Sunday, December 18, 2011

Winter At The Feeding Stump - The Seed Crow?

 Today is probably the coldest day yet as we awoke to a dusting of snow and -6C temperatures made all the worse by a windchill.My adopted murder of crows were hanging out in the back yard awaiting breakfast and I did not disappoint - on the menu this morning were trimmings from a cross rib steak, a dinner roll and peanut butter sandwiches.Once recognized(yup - they know me) the sentinel crow then "caws" the dinner bell and the rest of the posse arrives in short order.

  Fortunately they enjoyed the steak and leftover roll before the gulls made the scene and gulped down the sandwiches after having chased off the Starlings. Gulls are definitely the T Rexes of the local bird population.Two of them singlehandedly finished off the cubed sandwich in short order.

Generally my crows will either pick up a cube of sandwich or offal and scoot off to enjoy the meal or fill their beaks and then depart the scene completely. My understanding is the male crow will take food back to the nesting female and/or actually stockpile food for later. They are quite intelligent omnivores so it would not surprise me in the least if they cache food, especially in winter.The gulls on the other hand just scoff down offerings in record pace.

 Yesterday I noticed something very unusual. I put out hanging feeders for the juncos, bluejays and chickadees but will spread some assorted birdseed on the ground to keep the swarms of ground feeding starlings away from the feeders. I will also throw down some cracked corn for the crows but it seems they will only eat it as a last resort. Having restocked the feeders and spread some seed over the vacant driveway that borders my back yard I  later saw a couple crows, but one in particular, actively eating seed? I know they are an omnivoric bird but seed is not usually on their menu?

 It has been quite a mild winter to date so I don't think it was because they are extremely hungry?Could it just be an adaptation to urban life and the abundance of back yard feeders and bird seed? So today I placed my camera in video mode hoping I would catch my seed eating crow in action. Not only did I catch some footage but was privy to a closeup pov of seed selection, shell cracking and eating of the kernel.Over the hum of the city listen for the sound of the seed being "popped" by the crow's beak.

Its interesting how the local murder of crows has become familiar with my presence. Instinctively wary they have become less evasive of me and my approach, now ignore my camera for the most part and will ground feed even if I remain in the general area. I think I will experiment with calling them this winter. Sort of a Pavlovian response kind of idea based on a sound or vocalization. 

Update - It seems crows will eat seed and will respond to being called. They also like peanuts so I guess that is why the PB&J sandwiches are such a big hit.