I have a fifty tits of grey post lined up, but a quick interlude about predators, social birds, and cooperation.

I think I didn’t mention it here, but this winter, I started leaving walnuts out for the crows – leftovers from years past that we found in the storage room, but still good. To be honest, this started when I noticed a ragtag group of corvids (crows, jays and magpies – not explaining the word ‘corvid’, all three were members of this loose affiliation of walnut aficionados) eating the few nuts we had straight from the tree. It was a small crop anyway, so I don’t feel too bitter about it…

Getting rid of the evidence on the neighbours’ roof…
(c) rq, all rights reserved

Thief, caught red-beaked. (c) rq, all rights reserved

Just taking a stroll… (c) rq, all rights reserved

Anyway, I started feeding them through the cold snowy months, and while the jays and magpies haven’t been sticking around, there’s a small flock of 4 or 5 crows (family group?) that regularly cleans out the (much cheaper, if buying) peanuts.

Parallel to this I’ve of course been feeding the small birds, who have been wonderfully diverse, but more about that later. When I go out to make the rounds, there’s at least one crow nearby, observing, though never polite enough to respond to my greeting. But we play a game, I put peanuts in tricky places, and they find them all.

Sometimes more than one comes to the crowfeeder, the most I’ve seen at one time is three. And one always takes two nuts away to share, but I don’t know if it’s the same bird – once I watched it fit 3 peanuts into its beak!

Are they hoarding? Sharing? Who knows? (c) rq, allrights reserved

Handsome. (c) rq, all rights reserved

Terrible picture of three crows. I had a bad angle, camera thought I wanted window reflections – by the time I moved, they were gone… (c) rq, all rights reserved

Yesterday I came home from work, and having a conversation with Ronja, when I noticed a pair of crows playing in the snow – we had a fresh snowfall overnight, and they were rolling around and pushing their bellies through it, possibly a snowbath in lieu of water. (Ronja knows not to chase the crows, I’ve told her several times.) Usually they don’t land in the yard if someone is outside, so I was quite pleased to see them so brave. Didn’t get a photo, of course. Just the evidence.

Crow tracks in fresh snow… (c) rq, all rights reserved

What does all this have to do with the title, though?

This morning, I put the water on to boil and went to watch the birds while I waited, a lot of activity including now two pairs of blackbirds (one pair overwintered, was quite surprised).

I seem to have some very skinny chickens. These are the two females, hanging out. The males were chasing each other around.
(c) rq, all rights reserved

Earlier in the winter – yeah, I don’t know what you’re doing here either, buddy.
(c) rq, all rights reserved

I turned my back for a minute or so, to walk to the kitchen and make the tea, and I returned to some kind of chaos – several large swooping birds, one of unusual colouring and shape, little ones scattering everywhere! After one last swoop, the unusual one glided to a nearby pine, and glared over his shoulder…

Hi, Ged!
(c) rq, all rights reserved

Yes, we have a sparrowhawk! He sat on that branch for a while, quite displeased, because guarding the little birds were two large grey crows, sitting on the telephone wires, not leaving. After a few minutes of this, one of them had had enough – while one remained on guard, the other flew over to chase the sparrowhawk away and take his place.

The little birds are safe and happily feeding, and I made sure to leave extra nuts out soon afterward.

And that is how the crows prevented my birdfeeder from becoming a hawkfeeder.


  1. says

    Crows can sometimes go for smaller birds too, but I guess it’s just rare enough that they aren’t as intimidated by that as they are the birds of prey. I’ve seen American crows killing a starling once and a baby pigeon another time. Not being as proficient at killing as raptors, it’s terrible to have to see.

  2. rq says

    *quickly puts out even more nuts*
    I figure the dynamic will change once nesting season is in full swing, there’s already more territorial bickering among the passerines at the feeder. But we’ll see? I’d hate to see it all descend into a red-in-tooth-and-claw bloodbath.

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