Crowing about corvids


By Sherry Lidstone

There has always been a healthy crow population in our community. The area has approximately 100 or so homes and is mostly agricultural. During summer hay harvesting the fields are littered with mouse bits that keep the birds fed. In order to get closer to them I would put out food to attract them. It worked, a little too well and once word spread there were 60 to 80 crows waiting each morning for breakfast. Talk about noisy! I don’t know for sure as no one complained, at least not to my face but I’m sure my neighbours weren’t too happy with me! Crows are fascinating birds to watch, their antics are amazing, one of the only birds that truly play.

For weeks, the only real difference between resident crows was the incessant squawking to be fed of the young ones. That is until we noticed poor, little Lester. In all probability he’d been here dozens of times with his parents and siblings as a normal, healthy juvenile and would not have stood out among the rest of the crows.

There he was, all alone, about 20 feet up in a pine tree, so fluffed up we initially thought he was a young raven. It was a couple of days before he finally flew down to the outskirts of the ground feeder. From the tell-tale red color at the corners of his mouth we could tell he was still young and while all the other juveniles had adults feeding them, no one was feeding Lester.

Poor thing, what a pitiful sight he was. His left eye was gone and his entire beak looked like an accordion. It was obvious that disaster had struck leaving him not only disfigured and an orphan but some what of an outcast as well.

I have no idea how he became so injured. Best guess is that he and his parent were probably hit by (or they flew in to it) a train. We lived very close to the railway. How he ever survived with such an injury is beyond me.

I never knew if Lester was a male or female, very hard to tell with crows but I always referred to him as a he. He got his name because of his uncanny resemblance to my Uncle Lester. They both shared the same shape of schnozz, pushed in and downwards. He was a sorry sight for sure.

Lester tried in the beginning to get food from other adult crows but none fed him. I put out lots of feed to satisfy any type of birds so he eventually got the hang of it and fed himself.

Lester was a real loner compared to all the other young crows and stayed pretty much to himself … almost always on the fringes of the group. Sometimes he would be right in the thick of things but not often.

Every evening when the crows left to head for their common roost (I’ll have to find that one day … it must have hundreds of birds) each night, Lester would remain behind.

He would hop his way, branch by branch to the highest tree top and watch as they all flew north with out him. Poor Lester. With only one eye I think flying wasn’t an easy task so he rarely flew more than a few feet at a time. Obviously this meant he was the first to the feeder each morning and got the best scraps. I purposely put out special treats just for Lester. I don’t know where he slept at night but it was close by. He stayed around the entire summer and my husband and I became quite fond of the little fellow.

Every day, early in the afternoon, all the crows would head across the highway and up in to the mountains where they would soar high in the sky. Lester never went with them; he would just sit in a tree and wait for them to return. One day he did leave with them and even managed to come back with them for the final feeding that night. Later when they all left for their roost he stayed behind as usual. The following day he again went with the group to the mountains but when they returned Lester wasn’t with them and he never came back. I’ll never know what became of Lester but I do know I will never forget him.

Feeding crows can be very rewarding, they are extremely smart birds that can remember faces and will even come once they associate a voice with food. If you do feed crows, meat scraps are best; spreading bread crumbs will also entice them but has little or no nutritional value.

Until next time, Happy Birding!