American Crow

Due to its dark, gruff appearance and its menacing “caw,” the American Crow is often portrayed as an ominous figure on the big screen.  However, did you know that this bird, which can be seen in Iowa throughout the year, is one of the most intelligent of all birds?

More Information

See the American Crow's profile on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

Photo Credits

Cover Photo: By cuatrok77 (AMERICAN CROW), CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Collage Photo (above): By Richard Crossley (Richard Crossley) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Poem

Emerging from the park's dark underpass, 
the banter of crows from far oaks
booms and bawks. So sure. So
emphatic. Each caw, a period. An 
end of story. A you got that right.
An I don't think so. Suddenly they 
explode in chase after a young bald eagle,
his feathers pale as a done-in corn field 
socked in with mist—fleeing big brains 
he mistook for his kind.

a sharp eyed wingnut//a shadow friend// followed me through a fog backyard//a one foot dance over purple play set sand//I tossed out a bread heel//shadow friend spied the writing on the basement wall first//we shared a telepathic moment// a metaphorical clink of glass//a warning, a prayer//a caw, a stare down//the furnace broke the next day.

like a postcoital nag
you express
the dark misgivings
of this moribund existence. 
THIS existence. Mine.
My moribundity.
And then you flock.
and the sands find a place
to settle in your cawing.

The singer sang: "Buzzards and dreadful crows, a necessary evil I suppose." But who else gonna clean up that mess behind B-Bop's?
If meat is murder, give me a murder of crows. Another singer sang: "The world's a can for your fresh garbage." Music to the crow who sez: "Roadkill don't eat itself, and French fries? Them things are heavenly!"
Yet another singer sang: "God's will, my thrill, roadkill." The crow sez: " A tad harsh but tru that!"

in perfect blackness
against a snowy relief
the crows hunt treasure

Do I hear a "hello" or a warning? The caw pierces the cold night air. His dark beady eyes pierce through the day. These are some of the smartest animals on the planet. Their circling masses hovering from above. Screeching shrews. Chatty Cathys. A battle-scarred beak, says the dentist. Toothless. A feeling of peace when I see them hovering above. "Is it an eagle?" I ask hopefully. "Aw, no." Oh, to fly effortlessly above the earth, says the pilot. Dark reflections of their cousins, the bluejays. Good thieves. Black magic. West Nile, says the pharmacist. Third time's a charm. Roadkill feast. Black phoenix. A black shining monarch surveying his kingdom.

EARLY BIRDS
When first we moved to Brooklyn town
and settled on this block 
we always woke at crack of dawn
without the aid of clock:
at earliest light, perhaps before,
we woke to raucous squawk
as sundry crows in residence
took up their morning talk.

Their accents were atrocious –
something even kids could mock.
To stuff my upward ear I kept 
a handy cotton sock,
but no amount of stuffing
helped in muffling the flock.
Then just as I became insane –
they moved to a different block.

It's black/ A crow caws/ It is annoying/ Eating corn/ They are night creatures/ Nocturnal/

Young single male crows 
often help out around 
the house, feeding the babies,
chasing off intruders. Family 
must feel good to them.

Crows bet the eagles:
if Trump wins, eagles 
must eat Trump. 
Trump won. Eagles
lost: had to eat it all, 
even the hair, even 
the suit. Crows know 
November's roadkill season. 
You can't fly 500 feet
without finding a dead
raccoon, paws frozen—
up and out—as if to say
"Wait!" to all the on-
coming cars, speeding 
to the nearest gas station.

Swan-lake white, Cardinal red, Blue-
Jay blue: the demagogue crushes
of birds; oh, you're sick of it--

red and blue like the flashing hands
of sirens. Your apologists jumped 
all over explaining your croaky finesse--

and I read about it, how you're clever:
how you drop shiny turds
in the path of bulldozers; the running-

over exposes their silver 
linings--but honestly, Crow
I don't think it'll be

enough. Evil doesn't dress itself
up in black; I trust
you now more than ever.

THE AMERICAN CROW
Handsome black bird
Soaring and Cawing
Feasting on carrion
Gliding with wings afloat
But connotations abound
Blustery human bragging
A bird for embarrassed eating
Lending its craw for grudges
By Don Ruhde

AMERICAN CROW 
Completely black-head to toes 
Mimicking Parrot. 

Trickster, Totem Animal 
Stealing shining stuff 
Father Time is missing. 

Cousin to Raven
Intelligent, High I.Q.
How do we compare?!
By Darlene Hulbert

Shifting shapes to explore life's mysteries.
Tricking humans while it waits.
Cloaked in darkness, Corvus watches.

Now smaller birds mob
When flight is taken
For iridescent feathers glisten.
By Jamila Hulbert Kepple

BLACK DOOM
Held in rapture 
Cauldron bubbling
Charmed about
Flinched and humming 

You call us Murder

The night watchman
Schemes nigh
Malfeasant party
Magic tide

See us Muster

Well-built rookery
Covering cots
Lasting deceit 
Swiftly flocks

Death Manner

THREE CROWS
Three crows flew herd on a broad-tailed hawk
east of Albert Lea, black beaks talking trash
then driven into the hawk’s grey back.

