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  • Writer's pictureCrone


From my desk at work I can hear ‘Caw-caw-caw’. Long pause. ‘Caw-caw-caw’. Long pause. ‘Caw.’ The blinds are down so I cannot see. But I know from studying Nature Mentor’s crow language guide that this is what’s described as ‘structured’ calling. Apparently, crows do this to keep in touch with each other. To keep tabs on each other, if you like.

Nature Mentor also describes ‘unstructured calling’, which is the cacophony of caws and screams when territorial boundaries are infringed and someone’s getting dive-bombed and others launch in.

Now, I discovered this from the free guide. For $27, which seemed cheap at the price, one could learn the deeper secrets of crow language. I paid my dollars and scrolled through the transcript of the audio files. There was reference to the structured and unstructured calls. And good stuff about how if you watch what’s going on you get a sense of what’s being communicated and how the intensity of the calling maps on to the intensity of the stimulus. So that’s all good.

But, what about the other noises crows make?

For example, I was sitting watching CD pick up cat food and walk off to bury it when he turned to me, stretched out his neck and tail feathers and said, ‘Caw-caw-caw’. I responded in kind. Without the tail feathers. He looked at me, then arched his neck so that his beak was meeting his chest and made a kind of cooing sound. I’d never heard anything like it from the crows. I replied. Which seemed to satisfy him as he returned to collect some more food.

I have found no reference anywhere to crow cooing. Somewhat narcissistically, I thought he might have been courting me. A bit of inter-species flirtation. But it turns out that crow mating calls are more like a rattle.

In fact, the day after I learned this, I was somewhat put out to hear CD and Droopy Wing rattling to each other as they flew off in a playful chase. I thought, not only am I not the object of CD’s passions, but Droopy is not his mother, she’s his wife. Or her husband.

Then I recalled the awful bloodcurdling sound Mrs Fluffy made when CD had attacked her. And I thought, ‘Wait a sec… was she… encouraging the violation of her relationship with Mr Fluffy?’

None of this was made any clearer by my $27 purchase.

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