Meridian Star

June 7, 2013

Understanding crows

By Otha Barham / Outdoors Editor
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Why do crows sleep standing up? On two scrawny legs balanced on a tree limb no less? At least I suppose they sleep that way, because other birds do; like chickens for instance. I have never been to a crow roost at night close enough to see the perching posture of individual crows, but I know they are in trees after dark and I can't picture crows hanging around on a limb any way but their old standard grip and balance method.

    I have long ago accepted the fact that birds sleep while perched. Except for crows. Crows are supposed to be smart. Not dumb like chickens. We all have seen chickens year after year clinging to the roosts built for them in the chicken house. (I wonder if they would lie on the ground if we shut them up in a coop with no roost.) Face it; chickens aren't smart. Every time I have heard an account of one trying to cross the road, its reasoning has been either faulty or simple minded; every single time.

    So we expect chickens to not know that if they got down off that stupid roost and lay on their sides on the ground, they could sleep without worrying about falling. The concentration involved in this high-wire sleep method is bound to hamper sleep. So why the heck do crows go around acting like chickens, for heaven's sake? It's beyond me.

    It has been scientifically proven by numerous psychologists, and even some smart people, that fitful sleep is a detriment to mental health. And with more grant money, I'll bet they will eventually find that crows, and later on other birds, will suffer less mental stress and behavioral disorders if they learn to sleep lying down like normal creatures. Crows should pay attention to these facts.

    I know crows have a bad reputation. They steal stuff. And they tell the whole world about a hunter or anything that is trying to slip along through the woods. But mostly I admire crows. There are some sort of good things about crows; they are not just cranky, but they are stubborn and persistent. And for the most part, they are brave. These characteristics are why they won't give up chasing and cawing their beaks off at every hawk and owl they can find.

    So with these strong traits, it troubles me that they haven't yet figured out that soft leaves, with maybe a mushroom for a pillow, would be a great place to rest; really rest!

    There is possibly one thing crows are afraid of; darkness. Why don't they caw at night? I want to believe it is because they are tired of a whole day of cawing or they really are somewhat asleep on that limb or they have decided not to drive humans completely crazy with 24 hour screaming. But could it be they are scared at night? Have you ever heard so much as a peep out of a crow at night? Not me. Turkey gobblers will sound off at midnight once in a while. Thrushes will chat some in the dark. But crows just sit there wide eyed and watching the blackness.

    Even so, we all have our faults. And fear of the dark has always been an accepted frailty.

    I like crows. And if they clean up their act a little, they could be down right decent birds. I have already began understanding why they are in such a testy mood first thing every morning and fly around fussing at stuff. Just remember, if you never got a good night's rest, you would be fussy and ornery too.

    I'll tell you what; I'm for better education for crows. Another step up the evolution ladder,  and I think crows will make decent world citizens. When that day comes, when crows finally learn to lie down and sleep like the rest of us, I will be happy for them. And I'll be the first to wear my "Hug a Crow" button.