The crow might be the perfect bird for the new year

January 4, 2019

The American crow is a very common and recognizable year-round bird in the Santa Fe area. This all-black bird with a black bill, legs and feet can have a purple sheen sometimes in direct sunlight. They are about 18 inches long with a wingspan of about 3 feet. They are more common and smaller than their cousin, the common raven. The raven is typically 22 inches to 27 inches in length.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes that “American crows are highly social birds, more often seen in groups than alone. In addition to roosting and foraging in numbers, crows often stay together in year-round family groups that consist of the breeding pair and offspring from the past two years. The whole family cooperates to raise young. Winter roosts of American crows sometimes number in the hundreds of thousands. Often admired for their intelligence, American crows can work together, devise solutions to problems and recognize unusual sources of food. Some people regard this resourcefulness and sociality as an annoyance when it leads to large flocks around dumpsters, landfills and roosting sites; others are fascinated by it. American crows work together to harass or drive off predators, a behavior known as mobbing.”

Crows are loaded with ancient symbolism, but the meaning of that symbolism is up for grabs. Some see a crow as a symbol of bad luck and death. Often, however, crows are seen to symbolize a new phase in one’s life. They are seen to bring intelligence and flexibility to life choices.

In Greek mythology, crows are considered a symbol of prophecy and good luck. When I see a crow flying against the backdrop of a New Mexican blue sky, I don’t see doom; I see strength and hope. It’s all in the interpretation.

Our daughter Mary is home on Christmas break from her first year away at college. A few days ago, after initially waking up, shall we say, on the wrong side of the bed, she got her head right about the day and announced: “2019 is going to be a good year because that’s how I want it to be.” I wrote that sentiment down on a Post-it note and stuck it next to the computer on my desk. Just like landing on right side of the bed, crows bring good things. Believing in our own power to make the year a good one is something I don’t want to forget.

Anne Schmauss is the co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Santa Fe, and she loves to hear your bird stories. She is the author of For the Birds: A Month by Month Guide to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard and Birdhouses of the World.

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