Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Crows of Alta Vista

It looks like the Alta Vista crows have made the news, though the news isn't that great. Most residents find the crows to be a nuisance and are complaining to our ward councillor to do something about them.

"Alta Vista is plagued by the annoying black birds and residents want Councillor Peter Hume to do something about it."

"The abundance of crows is not welcomed by staff [of the Ottawa Hospital], who don’t like the crow poop all over the sidewalks and their cars, but there is a bigger problem. The crows can interfere with the medevac helicopter. When it lands or takes off, the roar of its rotors causes the crows to surge into the air, creating the possibility of damaging the helicopter or even disabling it."

Not surprisingly, some of the comments on the article struck me as a Now I don't profess to be anything close to an expert, but I couldn't help myself, I had to leave a comment in the hopes of balancing out the views somewhat and reminding people of how connected we are to the ecosystems we share with other living things, including crows. The crows are here in part because of the choices we humans make in how we live. Anyway, here's what I said:

"Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom From the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt is an excellent and well-researched book about crows, their behaviour and the role they play in urban environments. Increasing crow populations signal environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity, as crows become one of the few species resilient enough to survive habitat destruction and increasing amounts of toxic chemicals and pollution. They are also highly susceptible to avian flu, so large populations mean that the virus is not widespread in our area currently. Crows are an indicator of the health of our bioregion. Trying to eradicate them or move them along is an overly simplistic response to a situation that urbanisation and modern society has created. Whenever I see the crows (and I live in Alta Vista) I stop and think about what they are telling me about the environment I live in."

If there is any response to it, I'll probably be branded as a leftist, communist, hippie, tree hugging, crow lover. Whatevs.

Also, here's a couple of videos of the crows.


Tree said...

Great post. Keep us informed.

TechChik said...

The first time I saw that flock by the arboretum, I was shocked by how many of them there were. They stretched from horizon to horizon in a dense, thick, wide flock, and that didn't even include the ones that had already roosted on the trees. The noise was incredible, and that many birds in once place felt really Alfred Hitchcock-y. I remember looking at it and thinking, "this can't be a good sign. What the heck have we done…"

Anonymous said...

We have a lot of crows in our neighborhood. Me, I've always had a lot of love and respect for these tricksters, but dh has said he sometimes finds them loud/pesty. But after reading the article in the link below, I told my dh that he better not do anything to get them angry with us! ;-)

I don't find these ways that crows are smart "terrifying", but I can certainly see where someone who messes with crows would ;-)

Amber said...

Check out this photo of a murder of crows in California. Craaazzzzy!

Thanks for the link to the article anon. Crows are really smart. Sometimes I wonder if the ones in my 'hood recognise me. "There's the crazy lady who eats weeds...."

Kate said...

Crows can definitely recognize individual humans, and retain the memory of them for a long time. Students at a university lab captured some crows on the campus, put them through some behavioral tests for research purposes, and soon released them unharmed. They were thereafter chased, heckled and divebombed by those individual crows for the remainder of their university education. Subsequent students continuing the research under the same professor had to capture the crows while wearing wigs and eyemasks. This is a true story, but please don't ask me for a reference as my memory is lousy for such things.

Anonymous said...

I just moved away from an area right behind the General Hospital and each night could look up to see the crows flying home to roost. I just felt super lucky because I long ago learned that seeing a crow (or a raven) with food in its mouth meant that I was going to get money! And the crows were always eating my neighbours' garbage, so to me that just meant that the whole darn neighbourhood was blessed with an abundance of money on the way. Money aside, it is just about perspective. Wish my fellow neighbours could have seen the beauty in their mass flight home each night. It was a gift on its own regardless of the money omen.

Urban Girl said...

I saw the study that Kate is talking about on David Sukuzi's The Nature of Things (you can check out the website for more details).

It's really saddening that they are getting bad press. It reminds me of a story written by Lisa Couturier on crows and how they were being displaced in Maryland. If animals are not on the endangered/protected lists they don't seem to have any rights at all. : (