Is This the Real "Murder" of Crows!!

a few members of the Corvidae

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A "Murder" of crows on a TV antennaeA young Rook, a large Corvid.  Note huge, powerful beak, common to all of the speciesThe swaggering, sleek and handsome magpie, a successful neighbor of man.Largest of the family: the Raven is both admired and feared.  Toads in happier times
A "Murder" of crows on a TV antennae
A "Murder" of crows on a TV antennae
A young Rook, a large Corvid.  Note huge, powerful beak, common to all of the species
A young Rook, a large Corvid. Note huge, powerful beak, common to all of the species
The swaggering, sleek and handsome magpie, a successful neighbor of man.
The swaggering, sleek and handsome magpie, a successful neighbor of man.
Largest of the family: the Raven is both admired and feared.
Largest of the family: the Raven is both admired and feared.
Toads in happier times
Toads in happier times

A “Murder” of Crows!

Is it surprising the collective noun for a flock of Crows is a “Murder of Crows?“…read on!

Man considers mammals to be the most intelligent family of creatures with himself occupying the top spot. Much is made of whales and dolphins with brains about the same size as ours. Screeds have been written about the great ape’s use of tools and so on.

Only very recently have people been studying the antics of other creatures such as some birds which have brains tiny in comparison with ours, (but see note later*), the whales and chimps, yet seem to have very advanced ways in how they obtain sustenance.

The focus recently was on the common toad in Germany. Toads in the hundreds had been “exploding,” their entrails being blown around for many meters. Rivers and lakes as well as garden ponds were the scene for many of the disgusting and saddening demise of the toads and no one could identify the disease.

Toads have very poisonous skins and other body parts, so predation was not considered as part of the problem, until one scientific team brilliantly hit on the reason for the toad’s unhappy condition. They noticed after much examination of hundreds of dead and devastated toads that they had no livers! All the other organs were in place or found near the corpse, but the nutritious and poison-free liver was not to be found in even one victim!

Upon further examination of the toad’s skin, they also noticed a small, whitish puncture wound on the skin situated where it would have been above the liver. They concluded something had made a small hole and extracted the toad’s liver with the skill of a surgeon!

But why were the amphibian’s literally “blowing up” like they had been attacked by toad terrorists? They again reasoned the toad had been blowing itself up in defense at some point, as they do when threatened…but something had caused the defense mechanism to continue until the toad violently exploded…which they later finally agreed was because of the missing liver and damaged diaphragm .

Cameras and observers were put in place both above and below the water lever to observe whatever predators - fish, fowl or beast, was surgically removing the livers and enjoying a very nutritious meal at Mr. Toad’s expense.

They were amazed to finally film some of the predation in progress as toads were attacked and held down by crowswhich quickly pecked a small hole and removed the liver, being well away before the toad went off “pop!”

This research had come on the heels of more studies of European and British “Corvidae,” (Corvids - the crow family) showing they cunningly dropped hard nuts, such as walnuts, onto highways allowing passing traffic to smash the nuts open for them. They had even found that - and this was the part that amazed the researchers - the savvy birds had seen that dropping the nuts onto pedestrian crossing - such as “Zebra” crossing, etc., allowed them to drop down and feed undisturbed at the feet of people crossing in front of stopped traffic!

Corvids are a fairly large and extensive family of successful largish avians. They have learned to happily live alongside man and are mostly tolerated well. The family includes Jackdaws, Magpies, Crows and the gigantic and ominous Raven, he of verse and legend. Poe’s macabre poem, “The Raven” is spellbinding and a must read.

I can personally speak for one family member’s smarts - the Jackdaw - after my wonderful pet bird, “Jackie,” (sorry) who I kept for some 5 years as a teenager. He was the beloved boss of all of us.

(*Note. So it wasn’t particularly surprising to see Corvids have hugely developed “Nidopaliums” - the part of their brains which equates to the “Neocortex” in higher mammals. It was equivalent to the level enjoyed by whales, man and chimps - and superior to that of many other mammals, including Gibbons).

Most people now believe birds per se are a direct link back to the Dinosaurs and had not climatic changes caused the demise of those huge beasts, they - and the birds - might well be the rulers of the planet in place of man.

Our literature is filled with anecdotes of this family, especially the Ravens, of course, often seen as the harbinger of something nasty, like an early departure from this coil.

