Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Corvid Family

You know - crows, ravens, jays, magpies, nutcrackers and such. I was engaged in my cool-down walk on my way home after a run at the end of what was just a fucking spectacular weather day here in the Midwest, and one of the biggest ravens I've ever seen was up on a telephone wire checking me out. As I walked under him (or her, but let's call him a him), I would glance up to see what was happening.

"Please, don't poop on me" I said to him. It wouldn't have mattered as I'm pretty sure he doesn't understand human talk, and I was going to shower anyway. Still, no one likes to get pooped on. And I had his full attention. He was bent down, that livid dark eyeball focused on me like a, well, not like a laser, but really focused on me. He was paying special attention.

I know a lot people are very uneasy around crows. Some can't quite explain it, but I have the answer. They are really smart, and people know it, consciously or no. They are smarter than a lot of people I know, or see on TV. And I can prove it. I very much doubt the people I see on TV could survive on road kill and other sundries. And the people on TV couldn't hide things, or lie, or figure out puzzles as well as some crows or ravens I've known.

It's not like I've known a lot of them, or even made their acquaintance. But I see shit, observe things, get lucky, been around at the right time and place. They are smart fuckers.

I like 'em.

Reading as I do, as often as I can, about corvids, I came across the fact that they can recognize individual human faces. That's quite an accomplishment. And the question is why? Why do they need to have this capacity? What happened back there in the dim mists of time that our paths crossed so often that this talent was selected for? Because we are predators? We leave behind kill? And certain human predators were more skilled or lucky at killing? And it paid off, evolution-wise, for a crow that could recognize a gifted hunter, versus a crow who just saw us as those shambling apes that sometimes leave behind tasty and nutritious treats, but you know, they all look the same to me? I guess.

I've yet to get a tattoo. Doubt that I ever will. But if I did, it would be a crow or a raven.

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