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Nothing caw-mon about a crow

by Amy Roby
A murder of crows may be responsible for the demise of duck eggs Amy Roby spotted recently.
Amy Roby

Our backyard bird feeder is a popular spot for many feathered friends throughout the year. It usually needs refilling every couple of days, so I was surprised to notice the feasting come to an abrupt stop a couple of weeks ago.

Then one morning last week, I was awakened early by a curious whuffling sound, almost like an airy rattling. I got out of bed and stepped out back to see a gathering of crows foraging through the grass, intent on easy breakfast pickings. I’d recently seen several perched along the fence and heard some increased cawing, but this sudden, bold presence seemed a bit out of the ordinary.

Weeding the yard later that day, I found a large, white eggshell tucked in a low-lying evergreen. The shell was broken open on one side with nothing left but a few ants foraging around inside. Wondering if my sons had done some kind of outdoor experiment (or perhaps had an egg race?), I stood up and noticed another eggshell, then another.

All in all, eight empty shells were strewn throughout the shrubs. Perplexed by the question of where all those chicken eggs could have come from, it took a moment to realize I was actually looking at duck eggs.

Our home’s proximity to one of the valley’s many irrigation ditches presents an open invitation to a variety of wildlife visitors. Each spring, we spot a good number of ducks enjoying the waterway near our yard. I’ve never seen a nest, but one was clearly somewhere nearby as evidenced by the sorry collection of broken, empty shells.

While I don’t know for certain that crows are responsible, their dining habits indicate this as a possibility. A crow’s diet is vast and includes: seeds, nuts, and fruits; insects, reptiles, and amphibians; small mammals; other birds; and eggs. Their presence in the yard may also be a reason why the bird feeder remained relatively untouched for the past few weeks.

The Audubon website (audubon.org) describes crows as sociable, highly adaptable to a changing environment, and “…among our most intelligent birds…Despite past attempts to exterminate them, crows are more common than ever in farmlands, towns, and even cities…” Evidence exists of their ability to make and use tools, and they can not only recognize and recall human faces, but also associate them with positive or negative experiences (and react to the person accordingly).

Today, there’s a songbird at the feeder, the first visitor in a good while. The cawing of crows is more distant this week than last, so they may have exhausted their options here and moved on in search of more abundant food sources elsewhere. Though an unfortunate ending for the duck eggs, my interest in the crows and their behavior is piqued; I miss their noisy antics and hope they’ll make another appearance soon.

Numbers Fire

What a terrifying sight to crest the top of Kingsbury Grade on Monday night and see the Numbers Fire raging through the Pine Nuts. Huge, billowing smoke poured across a backdrop of dark sky as the widespread flames cast a terrible, orange glow over the eastern range of the Carson Valley.

Words cannot convey my gratitude for all the firefighters and first responders who willingly place themselves on the frontlines in order to protect us all. I hope all those directly impacted by this horrible event are out of harm’s way and find a measure of comfort in knowing our community is rallied together, ready to provide support as the situation evolves.

May we all take care of each other, be safe, and be well.

Amy Roby can be reached at ranchosroundup@hotmail.com.