Padding the Nest

The past several weeks, I’ve loved watching as spring has set firmly upon us. The trees have turned a chartreuse green and their leaves glitter in the morning sunshine. The wildflowers are beginning to polka-dot the forest floor as well as the oak prairies. Canada Geese are honking their way north, usually I hear them well before I see the long V-shaped lines cross the sky.

Many of the birds which winter at our feeders have headed out to summer breeding grounds. While those that spend their summers with us have turned their minds to other things, like the gold finches which have changed into their bright yellow mating clothes.

Crow surveying our lawnIt seems that the crows are also spending more time with their mates. I have a pair that I often see in an old cottonwood tree next to our house. They like to sit side-by-side as they survey their surroundings. Sometimes it appears that one of them is feeding or grooming the other as they sit together. Earlier this week as I drove up our street, I noticed one crow foraging in our neighbor’s lawn while the other was keeping guard from a nearby tree branch.

I also know that spring is firmly upon us because I need to brush our dogs on a very regular basis. Although they spend a lot of time inside, they still put on a good winter coat that comes out gradually throughout the spring and early summer. The soft grass in the back yard is the favorite spot for brushing, and the dogs always come running when they see the brush in my hand. Sometimes I pick up the big wads of fur they leave behind but I can never get it all, even if I try. Sometimes I don’t try and just leave it there to blow in the wind.

Crow collects tufts of dug fur from the lawnEarlier this week as I was in the kitchen cleaning, movement out in the back yard caught my eye. A crow had just flown in, and from its deliberate actions I knew it was there for a reason. I stood quietly at the window so as not to disturb it and watched as it slowly walked through the lawn. I thought it might be hunting or foraging. Eventually it pecked at something, then something else. Slowly it was gathering little tufts of dog fur that had settled down amongst the blades of grass. After a minute or two, with its beak full, it flew off, presumably to line its nest.

Having never observed this behavior before, I took the dogs outside and gave them a good brushing, purposefully leaving the fur strewn across the yard. By the next morning it was all gone. I’ve done this twice more this week, and each time the dog fur disappears. This last time, I captured photos.

Somewhere nearby, there is a softly padded crow’s nest. I wonder if the scent of our dogs will imprint on the baby crows.

Ready to head to the nest

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  1. Great writing, I loved the keen observations, season descriptions, and the good photos!

  2. How sweet! Crows are so amazing. Just last week someone shared a BBC snippet video with me of a previously wild crow solving an 8-stage puzzle using sticks and rocks. Impressive! It’s easy to find if you search for ‘smart crow’ on Flixxy or YouTube.
    Thanks for sharing their clever reuse of dog fur!

    • Thanks Christee. I’ve got an hour-long program on crows from OPB/PBS that is in my queue to watch, perhaps it is the same one. They must be done with their nest now, as I haven’t seen them back.

    • Mel McGuire says:

      Thanks for the “smart crow” video. The crow’s behavior was remarkable; however, the video would have been better if it had told us about just how familiar the crow was with the pieces. For example, did the crow already know how to use the stones (or anything else) with the drop-box? It makes sense to me that the only way he could have known how the drop-box worked would be to have practiced with it. I believe I’d have to, at least, spend some time examining the drop-box; of course, maybe the crow is smarter and was able to figure it out with a mere glance. 🙁

      • The beginning of the video mentions the crow has performed those tasks before, but never in that specific order. It also says the trainer keeps them in captivity for 3 months. I think it’s safe to assume 007 (as they called the crow) was at the end of his 3 months. It’s certainly interesting, but not as endearing as Collette’s nest padding story! 🙂

        • Boy, I’m going to have to watch this video today. It sounds interesting. On many occasions I’ve sat and watched crows figure out how to do or get at something. They are so intelligent, it is like you can see their brains working.

        • The video I watched only mentioned being familiar with the pieces but never having seen them in this arrangement.

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