What started the nasty feud between crows and owls is explained

Published 12:37 pm Friday, January 8, 2016

A female northern cardinal perches on a branch. Around 40 percent of adult cardinals die each year. - Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

A female northern cardinal perches on a branch. Around 40 percent of adult cardinals die each year. – Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. It’s hard to believe that it’s January, but the calendar blabbed. So here I am, washed up on the shore of 2016. I’ve put my Christmas tree in the garbage disposal and my great-grandfather is still dead. That’s normal for a man his age. He was a forward-thinking fellow. He was the one who taught my father to put ketchup in his navel so he could eat french fries while lying on the couch. Pop loved him so much that he objected during the old man’s funeral. I wonder what Great grandpa would think if he could see the world today? It’d knock him out of his orbit. I enjoyed Christmas shopping this past year. I got to meet people from other planets. You can go into stores wearing pajamas without looking like an escaped mental patient. I’m no slugabed, still, I sometimes feel as though life is a piano and I’m wearing boxing gloves. That’s even though I’m right 98 percent of the time and who cares about the other 3 percent? That’s why I don’t make any New Year’s resolutions. No point in trying to improve on perfection.”

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Nature by the yard

I went outside to fill the bird feeders. I wore my hat that had been made in Russia. It’s made from rabbit fur. I wear it when the temperature could hurt my ears. I had it verified that the hat was made of rabbit fur. I walked by the produce section of the grocery store and my hat snapped at the lettuce.

Starlings lined a utility wire. They were properly positioned, just over a beak’s reach from a neighbor. No need to invite a peck.

A murder of crows was having a cow. They had discovered the daytime roosting spot of a great horned owl. Crows and owls don’t like one another. Owls eat crows and crows torment owls whenever given the opportunity. A legend tells of all the birds coming together to elect a king. The owl had been elected and the coronation was being planned, when the crow arrived. The crow protested that the owl was too ugly and his nature was devoid of tenderness and mercy. The other birds, frightened by the crow’s warning, voided the election. The owl, being nocturnal, had slept through all of it, awakening in time to learn that his coronation had been canceled due to the crow’s persuasive words. They have not liked one another since.

I filled the bird feeders attached to the house’s windows by suction cups. These feeders bring birds close. It’s believed that birds hit windows because they try to fly to vegetation reflected in the glass. They don’t realize that a hard, transparent surface lies between them and that perch. An attached feeder helps birds recognize the fact that it isn’t a fly-through window. To enhance the suction, rub a dab of cooking oil on the cup.



“Why are nuthatches called nuthatches?” It comes from their habit of jamming nuts into the bark of a tree and pecking them open with their sharp bills to hatch the seed from inside.

“We are going on a cruise. Do you have a single tip that isn’t usually considered?” Sure, I have one. Despite the fact that I told my relatives that I was so bright, you could read by my light, I was the tallest kid in my grade school class. That was because of the dunce cap I wore. So my answer may sound stupid because sounding stupid is my specialty, but here it is. The cabin doors all look alike to me. Pack a small door decoration (ribbon, bow, etc.) to decorate your door and make it easier to find.

“I found a note I’d written in 1991. That was the year of the terrible ice storm. You had said on your radio show that the ice was terrible for the birds. Could you elaborate?” Many birds cache food in a behavior known as scatter-hoarding. This stash might be hidden in tree bark, under shingles or in the ground. Ice storms can cover these hiding places and make the food unattainable. Some birds roosting on the ground lost feathers and lives when frozen in place.

“How can I tell a male blue jay from a female?” Blue jays are sexually monomorphic, which means that males and females look exactly alike to us. The birds recognize characteristics that make it easy for them to differentiate the sexes.

“I hear a chip sound at dusk. What is it?” It’s likely the sound a cardinal uses to communicate.

“I heard you speak and you talked about altricial and precocial. What do those terms mean?” Altricial birds hatch with their eyes closed, with little if any down, and are incubated and fed by their parents for weeks before leaving the nest. Precocial birds hatch well developed, covered in down and with eyes open. They are out of the nest and foraging on their own within two days.


Thanks for stopping by

“Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.” — Alan Watts

“It is always the best policy to speak the truth, unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar.” — Jerome K. Jerome

“No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your own work.” — Mother Teresa


Do good.


Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at SnoEowl@aol.com.