February 24, 2011

Return of the Chicago Mob

Crows Over a Wheat Field by Vincent Van Gogh                                

Their hoarse , cawing voices woke me this morning and while it brought back memories from my childhood and the nasty encounters we had, I welcomed them back from death's door.  The neighborhood used to be home to many of their families but they were hit with a deadly disease that wiped out 75 per cent of them.

I'm speaking of  Corvus brachyrhynchos , or the American crow , that crafty bird that works to harass or drive off predators, a behavior known as "mobbing. "   They were the bane of my existence down on the farm where we were constantly trying to dream up ways of keeping them from eating our crops and vegetables. 

This is the consumate opportunist - eating almost anything from earthworms, small animals, fruit, seeds, carrion and baby chicks.  Its also a country/city bird, often spending the day in the city and flying to the country to visit with kin.

The crow is sociable and highly adaptable and has been around since time began. To say that its intelligent is an understatement.  Did you know that they can make and use tools?  A crow in captivity was seen using a cup to carry water to a bowl of dry food, and a stick to prod insects out of a hole .

Since so many crows in Illlinois were wiped out by the West Nile Virus it is a good sign to see their return to the neighborhood.  I am going to record my sightings and report them to eBird  who is working to study the impact that this disease has on them.

Message to another Chicago mob :  Cuniculus.  Are you listening, the crows are back, you wraskily wabbits. Dejavu. Guess I'm gonna be busy this summer fighting the mob in my veggie garden.

Written by Carolyngail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago All rights reserved


  1. Carolyn, I'm sure I was unaware of what took 75% of the crows years ago, but I had heard about the West Nile Virus' effect. I'd say you're readying for Spring if you're thinking about your rabbit defense! :-) Waskally Wabbits!

  2. Yay! I've been happy to see them back too Carolyn! Like you I do hope they help to get the rabbit population under control. Over the winter they (rabbits) ate my witch hazel down to the graft. A couple of years ago I nurtured some hydrangea cuttings only to have them all eaten, and I have to keep my oak leaf hydrangea fenced in to keep it alive, as they've eaten it several times too. Grrr!

  3. Fun post, Carolyn!
    I knew of a fisherman down along the Texas coast that tamed two wild crows. They would sit on his shoulder like a parrot and he looked very much like a large, scary pirate. The crows would give me fits since I was a small boy and in their territory when we went fishing at his bait camp. Smart? Oh yes! They would fly into anyone's car and take what they wanted...including shiney car keys, money, and food. David/ Tropical Texana/ Houston

  4. Dear Carolyn, Crows are intelligent and bossy creatures. I knew of them using tools but have not seen them in action myself. I do hate the way they chase the raptors away. This is the first winter I can recall not seeing a Red-tailed hawk about. Crows are important in keeping nature tidy though. As for Rabbits . . . I have no use for them. The damage they do all year round is just too much. Now they are burrowing under my barn studio and clawing or however they do it . . . though carefully built mason walls, letting freezing air in to freeze my pipes. They go out into the garden at night and chew on every branch of my shrubberies they can reach and will eat every seedling of food I try to plant. I would love to know of your defense!

  5. Thanks for sharing all this interesting information, Carolyn. I didn't know that the West Nile virus had killed off so many of the crows. Judging by the number of them in my yard the past month or so, they have recovered!

  6. The crows here chase off the hawks (who eat the wabbits). Such harassment! I never see them in my garden, but they are often out in the meadow and in all the woods surrounding us.

  7. Hello, I found your blog via photographer's garden and the first entry I read here brought a funny memory. Crows are indeed intelligent. In our neighborhood we watched a crow sitting on a car and being driven around. It was so funny! Why fly if you can hitch a ride. :-) I am sure I will come back and read more. Best wishes from Germany, Andrea


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