Bird brains

It’s usually pretty quiet and peaceful in West Seattle, but readers of the West Seattle Blog were shocked by news of a murder yesterday. Not only that, the killer confessed the same day. You can read about the standoff between a couple and the woodpecker that drilled holes in their siding, woke them regularly at 6 AM, and soiled the side of their home. A report of a man with a shotgun (it was an air rifle) brought six police officers to the scene with real guns drawn. Fortunately (except for the woodpecker) the situation ended without further violence or loss of life.

While I read this story, crows were stomping around on the almost-flat roof of our house as they do regularly. Not a big fan of crows. Some of them remind me that intelligence by itself can leave a lot to be desired. One day I heard a sound like something rolling on a hard surface. On the roof? Odd. Then it happened again. And again. Looking up through skylights in a hallway, I saw a crow place a marble on the top edge of a skylight and watch it roll down across the glass. It retrieved the marble and brought it back to the top edge for another roll – repeatedly. That’s smart. If I’d thought of it first, I might have entertained myself that way – but not after a crow had already come up with the idea.

Crows have chewed about half of the plastic covering off of the phone and cable wire to several of our homes. In some cases, getting away with behavior like that makes them overconfident, a big step down the path to stupidity. In our neighborhood, power and phone lines seem to be good perches from which crows like to scold us and swoop down on our gardens. One of them apparently assumed that all wires were good wires, and decided to chew on one coming out of the top of a transformer. The power to a few houses was knocked out, and I happened to witness the sudden extension of wings and flurry of feathers before the crow dropped to the ground. I don’t recall the corpse smoking, although I’m sure it was very well done. After savoring a moment of “Gotcha!” I grabbed a shovel and disposed of the remains.

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