I’ve recently had the delight of discovering Our Amazing Birds: The little-known facts about their private lives (1951), a collection of short essays with cooky, humorous, and less commonly known tidbits about common birds in the US. The book was written by Robert S. Lemmon, a naturalist in the early-mid 1900’s and author of books on a variety of topics, ranging from Training the Dog to All About Moths and Butterflies. Click here to read his obituary from 1964.
In this series, I share with you excerpts from some of my favorite essays. They’re light-hearted reads to get your bird-nerd fix on a fall afternoon. To read the full stories, find a copy of this book — I promise you won’t regret it!
Crow: Smartest of our native birds
“Of all our native American birds, the crow has most thoroughly mastered the problem of how to thrive in the face of heavy odds. Tough, resourceful, amazingly intelligent, it prospers despite the handicaps of large size and a jet-black uniform which make it almost startlingly prominent. Man’s hand is ever against it, yet it caws derisively and flaps away in safety almost every time. It is incredible the way crows make crime pay. And yet, if it’s not your corn that has been stolen or your nestling robin that has been gobbled, you can’t help admiring their skill and daring.
“How does a crow manage so successfully that today its tribe is probably more numerous all over central and Eastern North America than when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock? Well, for one thing, crows stand together against the world, helping each other on every possible occasion; so strong is their communal spirit that they even spend the night together in crowded flocks that may number fifty thousand bird or more. By means of variations in their far-carrying calls they signal the approach of danger, the discovery of food, the presence of natural enemies like foxes and large hawks and owls. When several are feeding together, a sentinel is detailed to stand guard in a nearby tree and sound a warning in crow language if its keen eyes detect anything suspicious. It is as though, living by their wits and faced by constant perils, they have perfected as their family slogan, ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’
“Here, then, are a few highlights on an exceedingly smart bird. Perhaps Henry Ward Beecher gave us the best summation of this sable fellow’s intelligence when he remarked that if men wore feathers and wings a very few of them would be clever enough to be crows.”
Continue reading in “Our Amazing Birds: The little-known facts about their private lives” by Robert S. Lemmon
Introduction by Brenna Marsicek, Director of Communications
Cover photo by Arlene Koziol