A Maine writer recently published a column on braving the snow and sub-freezing weather to feed his little bird friends. He described their habits and bright colors in detail: bright yellow, red, brown.

Reading it told us more about his location than it did about the birds. For it has not escaped your attention that there is an ornithological social hierarchy over which, because of our location, we have no control.

This is also true of animals. You and I enjoy seeing pictures of the cute little animals that infest the backyards of our Facebook friends.
We see weasels, otters, ermine, mink. Foxes, bobcats, coyotes, deer.

One morning just before dawn, I happened to be awake when the outside motion light was triggered. Like Old Mother Slipper Slopper I jumped out of bed. And out of the window I popped my head, thinking that I’d get a photo that would place me on at least the lowest level of the little furry visitor pantheon. It did. I saw a skunk looking for bugs.

That said, you might admit that the most admired feathered friend is the mighty eagle – which is seldom seen feeding except by those able to tolerate a ripe deer carcass near the house for a month.

Eagles might be closely followed by hawks and hootie owls, which, in turn, are a step above cardinals and blue jays.


Next to the bottom rung are crows. Because several of them live within calling distance in the woods behind my back pasture, I’ve had an opportunity to study crows up close and personal.

We had pet crows when we were kids. Kemp Hawkins, my friend Alvin’s father, told us that he had pet crows when he was a kid down in Long Cove and told us how to take a young one from its nest and raise it. Having a pet crow is a bad idea. Unlike songbirds, wild crows won’t come close to a house. But if you have a tame crow, anything shiny on a lawn table or chair disappears. Perhaps you have lost glasses or small jewelry to tame crows.

There is a 2-foot square of plywood in our small garden. Every day I flip it over to give the crow friends fresh pickings, and dump Marsha’s organic kitchen scraps on it. I don’t know what happens to the stuff they don’t eat, but in two weeks of summer sun the weeds in that spot tower over my tomato plants.

Unless they are out making their neighborhood rounds, whenever they hear the back door open and shut, the crow friends immediately perch in the old apple tree overlooking my garden. If I don’t see or hear them, I shout, “Come crows” several times. That’s usually enough to start them whooping it up in the woods, but today I heard nothing.

Sat down at the computer and lifted the curtain. Two or three sailed into the old apple tree. Soon there were five up there and one in another apple tree back in the orchard.

There are usually eight or nine. Some could be recovering from St. Patrick’s Day.


Some days my crows are a bit more wary than others. Today they spent a wicked amount of time looking things over before getting down to business.

Crows are creatures of habit. They won’t fly from the woods to the feeding board but first have to perch in the tree and have a good look around. After flying down to the lawn, they hop or walk or fly the last few feet onto the plywood. Move the plywood a few feet and they are even more wary.

Crows have been around for 30 million years. The reason they, and parrots, are so smart is that they inherited the larger dinosaur ancestor’s relative brain size.

If you’ve watched crows eat, they’ll pick up what they want and quickly fly low until they are out of sight. I don’t know if they eat it there or if they hide it, because they’ll soon be back, almost always landing on the lawn, looking around carefully and only then moving in to attack the source again.

When it’s gone, they’re gone. Occasionally there might be one wistful crow surveying the remains after the others have left. I don’t know if he is low down on the pecking order and got pushed aside during the rush or what his story is.

The seagull is the least admired bird on my farm. Too many of them have flown over my pickup truck.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.