TNB Night Owl – Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Carrion Crow. Photo by Bernard DUPONT.

You know the story, it’s a fairly well-known theme. Back in the day, they say, everyone knew most of their neighbors, each other’s names, the kids’ names, they knew the comings and goings of everyone and everything on their blocks.

Now days the theme tends to run a bit in the opposite direction. Everyone with busy lives: marriage, kids, work, school. With very little time for much else it’s lucky some know their next-door neighbors, let alone everyone on their block.

It was no different for Seattle resident Stuart Dahlquist when the new neighbors moved in. After four years, the couple seemed to keep to themselves. Becoming friends with them was the last thing he expected.

Of course, who would expect to become friends with a family of crows living in the Douglas fir out in the front yard.

“This particular family of crows has been hanging around our house I’d guess about four years,” Dahlquist told The Dodo, the American online publisher which focuses primarily on animals and animal rights issues.

“They had nested in a large Douglas fir in the front yard and we could hear the babies when the adults fed them,” he said.

But that dynamic changed when, one day, Dahlquist went outside and realized two baby crows had fallen out of their nest. Not yet able to fly, the chicks were running around the yard as the adult crows were squawking, unable to help them.

Dahlquist was able to catch the chicks and get them up into a tree. He put food and water below them in case they fell again.

“The adults were really pissed off,” he said, “but seemed to begin paying more attention to us.”

And that is when things got really interesting.

Dahlquist was no stranger to these highly intelligent birds. He’d even rehabilitated and released injured crows before, but he’d never been thanked for his efforts.

Crows have the uncanny ability to recognize faces. This helps the intelligent birds remember which humans are threats and which are friends.

Dahlquist continued to leave snacks at the base of the fir tree, never expecting anything in return. But the crows decided to show their gratitude with a little gift.

“The first one was kind of confusing,” Dahlquist said. “It was sitting right in the middle of the area where I toss their food.”

But these weren’t just any bits of gifts the crows were leaving, these were actually gifts the crows crafted.

“I noticed it straight away because I’m kind of sensitive about trash going where it belongs,” he added, “but the pull tab being threaded onto the sprig of fir wasn’t normal and I hung onto it.”

The next day, Dahlquist was shocked to find another twig with a soda tab in the same spot: “This is when it dawned on us that the crows were making and leaving them.”

“It took a couple of days to wrap my head around just how amazing this was,” Dahlquist said. “Not only were our crows leaving gifts, but they had created something beyond. It was crafting.”

Since the exchange of gifts, Dahlquist’s relationship with his crow neighbors has only gotten stronger.

“They’ll follow along when I take my walks, landing on the wires along the way,” Dahlquist said. “The adult male … is very amiable and will fly sometimes within a few feet, swooping by to say, ‘Here I am!’”

Whether good, bad, ugly, silly, best ever, or even just Oh my, what is that? … what is one, or some, of your most memorable gifts you’ve received?

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