The following excerpt is from Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s new book, “Crow Planet; Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness,” a splendid book now available at your local bookstore.
“So you’re saying crows are the birds we deserve,” friends have suggested as if crows – bulky and black, stalking about – might be present as a punitive reminder of our ecological missteps. It might sound as if that’s what I’m saying. Certainly it is ironic, at best, that we remove forests, replace them with concrete and shrubbery, line the sidewalks with plastic cans full of food scraps and topped with ill-fitting lids and then lament the presence and noise of so many crows. But no, if it were about deserving, we would have no bird at all. As it is, we have a shiny, black, intelligent, native, wild bird we’ve been given.
“It is difficult to know just how many crows there are. The international avian conservation organization Partners in Flight estimates the American Crow population in the United States to be about thirty-one million, but some crow experts, including John Marzluff at the University of Washington, believe that number to be a bit low. There are more than three hundred million people in the United States. Marzluff tells me that while he doesn’t know for certain, he thinks there might be about one crow for every five to ten humans. This would be consistent with his studies showing that nesting pairs in suburban areas tend to claim and defend two houses with their accompanying yards as breeding territory. There is, then, roughly one crow per family. I like to think about this when I set the table for dinner; I imagine a dark visitor, our allotted crow, perching on the back of a chair with one of our best china plates in front of it, waiting for the spaghetti.”