn’t the first time the crows have appeared to send out some warning sign to the ducks. And it’s certainly not the first time the crows have gone after the hawks. They’re always messing with them. But it makes me wonder why. What do the crows get out of it? Are the ducks giving them some eggs before we can collect them? Giving them tips on where the best bugs are? Chasing squirrels away from the fruit trees so the crows can get a taste? I doubt it. Which means the crows are just doing the ducks a solid. Looking after the lesser, defenseless kin in their kingdom. If you’ve seen American Sniper or are familiar with some of the post-9/11 military vernacular this may sound familiar. It’s similar to the wolves, sheep and sheepdogs comparison they use. But less about meeting violence with violence.
The crows remind me of a quote by the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Gustavo Dudamel, “If you know four notes, teach someone who knows three.” The crows may not be the top of the food chain, but they’re helping out where they can. We should all be more like crows.