A cacophony of cawing - Wrath of crows may indicate youngsters are nearby

The crows are raising a ruckus these days, hollering, complaining and fussing - what's going on?

It's actually a healthy noise, when you consider the fact that crows are extremely good parents. Both female and male adults spend a great deal of energy protecting their young in the nest from all types of threats, both real and perceived.

We humans are often on the receiving end of the battle against perceived threats. Step out the backdoor, try to wash the car or get a little weeding done in the garden, and you might be abused verbally by the local corvids. In addition to audibly protesting your presence, crows have been know to dive down and buzz folks who suddenly find themselves too close to a nest.

This behavior is known as mobbing. Crows mob owls, cats, raccoons or humans - any creature that they see as a potential threat.

The mobbing and angry calling tends to reach a crescendo when the young fledglings are newly out of the nest; it's at this time that the protective impulses of adult caretakers are ramped up another notch.

In fact, the adults are very quiet and secretive during the initial stages of nesting. You may not even be aware that a family has set up housekeeping in proximity to your home or business until the young have hatched and are well on their way to joining the urban corvid population.

For the first few days after the young have departed the nest or fledged, they'll remain in the vicinity of home. During this time the young crows are completing feather development as well as gaining composure on the wing. This early, more defenseless period leaves them susceptible to predation, particularly from cats.

Hence the boisterous, seemingly outlandish behavior of adult crows, who will attempt to ward off all perceived dangers endemic to an urban environment. If you listen carefully to the cawing, you may be able to discern the alarm call of the parents from the higher pitched begging calls of the youngsters. The insistent begging will be followed by a gargling or choking noise - this garbled call is the sweet sound of success, as food is delivered into the begging mouth of a youngster.

Give crows their due. They are incredibly adaptable and have taken to living well in an urban environment: feasting on crane flies in our lawns, cleaning the roads of yesterday's roadkill, as well as picking up the bits and pieces of our existence.

So consider providing crows a little extra space this time of year. Steering clear will convince the adults that you aren't a threat, thereby reducing your negative crow encounters. Also, keep your kitty inside (she or he will probable thank you - who wants to be attacked by crows?).

The fledging stage passes quickly - in just a few days - after which the crows return to "normal." Soon you'll be gardening and barbecuing or birding in your backyard without any worry of the feathered wrath of protective parents raining down on you.

So be patient - then get outside, and go birding.[[In-content Ad]]