Always Listening to the Birds

In case I’ve never said so, I love crows.  I love crows, chickens, pigeons, mockingbirds (I had the joy of listening to one every day at the first house I ever owned), mourning doves, and seagulls.  I love the noises birds make.  Yes, all bird noises are enjoyable to me.  For most of my life I haven’t thought of myself as a bird loving person.  Ornithology is not a hobby.  I watch birds, but I don’t WATCH them, if you know what I mean.  I listen to them but I don’t purposely go places to listen to them.  Still, when I look back on my life, it is plain that I have always had a great affinity for birds.

I spent more time with my chickens than any normal kid should have.  I used to spend hours in the half of the chicken shed fitted with a really scary dusty (probably mite filled) armchair.  I would take my books in there and read even when it was hot and stuffy, so I could hear the chickens making noise.  I also spent a lot of time catching them (except for Eggbert the enormous rooster) and carried them around the yard with me.

I used to carry on quiet conversations with San Francisco pigeons.  When they look at me I know they really SEE me and we share something between us, like greetings and curiosity and appreciation for what lurks in the city gutters.  Other people call them flying rats and disease vectors, but I think they’re beautiful and funny.   I recently found out what services they’ve provided humankind in times of war, so now I think they are also brave and have admirable perseverance.  I really want to start a pigeon post but have to find someone to be on the other end of it first.

Though I haven’t had a special love of geese, since moving to Oregon and living directly under the migratory flight path I have come to adore the noisy cloud of squawking as they pass over my house in the fall and the spring.  I love seeing them spread out above me in such happy chattery groups.  I’d like to think of myself as more of a pretty dove type person, or perhaps a shiny black inventive crow, but the truth is, if I was a bird I’d probably be a goose.  Or a mockingbird.  (Geese have a strong reputation for being mean, obtrusive, loud, spitting, aggressive, and hungry.  Mockingbirds are constantly trying on different sounds and songs and they can’t help themselves- they do this all day and night which has made them a pest in most people’s eyes.  Uncanny resemblance to me?  Sadly, I can see it.)

I don’t know that much about birds but I know that life would be bleak without them.

I saw (and attempted to photograph) two talking crows up at Timberline Lodge.  One had a nut-like something in his mouth.  Who knows, maybe it was a cocktail wiener?  They were so large standing on top of the six foot bank of dirty snow chatting with each other (the one with the nut trying to talk without losing his prize) that Max and I had to stop and discuss how cool we thought crows were.  We watched them chat until one this one flew off and I was ridiculously happy to have caught him mid-wing.

My son is not very empathetic to humans, something that makes it difficult to navigate human relationships.  However, his empathy, enjoyment, and love of insects and animals is strong and ever expanding.  While he doesn’t like the call of the mourning doves he forgives them their intrusive noise.  He loves the noises of the frogs in our yard and when he catches one his delight is like a glow through his skin.  When he brought Pete the injured baby snake home his care for him and gentle treatment were the sweetest thing in the world.

I think how a person relates to and treats animals and insects (both wild and domesticated) says a lot more about their spirits and the state of their soul than how they treat other humans.  Though I will always work on fostering in Max a greater empathy and patience for people, I know that he has a good spirit because he still misses our hens and broke up with a friend once for kicking a dead bird on the road.



  1. Allison says:

    I may share your love of crows, but ever since the juvenile male mockingbirds decided that the tree outside my bedroom window was the perfect place to midnight performances, I’m afraid they don’t number as highly on my list of favored creatures.

    I do believe though, for no rational reason, that birds in general are good omens, and I think crows have a bad rap. I love their chatter and arguments – there is a particular family (or murder, as it may be) of crows that hang around our neighborhood and seem to favor the tall trees at the back of our yard. In the mornings, they seem to have quite a lot to say. I will even confess (not even my closest friends here know this) to trying to talk to the crows; I want so dearly for them to view me as a friend, or at least not as a threat. Corvids in general are so endearing, with their intelligence and highly-socialized behaviors, and I love that in the severity of their gaze and movements I can see hints of their dinosaur ancestors. I have a secret fantasy of being an old wrinkled hermit in the woods, with a crow or two to keep me company… 😉

  2. angelina says:

    I DID talk to the crow in this picture! I find myself talking to birds all the time. Sometimes just chatter but sometimes I try to mimic their own calls and wonder if I make a bit of sense to them. I share your desire to be viewed as a friend to the birds that live around me. Crows are truly charming. Did you try to talk to the ones in your tree with their own calls or in English? I can understand you not liking mockingbirds – they are definitely disruptive and don’t keep any kind of genteel hours. I couldn’t help myself though, the ones we had in our old neighborhood that kept everyone up were so funny to listen to I constantly forgave them.

    I do wish I had more of your photography skills though- your photographs of birds are wonderful.

    I swear most birds know things humans will never give them credit for knowing.

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