For the Birds Radio Program: Using Crows for an Election

Original Air Date: Nov. 6, 2000

A listener called Laura about a bird-brained scheme to train crows to repeat the name of a mayoral candidate over and over.

Duration: 2′44″


Every now and then there’s a national election wherein we just want to shake everyone involved on every side because they all seem to be bird brains. This seems to be one of those years. So it was with utter delight that I received a letter from a reader of a magazine column I write, telling me about a genuinely bird-brained scheme to elect a Duluth mayor a long time ago. Barbara Shroer writes:

Dear Mrs. Erickson:

My mother, who lived 1888-1960, told me that when she was a girl, in the campaign for mayor of Duluth, a Mr. Truelson had trained a group of crows to say, “Vote for Truelson” and released them before the election. I asked her if a person could understand what they were saying and she said, “Oh, sure!” Then, after a pause, she added, “Of course we knew what they were saying, so–yeah, it was quite clear!” So–I just thought you might enjoy knowing that historically they have been used to send a message in Duluth.

Mrs. Shroer continues:

More on that election–that has nothing to do with birds but is quite funny. Mr. Truelson, I believe, was running for re-election and during his term, much had been done for the city’s water system. Mother told me that in a speech, Mayor Truelson thumped his ample front saying, “All the pure water in Duluth comes through me!” He was then the subject of so much laughter and had a difficult time regaining quiet to continue his speech. I have never seen this nor the above bit about the crows in any account of early Duluth. I don not know when this was, nor how old my mother was at the time, but I’d guess it to be in the early 1900s since she was a young girl then.

I hope you get a kick out of these anecdotes. My mother and I both always had a huge respect for crows.

Sincerely, Barbara Shroer.

I haven’t heard a single crow tell me to vote for Bush, or Gore, or Nader, or Buchanan–frankly, crows long ago figured out how to deal with their issues without a government at all. There have been a surprising and disillusioning number of mistruths spoken by everyone running for office this time, but eventually, instead of speaking crow, I do hope we’re going to at least see some of them eating crow.