For the Birds Radio Program: Pot Pourri

Original Air Date: Nov. 4, 1987

Laura has sad news of an encounter with Snow Buntings and an update about Icarus the Crow. (3:45)

Audio missing


(Recording of a Common Crow)

Last weekend, driving up the shore for dawn Dickey Duty, I slowed down for a flock of Snow Buntings eating grit at the start of scenic highway 61. The car behind me ripped by in a no-passing zone, smashing three of the buntings. It’s sad to think about these little birds coming all the way to Duluth from beyond Hudson Bay just to be flattened by one impatient driver. People are just not supposed to hurry on a Saturday morning.

This is the time of year when birds congregate on roadsides. On cold November mornings, the sun warms up dark roadbeds before its rays reach the forests. Flocking seed- eaters, like juncoes, buntings, Lapland Longspurs, and sparrows, are attracted by the warmth and by the roadside grit, which helps them digest their food. These birds are also fond of salt–especially crossbills and Evening Grosbeaks–so once the snow falls they’ll collect in even bigger numbers along salted roads.

I talked about ways to avoid hitting birds a few weeks ago, asking listeners whether those new animal alert devices actually work–you know, the kind advertised in automobile club magazines, which are supposed to make a whistling sound inaudible to people. One letter poured into KUMD from a Hayward listener. Joan Kozak told me that her father, who spends a lot of time on the road, has had some success with his animal alert. She mentioned that “once he passed a pickup with dogs in the back and the dogs perked up and started looking around and he wondered if it was because of the device.” Since he’s had it on his car, he hasn’t seen any deer along the road. So if you don’t like to hit animals, this kind of device may be worth getting.

In another matter, a few people have been asking how Icarus the Crow is doing. Well, it turns out Icarus is probably a female–her wing length is closer to the average female crow’s size than a male’s. And she’s doing just fine. Dr. Michael Overend of the Lake County Veterinary Clinic removed the bandage from her wing two weeks ago, and her foot is getting better every day. I have to soak it three times a day and she’s still taking antibiotics, but she’s definitely on the mend. She still seems to wonder what happened that her whole world has been turned around. In spite of her intelligence and adaptability, it’s sad to see how earthbound she is–and how much she yearns to take off and touch the sky the way a crow needs to. When I wash dishes in the afternoon, she sits on my shoulder staring out the window. She does enjoy music, and seems interested in learning to play the piano. But so far I’m afraid she has given me much more than I’ve given her.

She’s already been to school, meeting children at the Montessori School of Duluth and Cobb School. I’ve been discovering that a lot of people don’t know it’s illegal to shoot crows. Ravens and crows have been protected by law since 1972, but many knowledgeable people–including some Audubon Society members–apparently don’t realize it. Listeners to “For the Birds” are more sophisticated than run-of-the-mill people, though, so I trust none of you will ever harm a crow.

(Recording of a Crow)

This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”