Jo Ann Jaacks: A Murder of Crows

A crow

A crow

Jo Ann Jaacks /

At both of the houses I lived in since moving to Litchfield, I was fighting the Battle of the Birdfeeder. I bought a lovely Victorian house birdfeeder and stationed it in the backyard. I snapped pictures of each new bird that made a home in the trees and dined in the Victorian house. I became adept at identifying new visitors on Bird Wizard. The hibiscus flowers drew fabulous little hummingbirds to complete the bird sanctuary.

Then the squirrels came. At first, the squirrels were cute, their antics amusing, and hey, little furry rodents have to eat too. Then I noticed that birds wouldn’t come near the feeder if squirrels were there, and they were grabbing all the seeds. Regretfully, I put away the lovely Victorian house and bought a “squirrel-proof” feeder. Evidently they can’t read, because once again birds were driven back by hungry squirrels.

My husband declared he would build the perfect birdfeeder himself. He drafted plans, purchased materials, and erected a prototype - a tall platform atop a slippery metal pole with a feeding station aloft. He adjusted the height and overhang several times after determined squirrels learned to shinny up the pole. Ultimately, the perfect configuration emerged: a too-high slippery pole requiring a reach-around exceeding a squirrel’s grasp. The little varmints watched from afar, attempted multiple climbing expeditions, all ending in failure. The little birds flew back to their favorite dining spot, now an aerie.

Then the bear came. I watched in amazement through my kitchen window as a medium-sized black bear lumbered through our backyard, rose on his haunches and swatted our new bird feeding station. The pole withstood the shock, but the feeder itself crashed to the ground, quickly snatched up by furry paws. Just my luck, dead battery in the camera. I now had a great bear story, but no proof.

We replaced the feeder, although we were advised against it by the wildlife experts I contacted. If there’s no food, there’ll be no bear, they patiently explained. Wise advice, but my husband and I were on a mission to create a bird sanctuary, and we were not about to be deterred by bears.

Then the crows came. I don’t know exactly why I didn’t want the crows to get the food. They are birds too, albeit very large, badly behaved birds. They poked holes in our garbage bags left by the street. They didn’t shoo when I said “shoo!” They were raucous and left messes on our vehicles. And they intimidated the smaller birds.

My husband returned to the drawing board. He made measurements based on a crow’s wing span, calculated the roof peak height, screwed galvanized sheet metal to sturdy plywood. He ultimately built a shiny birdfeeder like a Taj Mahal pavilion. The smaller birds quickly learned how to fly directly in. The crows watched from a distance, did several flybys, and ultimately gave up. All was peaceful.

When we moved to Northfield, we brought the squirrel-proof, bear-proof, crow-proof bird feeder with us. We did have more than one bear visitation, crows leaving mementoes on our vehicles, and squirrels and chipmunks digging holes in the lawn. I decided this is part of the deal when you live in a rural setting.

Then the pheasant came. He was shockingly beautiful as he majestically traversed the back yard one morning to peck at the birdseed overflow. I named him Felix and threw down cracked corn for him. He began appearing regularly, three times a day. His favorite activity was to stand on the highest point - the “burial mound” of our backyard created by the new septic system, surveying his realm. Once, a loud outcry pulled me to the window to see Felix squawking at several crows who were near his feeding grounds. They flew to the top of the highest branch and Felix ran to his throne of a burial mound, continuing the ruckus until they all departed. It’s a small thing, but it was very satisfying to know that we are smarter than crows and once again, all was peaceful.