What's almost as amazing as the fact that the crow is one of the world's smartest animals, is that they're so commonplace. But, when you think about it, it follows: Smart animals survive and proliferate.
These intrepid black birds (from their beaks to their feet) are part of the corvid family, which also includes that other close relative of the crow, the raven. Almost all species of corvid have been observed using tools, have well-studied languages, a demonstrable generational memory and frequently vocalize emotions like fear and happiness. Domesticated crows even have "names" for their owners, typified by a vocalization only used in the presence of a particular person. Further, they are able to recognize a number of faces.
Part of the crow's ability to endure is the fact that they eat such a variety of food, over 1,000 different documented items. Dedicated omnivores, they'll eat carrion or carry out. They even recognize logos. Sadly and amazingly, crows will always descend upon a McDonald's bag before they peak into a plain brown sack.
If you need a list of 19 more reasons to love crows and some baby pics that make it impossible not to, check out this Buzzfeed list.
And also consider the great imagery these big black birds provide. They show up time and again in popular media ... take a listen to the Mountain Goats' song "The Crow," my personal favorite song about these special birds.
I'm lucky enough to have had the opportunity to spend several mornings and evenings along the middle Rio Grande bosque counting songbirds and waterfowl. Along with the season's emblematic Sandhill Cranes, there is an abundance of birds that are easy to spot, easy to identify and which there is plenty of to see along Albuquerque's sliver of the mighty river.
Among these, perhaps the most common is the Mallard Duck. Both males and females- usually mated at this point in the year- swim through the acqueias and the river proper. These ducks are endemic the whole world through and the males- with a glossy green head and shades of brown feathers down their wings, backs and chests- are easy to spot. More often than not, if you spot a male, there will be a better camouflaged female nearby.
The Gadwall Duck- nearly the size of the Mallard, but with more understated coloration and a black bill- is also easy to find in the river this winter. These ducks are nearly as widespread as the Mallard due to their extreme adaptability. They've even been known to snatch food from the beak of other diving ducks.
Looking for something even more adorable? The Coot- technically part of the Rail family- is dark, petite and easy to spot in open water. These birds are black throughout the body, but have a light, even white colored bill, and sometimes show white on the tail. Making them even more endearing, coots have small, rounded wings and are weak fliers, despite their ability to cover large distances when necessary.
Also keep an eye out for the striking Wigeon, too. These birds breed farther north and make their way down to Albuquerque during the winter season. Males are colorful, with a cream colored forehead and jade green highlights while females are grayish overall. I've spotted just one along the Rio Grande this winter, but these are increasingly abundant.
Also found along the river: dog prints, coyote prints, the spine of a large mammal. Winter time is just as wonderful to test the waters of the Rio Grande, particularly when we have such an abundance of beautiful birds floating by for the season.
Every autumn throughout the western United States there are a plethora of festivals to celebrate the return of the Sandhill Crane to their wintering grounds. Just like many other migratory birds, they undergo an epic journey twice a year, but what sets them apart from the flocks of larks, murmurations of starlings and charms of finches that undertake similar quests for warmer weather and abundant food supplies?
First, birds of the gruidae family are set apart from other migratory birds by their sheer size. Even in a place like New Mexico that boasts an abundance of large hawks and eagles, the leggy Sandhill Crane dwarfs them. The size of these graceful birds is even more impressive when large numbers of them congregate for migration. When I say large, I mean it- tens of thousands of birds group together to move south.
As they migrate, usually during daylight (unlike many migratory birds who travel by night) Sandhill Cranes project a deep rolling call, with mated pairs performing a sort of call-and-response, the female in double time. With their distinct red mask and graceful demeanor, these birds are a welcome addition to the abundant avian life found in New Mexico, and notable, because their stay here is somewhat brief.
Welcoming the Sandhill Cranes back to the open spaces of our state is also an acknowledgment of the turning of the seasons and the intelligence of the natural world. For avid birdwatchers, as well as amateurs, this viewing opportunity is one-of-a-kind.
At the annual Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge visitors can do more than just observe the birds, but attend classes and workshops that contextualize the experience and further connect them with the landscape. This year the festival runs from Tuesday, November 17th through Sunday, the 22nd. Those who can't attend the festival can still see the abundant Sandhill Cranes well into March.
Introducing, Diane Coffee.
The Mountain that eats men.
We are traveling at warp speed.
The death of death.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an anthropomorphic lemon picking up garbage in the streets of Tokyo?
Star Wars: The Art Awakens
Another “branch” of advertising.
Gateway to Hell.
Even more future schtuff!
Oh, the feels.
Guardian of the Galaxy.
Who needs intelligence when you have this?
Explosions in Tianjin.
Carry on my Wayward Gwar. (r.i.p. dave brockie)
Art is nature.
TWA Flight 260 Crash Site. (Shit I never knew existed here)