Is This the Real "Murder" of Crows!!
a few members of the CorvidaeClick thumbnail to view full-size
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!