Three crows patrol the entrance to my neighborhood. They stay close to each other, pecking in the grass or flying from tree to tree near the street waiting for fresh roadkill. In flight, they call to each other—two or three brisk “caws” at a time. They can be heard for blocks. [Crow calling]
Hardly a day passes without a squirrel or two being squashed by cars entering and leaving the neighborhood. Most of the squirrels panic in the face of an oncoming car. They dart back and forth indecisively until they escape or are crushed by a wheel. The three crows descend quickly and begin spearing pieces of flesh with their sharp beaks. Before long, all traces of fur, blood and entrails are gone. Then they return to their vigil.
The crows’ calls energize the silent neighborhood off and on through the day. It’s hard to believe these cheerful birds are considered harbingers of doom in some cultures. They were once known to circle bloody fields of battle waiting for the carnage to end so they could feast on corpses. (Crows appear to enjoy human carrion much as squirrel meat.)
Ravens are not, as some people think, crows. The wingspan of a raven is almost twice that of a crow and the bird weighs four times as much. The call of a crow is simpler and more strident than that of a raven. The raven’s cry has more range and throatiness. [Raven calling in flight]