By Elaine Rohse • Columnist • 

Are crows planning a takeover?

I am a bird lover. Especially, I love finches and hummingbirds.

But then, there are crows. I do not like crows. Sometimes I suspect that they plan to take over our world.

For one thing, these opportunistic birds not only think, but plan and reconsider. Never will they have to worry about food supply. They eat anything: garbage, rodents, bugs, fruit, vegetables, pet food and baby food, even other birds’ eggs.

When wild Hooded Crows in Israel wanted more fish in their diet, they figured out how to use bread crumbs as bait. They caught more fish.

When crows yearned to eat the Australian toxic cane toads, but knew of its dangerous toxins, they devised a slick plan. They flopped the toad over on its back, stabbed the toad in its neck where the skin was thinnest, and with their long beaks partook of the innards and avoided toxicity.

They relished corn from the fields, but then scary creatures began guarding the crop. It didn’t take the crows long to figure out that scarecrows were harmless. They again enjoyed the corn.

As country dwellers, they worried about the increasing incidence of shooting, as well as increasing number of owls — their worst enemy. The crows then moved to urban areas.

Cities provided much garbage. In murders, numbering sometimes a million birds, they learned that such numbers, huddled together on chilly nights, provided warmth — and protection.

The smart crows, when unable to crack walnuts, dropped the nuts onto trafficked streets. If the fall didn’t crack a nut, a passing car would.

Some cities, perhaps, already have wondered if crows aren’t planning to take over our world. In Auburn, N.Y., some 25,000 to 50,000 American crows in 1993 adopted that city and began roosting at night in its large trees during winter. Annoyed citizens in 2003 staged a crow hunt. That didn’t work, and city dwellers became concerned about public health and annoying raucous crow conversations.

Although the American crow is vulnerable to West Nile virus, which is said to have reduced its numbers by 45 percent since 1999, that diminution in population is not evident. A recent Oregonian story noted: “... where once there were no crows, suddenly there are hundreds.”

In March 2008 at a Technology Entertainment Design Conference, a man named Joshua Klein suggested a crow vending machine. The crows would be trained to pick up waste and the vending machine would reward the crows for litter patrol.

This didn’t catch on, but already I have seen evidence in McMinnville of crows patrolling for litter, as per this incident:

Homer and I and John and Thula Banbury were awaiting tee time at Michelbook’s first hole. John had missed his lunch and went to the clubhouse for a sandwich as the rest of us teed off. He hurried back, placed the partly eaten sandwich on a napkin on the bench where I was sitting, and grabbed his driver. As John prepared to drive, I noticed movement at my side, and looked down just as a big crow grabbed John’s entire sandwich — and triumphantly flew away.

Crows are said to like bright objects of metal or glass. They also like doll clothes. A friend of mine, while growing up in Illinois, tells of washing her dolls’ clothes and hanging them outside on a little dryer designed for that. The crows stole all those clothes.

Crows are remarkably like humans in numerous respects. They rank with dolphins and elephants in intelligence. Some crows have been known to say a few words. An unconfirmed 18th century report tells of a crow that could count to four or five. With the advent of electronic gadgets, we humans may not do any better as we become more dependent on those aids.

Some daring humans play the chicken game. So do crows — to establish pecking order. Crows joust in the air and play “air chicken.”

Crows enjoy sports — just like humans. Many human males like and collect tools. Crows like tools, too, and make a large variety by bending twigs and grass stalks that aid in acquiring foodstuff.

Crows are able to get soft cheese out of a spray can. We humans barely can open a childproof bottle.

Crows, sometimes called “feathered apes,” lure fish and birds to their deaths. People hook fish, and often shoot birds. Crows avoid environments where their compatriots have been killed. We humans avoid areas where crime incidents may be high.

Crows like to converse with each other, and they go to “funerals” for their friends. So do we. Crows hide their food and store it across seasons. Homemakers put up food for the winter.

But it is because of personal experience that I dislike crows. During World War II, Homer was stationed at Deming, N.M. Air Force Base. Housing was not available there and we lived in a duplex in Las Cruces. Mitch was then a baby, and washing diapers and hanging them on the outside line was a daily task.

One day while hanging up diapers, a black streak zoomed past my head, missing it only by inches. I glimpsed it as it flew away: a huge crow. In disbelief I then saw it circle and head back at me again, aiming for my eyes, I was sure — and barely missing them. He dive bombed me again. He dive bombed me twice more. I dashed for the house — and safety.

Next day, I went out at a different time — but he was back. And again he attacked. And every day thereafter, he was back. True, I was many times larger than that crow, despite his 3-foot wing span, but he could fly and I was afraid of him. He won that battle.

I do not remember how the Crow War ended — perhaps when at last we were able to get housing at Deming and moved. But later I learned a possible explanation for those attacks. Crows have the ability to visually recognize individuals whom they regard as unfriendly, or a danger. That crow categorized me as such.

I still vividly remember those attacks and that the crow was indisputably the winner. And perhaps it is wild imagination, but still I wonder at times if crows are not planning to take over our world.

Elaine Rohse can be reached at



My suggestion for protecting oneself against their machinations is to establish one's friendship bonafides. They remember- and, although I don't know how, they pass the knowledge on to their young 'uns. I have been friends with them to the third generation. I don't feed them- I just chat.

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