04 March 2016

Crows exchange trinkets for food

Eight-year-old Gabi Mann sets a bead storage container on the dining room table, and clicks the lid open. This is her most precious collection...

Gabi's relationship with the neighbourhood crows began accidentally in 2011. She was four years old, and prone to dropping food. She'd get out of the car, and a chicken nugget would tumble off her lap. A crow would rush in to recover it. Soon, the crows were watching for her, hoping for another bite.
As she got older, she rewarded their attention, by sharing her packed lunch on the way to the bus stop. Her brother joined in. Soon, crows were lining up in the afternoon to greet Gabi's bus, hoping for another feeding session...

The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn't a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically - anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow's mouth...

Not all crows deliver shiny objects either. Sometimes they give the kind of presents "they would give to their mate", says Marzluff. "Courtship feeding, for example. So some people, their presents are dead baby birds that the crow brings in."  
Unfortunately the family's neighbors are not happy with this relationship:
Less enthused about the 8-year-old’s flock were her East Shelby Street neighbors, who objected to the flying, pooping horde. Two of the neighbors – Matt Ashbach and Christine Yokan – made it official Monday when they sued Gabi’s parents, Lisa and Gary Mann...

In the lawsuit, Johnsen said her clients are owed more than $200,000 for damage caused by the girl’s feathered friends. The Mann family’s neighbors say the birds’ leavings have damaged their homes and properties, and that the feeding draws rats...


  1. I can see where there might be an issue in a dense housing area, but why is the solution a lawsuit? I'm surprised no one has been shot. Don't people talk about problems any more?

  2. They'll be hard pressed to show the already present crows (which where there before any intentional feeding) are directly and solely the responsibility of that family to any significant degree.

  3. I think this is my favorite part of this story; a sort of oh let me get that for you moment.

    "Lisa, Gabi's mom, regularly photographs the crows and charts their behaviour and interactions. Her most amazing gift came just a few weeks ago, when she lost a lens cap in a nearby alley while photographing a bald eagle as it circled over the neighbourhood.She didn't even have to look for it. It was sitting on the edge of the birdbath.Had the crows returned it? Lisa logged on to her computer and pulled up their bird-cam. There was the crow she suspected. "You can see it bringing it into the yard. Walks it to the birdbath and actually spends time rinsing this lens cap."

  4. I feed dead mice that I catch in the wood shack, to the neighborhood magpie family, by putting them on a visible stone plate in the garden. Trapping is cruel and disgusting, but I feel better because at last birds appreciate it.

  5. In the words of Victor Meldrew "I DONT BELIEVE IT"

  6. i leave leftovers on a tree branch within a tree. this keeps the seagulls away from the food, but the crows can fly in easily. so far, i have received... zilch! and, instead of eating the food, they hide the bigger pieces in the lawn. of course, i now do know the crow food call. all in all, very cool!


  7. Asshats of the worst sort: Matt Ashbach and Christine Yokan. Crows are cool. Some people? Suck rocks.

  8. What a lovely thing for parents to teach and encourage their children. I love crows. I moved to retire in Nepal and rescued a young crow in Kathmandu one time.

    The crows in Nepal are silver and black, really beautiful. We have a festival where people here feed the crows one day out of the year.

  9. wow ... the costs of doing research and the advancement of science.

    great article thanks!

  10. What a great experience for the family! Crows are very intelligent, and can even make good pets. I bet the little girl grows up to be a scientist. And I hope the lawsuit gets tossed out of court.


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