Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Those Birds in Black

How fitting that just as I finished the final paragraph of Crows by Candace Savage, a pair of these raucous rabble-rousers flew in for a morning visit, joyously announcing themselves from the tall pines. I have lovingly dubbed them Heckle and Jeckle (I know, I know, they were magpies). They first arrived a few weeks ago and became frequent visitors at the feeders, heavy snow and the scarcity of food probably driving them in. I don’t see them as often now that the snow is finally, albeit slowly, receding.

I have always felt honoured to be visited by crows. When a crow flies in, there is a moment of magic. The atmosphere suddenly changes, and all things seem possible. It’s as if they come from another world, another kingdom, where animals talk amongst themselves and share a knowing chuckle about our so-called human superiority. Crows can be disconcerting. Humbling.

Yet they are definitely part of our world, if we would only take the time to pay attention to them and to realistically acknowledge the extraordinary evolutionary journey the Corvidae family has taken.

I am glad for their presence in my life. I realize, however, that many people do not share this view of the crow. More’s the pity. They would do well to read this informative book, which deftly shifts between science and lore, thus giving us a 360° perspective on this highly intelligent creature with whom we share the planet.

Noisy? Well, so are we humans. And I would much prefer to listen to crows gabbing overhead than hear car horns, drills, heavy machinery, bulldozers or football fans any day.

Savage’s book has been on the shelves since 2005, so I regretfully confess that I just got around to reading it this month. And while I eagerly recommend this book to fellow Corvidae enthusiasts everywhere, critics and curmudgeons who regard crows only as pests and nuisances ought to read this too.

Here is a tantalizing excerpt to tease your curiosity, or unsettle your disdain if you are not yet a fan of “the bird in black”:

It is disconcerting to find so much of ourselves reflected in a feathered reptile: a bird. Disconcerting, but also revelatory. Our kinship with crows reminds us of the irrepressible creativity of evolution, that endless free-form expression of the miraculous that has shaped all of Earth’s beings, including us. In the vernacular of creation, crows and humans are a kind of living pun, two species with different meanings but the same vibration. It’s the kind of double entendre that the mythic Raven would have loved, a cosmic witticism that both puts us in our place and raises our spirits. When a crow leaps into the air, our hearts take wing with it and we join in the rowdy revel of existence.

Crows, Encounters with the Wise Guys of the Avian World
Candace Savage
Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 2005

And thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the photo.

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