There was mention here a few days ago of noisy crows who caucus outside bedroom windows. It has triggered more response than I expected.
Mr. M. d. Gilligan of Westminster, Md., wrote; "If you look outside where the crows are squawking and 'cawing' (perhaps you will need binoculars), you may find that they are indulging in this loud behavior because they are attempting to intimidate and chase away an owl, or maybe a hawk.
"The barred owl is one of the owls frequently sighted during daylight hours, and right now they are beginning to nest. From now until fall, when the young owls move away, I can depend upon the noise of the crows to show me where I can find an owl.
"The same is true of the blue jays. Later on, when the presence of the owls is a threat to baby songbirds, I know I will hear the same loud, repeated squawking from the blue jays, robins, catbirds, thrushes and others. However, I find that these songbirds 'carry on' whenever there is any enemy nearby, whether it be a hawk, owl, cat, or other threat to their young.
"One of the most interesting pastimes we have had in recent years is watching the owls raise their young under protest from blue jays and others. I urge you to look outside, high in the trees, and see if you don't have an owl. And if you mention this in your column, you should note that both hawks and owls are on the 'protected' list."
Treena Rinaldi of Vienna reported that last summer she saw "a rather grisly solution" to the noisy-crow problem. While visiting a home in Oakton, Va., she saw a dead crow suspended from a pole in the middle of a garden. She was told that live crows keep their distance after they see a dead crow.
A. O. C. reported, "There is a long, winding road leading from the New Carrollton Metro station to Route 450. In recent weeks, I have on two occasions walked along this road and noticed a large number of crows in the surrounding woods.
"At first I thought of it. Then I noticed that new flocks were arriving, and that the first group seemed to have formed itself into a core, or inner circle.
"As each new flock arrived, on crow from the inner circle flew out to greet them, no doubt checking passwords, and then escorted them to the general meeting. Please do not publish my name or address. I don't want them to discover where my bedroom window is."
A letter from Mrs. W. E. Langeler of Fairfax corroborated Mrs. Gilligan's report on how crows behave when hawks are nearby. Mrs. Langlier wrote that, until recently, she did not have a very high regard for the crows who visited her back yard.
Then one day she saw a sharpshipped hawk make a pass at some songbirds that had stopped to visit the Langelier bird feeding station.
The hawk missed. The birds scattered, apparently aware that the sharp-shinned hawk feeds mostly on small birds.
The hawk settled in a nearby tree and waited for the songbirds to return.But before they did, several crows arrived. Mrs. Langelier gave this account of what happened next:
"The crows took turns making diving passes at the hawk, turning away just barely short of his sharp beak. Three very large crows then settled in, all around him (but a respectful distance), and began shrieking and cawing in most raucous voices. After a few minutes of this badgering, the hawk flew away -- with the crows in pursuit, and still cawing loudly.
"Since that time, I do not begrudge the crows an occasional snack, nor do I mind the noise they make. I consider it all a form of natural competition, and sincerely hope the hawk will decide it is not worth the fuss to come back to our yard again. Even the lowly crow has a useful function!"
Yes, everything on this earth has a function, even if most of us are not quick to perceive it. We love cats that eat mice, but not cats that eat birds. We love birds, but not birds that eat birds.
Yet that is the way the creatures of the earth live and die. The big fish eats the little fish, and is in turn eaten by a bigger fish.
If the big fish and the hawk and the cat -- and the worst predator of them all, man -- are evil, why does nature tolerate them?
And for that matter, why did God put them here in the first place?