I often walk around a local cricket field where, in spring, a dozen jackdaw pairs nest in the fringe of ivy covered trees.

I call to them and they often answer. It’s “Caw” of course, but you have to know how - I’m not crowing about it, and it’s more of a screech. I can never get even a croak out of a toad…ah, me!

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Comments 35 comments

Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

You often write about such fascinating subjects, Bobby! This was very interesting. Do you think the grackles might be members of this family of birds? They seem quite intelligent even if they are a nuisance and not so pretty as the songbirds.

Wondered what had become of you and if you were OK, not seeing you around for a long time . . . Voted up, etc. Will share this one too!


Nettlemere profile image

Nettlemere 3 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

I love the crow family - they are endlessly inventive in their search for food and endearing, so I was pleased to read your hub about them.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia

Quite an interesting hub, Bob. As a boy growing up in the isolated regions of my state, I learned some of the calls crows used to communicate with. I can still make the "gather up" signal which never ceases to fascinate those who witness my boastful claim.

Clever creatures they are, as are most species when examined closely.

Up votes as deserved.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 3 years ago from Rural Arizona

Bob, this was a delightfully interesting hub. We once had a young crow who decided he lived in our back yard. We named him "Sammy" and he hung around for over a year. He could imitate a dogs bark and loved to sit on a common wall and torment the poodle that lived next door. His favorite beverage was beer.

He started leaving for a few days at a time, but always came back for a short visit. Then one day he left and never came back.

This crow was smarter than some of the people I know.

Thanks for sharing with us.


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 3 years ago from Northern California

Hi diogenes,

Few things in life are as intriguing as a good Natural murder mystery. I should have made some popcorn before I read your hub. Voted up and shared.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Misty, how 're they hangin'?

Grackles are a different family - Icterids. I love them, too, they can imitate just about anything.

I'll email you.

Bob(by) x


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Nettlemere. Me, too, lots of personality

Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Randy. WE had a similar boyhood I believe...only kid?

Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Old Poolman. They have good memories, too. We nursed an injured rook one year and he finally flew off to a nearby rookery, but always cawed when he saw us and once flew down onto my mother's shoulder again!

Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Larry. Warming comment

Bob


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 3 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

I too had two crows as pets when growing up (Amos and Andy)...most interesting and fun pets, I had to write about their antics also. After they poked a hole in the back of my neighbor's giant prize tomato he wanted to go to seed and sucked the insides out (he was puzzled why his tomato was slowly shrinking) I clipped their wings and kept them in the yard like chickens. Their antics and interaction with my mother's hanging out the wash were a constant source of entertainment for the whole family.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Back in my Iowa youth, the state had a bounty on crows because they were considered pests who decimated corn crops. My enterprising friend and I tried to hunt them, but found that they were far too wary and smart to ever become our prey.


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 3 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

I know ! I eventually gave mine to a farmer when I went off to college and he used them to attract the wild crows so he could shoot them - somehow wild crows can immediately recognize a domesticated crow from a distance and they will attack it. I witnessed this before I clipped my crows, wings. When perched in a tree in my back yard flocking crows flying over would dive bomb them. Mine were imprinted to me, when I'd call them they'd fly down from the roof top or trees in my yard and land on my shoulder crowing for a tidbit of food. I did notice if you even raise your arm and point at wild ones they'd take off as if they thought you had a gun.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

tsadjatko Thanks for kind comments: you are definitely a Corvid man!

Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Will...happy new year bud.

Bob


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia

Nope, not an only child Bob, but I loved to roam the woods and am still fascinated by nature's wonders, even after all of these years.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Very well done. The Corvidae are remarkable and can actually process thoughts. Crows have been experimented with regarding meat on strings. They have the thought process of several steps to draw up the string step on it, and repeat until they obtain the meat.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 3 years ago from northeastern US

a parrot has taken a splinter off a piece of wood and used the splinter to pull a nut into the parrot's cage. so the parrot can make and use tools.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

This is really a fascinating article you've written, because it discusses a subject that I'm very interested in, which is animal intelligence. You always do such a great job with your hubs on animals, birds, etc., and you've really outdone yourself this time, Bobby! Truly excellent hub!


moonfroth profile image

moonfroth 3 years ago from Rural BC (Canada) & N of Puerto Vallarta (Mexico)

Good fun and, as usual, an interesting Hub. I visited a home once where a pet crow with a broken, dragging wing, was the family pet. He used the toilet (OFTEN!), flushed by pulling a special string, pecked his master's face if he failed to answer a doorbell, an oven timer, an alarm clock (any warning bell), chased away cats that tried to crap in the garden, and had a modest vocabulary. And he was just generally a bag of fun. Wonderful, bright birds!


