For the Birds Radio Program: Calpurnia II

Original Air Date: Sept. 22, 1989

Laura has another injured crow. (3:48) Date confirmed

Audio missing


A few weeks ago, I was given an adult crow with an injured neck and a broken wing. I named her Calpurnia II, after a raven I cared for briefly last year. Callie is the most gentle, sweet-natured crow I’ve ever met. Of course I shouldn’t be surprised about her disposition—in 1925, Edward Howe Forbush, the Massachusetts State Ornithologist, wrote:

The [Crow] is well known because he is large, black, ubiquitous, and noisy. He is well worth knowing. Each Crow is a character. There is more difference in Crows than appears as they fly over.

And Callie is certainly different. When I got her, over a week after she was injured, I attributed her quiet manner to lethargy. After all, she had a bad infection, was in obvious pain, and hadn’t eaten properly in at least a week. But now that the infection has cleared up and she’s eating her fill of nutritious food for two weeks, she’s still gentle and calm when I handle her. She sits on the back of a chair in the living room when I work downstairs preening and listening to music, and occasionally visits me in my office upstairs.

I never cease to be amazed at the number of people who dislike crows, and wonder if those same people disparage the human race, which crows so closely resemble. Although crows are intelligent, emotional, drawn to glitter, and hold grudges as long as humans do, they have a wild quality that mocks our civilization—a fierce freedom that we can only imagine. Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal that the crow remains to remind us of aboriginal nature. In March, I like to watch crows flying buoyantly on a south wind, carrying spring to us on their wings. I like to hear the soft croon of mated crows in courtship. They make me laugh when they cuss out an owl or chase a Red-tailed Hawk through the summer sky. In October I like to sit up at the Lakewood Pumping Station of a Sunday morning and watch a flock of crows materialize, apparition-like, out of the misty dawn. And I like to see them in sharp focus against a crisp January sky, tiny puffs of steam erupting from their beaks with each caw. The Crow is truly a bird for all seasons. And on top of all this, its matchless intelligence is legendary. Henry Ward Beecher once remarked that if men wore feathers and wings, very few of them would be clever enough to be Crows.

Calpurnia currently spends most of her time in my son Joey’s bedroom. She can go wherever she pleases when Joey or I are in the room, but otherwise is kept in a makeshift encrowsure. We looked her up in the encycrowpedia, where we learned that long ago, her ancestors were aligned with our own in a group called Crow Magnum Man. Modern crows enjoy eating croquettes, but they fiercely refuse to ever be forced to eat crow. On Friday nights, they hang out with their cronies in crow bars. In summer their favorite pastime is croquet, but when a blanket of snow covers their wickets, they turn to crocheting. In early spring gardens, their crow-cusses are often heard. The rest of the time they just crowk. And if you don’t believe me, all I can say is, just crow up!

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