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Teen Talk in Nature: An Anthropomorphic Anecdote...

Updated on July 26, 2011

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Weekends are precious, not the least for it being the days when there is no pressing urgency to get out of bed. It was on one such day, in mid luxuriate, when I noticed a correlation between a stabbing pain in my head and the extraordinary noise outside. The cacophony in question was the morning 'discussion' of the neighborhood crow population. Roosting in trees at the rear of our house, their brain piercing 'caws' reminded me of something familiar that I could not, even with the help of a pair of Aspirin, quite put my finger on.

Annoying, loud, piercing, inconsiderate, irritating...did I mention loud?

It was Monday when I made the connection. My first order of business each morning was to monitor the middle school drop off. My daily challenge was to elicit some sort of response from the sleepy middle school students as they peeled themselves out of their parent's cars. My lively "good morning" would get a response some fifty percent of the time, mostly mumbles, but still it was a duty I enjoyed, making contact with the children as they began their school day.

Individually silent, almost comatose, the children would drag themselves towards the building, waiting for me to unlock the doors, at the appointed time, so they could make their way up to homeroom. When I arrived to unlock the doors, the assembly had collectively woken up, talking animatedly to the person, apparently, furthest away from them. It was as if each child had just had a triple shot of espresso, resulting in their energy levels going from zero to max in no time flat.

I noticed they were annoying, loud, piercing, inconsiderate, irritating, did I mention loud?


Crows are just avian middle schoolers...

Now I have a high tolerance of middle schoolers, mostly I find them highly amusing (except for when they are not), and I decided to take a closer look at the crows, looking for similar group dynamics. It certainly would make the weekends more enjoyable if I was laughing at the stupid birds, not getting annoyed at them.

In the intervening months, the more I saw, the more I believed that the crows and middle schoolers were one and the same...

For example...

I am the proud owner of a large fig tree. It produces a great deal of fruit, most of which is inaccessible to earth bound beings. The crows love the figs, but the best figs are at the ends of the slenderest branches. The crows, gauche and clumsy, get closer and closer to the prized figs, but more often than not, fall off. They tumble to the ground in the most ungainly of descents, surrounded by the uproar of their fellow crows. It takes minimal imagination to believe they are laughing at their idiot friends. The parallels with middle school boys at recess is almost uncanny...

It gets better. The figs, unharmed but for the occasional peck-hole, bake in the unrelenting California sun, and by the alchemy of fermentation, become little balls of fig wine. The crows return to roost in the evening, and stop on their way home at the Lincoln's fig tree. As the sun goes down, the birds fall out of the tree and stagger around the rear yard with the more sober and less gravitationally challenged crows busily laughing at them, until they too fall prey to the alcohol or an insufficiently strong branch.

Middle schoolers do not require alcohol to reach this level of giddy excitement, try putting on a lunchtime dodge-ball tournament for example. They laugh at their compatriots missteps and pratfalls with extraordinary gusto, and unbelievable as it may seem, it is an observable fact that middle schoolers can fall out of their chairs with no provocation at all.

Nest building has its parallels as well. I was watching a crow struggle with a very large branch, dragging it across my neighbor’s roof. The endeavor was way too ambitious for the bird, who upon reaching the edge of the roof, took off with branch in beak, and tumbled with a flap or two of its overtaxed wings to the ground. Common sense would say, utilize some of the bits that have broken off, but no, our crow drags the branch across the back yard, scaring the poo out of the rabbit population, quietly engaged in destroying my lawn. Eventually, he (it had to be a boy) reached the far fence. He looked forlornly at the tree in which he was building his masterpiece, and did a series of jump/flaps before bowing to the inevitable and eating a fig or two.

The middle school equivalent...

Watch boys exit their car pool cars. They grab their stray bits of clothing, their book bag, their lunch, their lacrosse bag, their lacrosse stick, and their tri-fold poster for science fair. They look forlornly at the open trunk or car door and use their feet to try and close the door. As they move forward, one or more of the objects in their arms fall to the ground at a rate of one thing per step forward. If there is a friend in the vicinity, he will laugh, and if he happens to have a ball on his person, he will throw it at his overburdened friend and laugh even more...

So, the next time you see either a group of raucous middle schoolers or a flock of crows (or seagulls for those of you with a coastal aspect) note the similarities. They get enthused about each other, and trash, and that is pretty much it.

The only advantage the human children have is that (for the most part) they grow out of this awkward stage…

And my nest building friend…he finally created an impressive stack of twigs on a very high branch, attracted a female by his loud calls and glossy sheen, and as the two of them were admiring each other, the whole thing fell to earth…

The laughter of their friends was deafening!

And I am not saying crows are stupid...


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