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago

Very Interesting, I do believe that birds have more intelligence than they are given credit for. In fact my husband has crows call him in the mornings and he goes out and feeds them. We also have a mocking bird that whistles like my husband.

Very interesting hub.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 3 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

I have always been interested in this intelligent family of birds, Bob, having often noticed just how clever they are when coming down for bird food.

This hub was riveting … thanks.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks for all the warming and informative comments, guys, curious how many of us have had crows in our lives! I took a 6-month sabbatical from HP, and you are reminding me of how much i missed you all.

Bob

Good fortune to all in 2013. xoxo


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona

A delightful ending to your hub which in one place was quite shocking. Those poor toads. What an awful thing for a crow to do. And yet -- who can not like a crow? They are so amazing. And as you've pointed out, the grackles of the Icterid family, are amazing, too.

Voting up, interesting, awesome and sharing.


diogenes 3 years ago

cheers Pam...prosperous 2013...nature can be shocking - "red in tooth and claw!"

Bob


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 3 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

cathylynn99...I have a sulphur crested cockatoo. She regularly picks up a long splinter of wood she has chewed off her perch and holding it in one foot while perched on the other, uses it like a back scratcher on the back of her head and neck whenever she is grooming her feathers .... freaky!

(she is available if anyone wants her - she loves me but bit my wife :-)


Genna East profile image

Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

“They noticed after much examination of hundreds of dead and devastated toads that they had no livers! All the other organs were in place or found near the corpse, but the nutritious and poison-free liver was not to be found in even one victim!”

What an amazing thing to discover. Life and survival find a way. I had idea crows were so inventive and resourceful. When one thinks of crow, we think of “eating crow,” Halloween, corn fields, and Edgar Allen. I wonder…do scarecrows really work? Exellent hub, Bob.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

I really like this hub. I'm going to link to it, hope that's OK.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

Added a link to this hub, and also to your hub on Chaga's Disease, to my glasswing butterfly hub. Just so you know . . .


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 3 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

When one thinks of crow, we think of “eating crow” ?

Yeah, now when I think of crows I think of TOAD LIVER PATE :-)


Pamela-anne profile image

Pamela-anne 3 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Enjoyed your hub on crows they are indeed most fascinating creatures. In fact I remember watching some show that David Susuki was hosting and the subject matter was the common crow. There was a study done on a University campus in which a person wearing a certain mask was making threatening gestures towards the crows. They had someone else walk through the crowd with a different mask but the crows were unresponsive. The original trouble maker would walk through and the crows would sound the alarm off warning all other crows of this eminent danger. I was certainly amazed by the toad story but not surprised that the culprit ended up being a crow! Take care Bob and thanks for supporting my hubs have a great day Pam :)


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

This is one of my favorite hubs that you have written. I wish you would check the box on your profile page that would allow all of your hubs to be visible here on your profile page because a couple of my favorites aren't showing here -- no doubt been idled, but even though idled there's no reason the rest of us shouldn't enjoy your hard work. If you need assistance, let me know. Pinning this hub to my new "Birds" board on Pinterest. Will share too, so long as I'm here.

Hope you're bright eyed and bush tailed! ;) xx


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas

At the risk of being redundant, let me again say that this is one of my favorite hubs of yours.

Go to your profile page and click on "Edit Profile." Go to almost the bottom of that page where it says "Show only Featured Hubs on my profile:" Click on the 'NO' box and then all of your hubs will be visible again on your profile page.

Hope all is well with you Bobby. Sharing this article again (I already pinned it). Take care . . xox


diogenes profile image

diogenes 2 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

G'day Misty...I thought I'd done it, will look again as your wish is my command...

Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 2 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Miz Devyne...I had done that...it says "no," so I suppose you should be seeing them all?

Bob

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