Seagoing Crows

We have carrion crows in the bay here and they are by far the most fascinating birds that I share the beach with when I walk my dog. They are sharply aware, careful but unafraid, eyeballing me as they strut past, puffing out their chest and lifting their feet high. They will only rarely allow themselves to be interrupted, using a minimum of effort to keep their distance. They clearly regard themselves as more than my equal, and in these circumstances they are absolutely right. They know exactly who they are and what they can do and they have worked out long ago that I am clumsy and inept in their world by comparison. Their look tells me that, frankly, they have never met a human being who is their equal and certainly not this one. A few hops or a casual flap of a wing are usually enough to deal with me and if they are concerned they will just soar lazily upwards for a few yards. If I stand still and look straight at them they are happy to stare me out. There is nothing like facing the stark, bright eye of a crow- one of the most intelligent of all birds- to put you in your place. You know that you have met your match.

Life is relatively easy on the beach for them as there is plenty of food along the tide line, where both the corpses of sea life and the discarded remains of holiday packed lunches end up. There is not too much competition- seagulls are all mouth and easily fooled. All the crow needs is a quick eye and the wit to get their claws and beak into what they find fast. They have to be ready for anything. I have watched them rip apart and eat a range of things, from a sparkling fresh cuttlefish to a soggy pizza, dumped at the edge of the sea, still in its open box. It doesn’t pay to be choosy.

A beach crow has worked out early in life that dogs may be quicker on their feet than them but they are no threat and quite easy to deal with. When a dog interrupts their meal they will simply take a few flaps back to stand and wait, knowing that someone else will often sort things out for them by calling the dog away. As payback for occasional losses I have seen them knowingly tease one of my dogs all the way down the long stretch of sand, making her run and bark, staying just out of reach, occupying their mind and having fun- just seeing what would happen and testing their power.

There is no undignified squabbling to mar a crow’s life as they do not live in bad tempered flocks like many seabirds. They walk their walk almost alone, independent minded and practical, above such things. We could learn a lot from them.

At present their conservation status is classed as “least concern”. I am not surprised as they are well able to look after themselves. Long may that continue.

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