One flies point while the other two harass from
the wings. You’ve seen this in Korea, three MIG’s
shooting down our bomber; or coyotes on a sick cow.

Two hours later across the Iowa border,
a new pecking order: two redwinged blackbirds,
clever as card players, harassing a passing crow.

The crow’s wings, lumbering like sails on a dingy, 
drag against the current, while the blackbird 
sharks slice the breeze into splinters.

The crow tries a barrel roll to the blackbirds’ delight.
Tufts of coal feathers flutter from his belly. A lone
cedar offers comfort and into its arms the crow falls.

Black feathers, onyx beak and talons sheathed in royal green. 
This crow: terrorist, target, stowaway, scavenger, 
and for a moment, on that rough branch, King.
by Steve Rose

TO THE AMERICAN CROW
I speak to you the people 
whose bodies are drenched in midnight,
who hide inside these modest coats.

You are a tinted window
following me everywhere I go,
whether it’s to the mundanity
of a grimy lot or a place where 
steel buildings don’t grow,
I watch you conquer.

Some say you’re a tribe of demons
but if that were true you wouldn’t
be populating the heavens.

The absence of light, light
bent back and mirrored
in the tips of every feather.
Tura lura lural, tura lura lie.

KILLING METHODS
Outside, after grieving for days,
I’m thinking of how we make stories,
pluck them like beetles out of the air,

collect them, pin their glossy backs
to the board like the rows of stolen
beauties, dead, displayed at Isla Negra,

where the waves broke over us
and I still loved the country, wanted
to suck the bones of the buried.

Now, I’m outside a normal house
while friends cook and please
and pour secrets into each other.

A crow pierces the sky, ominous,
clanging like an alarm, but there
is no ocean here, just tap water

rising in the sink, a sadness clean
of history only because it’s new,
a few weeks old, our national wound.

I don’t know how to hold this truth, 
so I kill it, pin its terrible wings down
in case, later, no one believes me.

The bipolar blackbird the crow 
Pathetically, fallaciously,
Shows us how to share our pride and joy 
and then, in shame, we bake it in a pie 
and eat it.

THE INEVITABLE HEAT DEATH OF THE UNIVERSE
So much self-flagellation at the sting
of conviction, God in every thought,
what seems like demonic possession,
that friction, what feels like a trail
of tears, a forest so many get lost in,
that murder of crows’ foul-flocked
complaint in the branches, what we
imagine serenity upended, a time
to settle on the moment we travel
to some paradox, here and nowhere,
all that space like summer camp,
those Somalian children walking
toward another, less hostile home.

KANSAS WINTER, 1974
Outside:

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow

the snow;

outside:

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

a crow

in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

a crow
in the snow

in Kansas.

Tip-toe v's in trail mud, deer have been here, 
snow stained with mixed success. Though largest
tracks unaccompanied by boots of men. 
We must understand that
to be proper stewards we must err
on the side of being producers. Chilled black waters, swirling 
slowly with winter contemplation, steeping
in the year's production and waste, lingering
fog of merciful temperatures, this hush of undisturbed
places still holding secret determined beauty 
and nourishment;glowing green plants flush with sugars
from the Sun. Crows call in the periphery,
make a few passes, dressed in their impeccable
black best, impress with aerobatics, spirits
impervious to the perceived darkness
of the day, the way their wisdom escapes
so many, the sky's muted layers
of moody blue-gray, meanwhile among deep
dark Firs, the wines, reds, fleshy plum barks
outstanding hue in a sleeping landscape, 
snow receding, a new bridge
into the forbidden forest, lean into Hemlocks
for heart medicine, Robins have stayed, 
company with Juncos, Doves, Sapsuckers,
Chickadees, and Nuthatches. 
Rose hips and berries of startling red, 
but even when sleeping wild roses will bite if we don't heed
their space in the season's quiet suspense.

NO SIMPLE BIRD
Death became its history. 
Sinister an eerie. 
The feeling of obscurity, 
is followed too. 
Their wings inklike. 
Cobalt when in light. 
Becoming one, 
with darkness. 
They learn from us, 
intently and quietly. 
Small minded, 
but intelligent. 
Overlooked, 
and feared. 
But don’t judge, 
this bird in the park. 
Afterall, 
it is the American Crow.

Idylls on Thanksgiving

Wanting to be sure,
the weathered farmer 
drove his tractor
to a corner of his land.

He and old John Deere idled,
surveyed the black soil,
a rectangular sheet waiting 
for another chapter to be written.

Reverie was broken
by a large black crow
startling the air cackling
laughter or a benediction.

Der Crowski and my kittykatski are liking each other.
Die Crow flies his big black beautiful self at my window, 
Cawing, caw, caw, caw.
My kitty shrieks who are you? 
You are very handsome!
I Love You!

CORONIS
The auger’s voice is hoarse
with disuse – no birds have flown
for forty days. There is a crow
in the south. It calls
there shall be no more rain.

Like the absence of a bird
or its memory, stygian 
against the arching leaves,
Apollo’s prophet keeps no promises
and has the singed feathers as proof.