Sunday, April 26, 2020

Something to Crow About During Quarantine

--Susan, Every Other Sunday

Let's talk about crows.

Japan has two native species of crows, with the most common being the large-billed crow (Corvus macrorhynchos japonensis). They can easily reach 60 cm (23 inches) long -- and, as a result, are often mistaken for ravens.

A corvid emperor surveying his domain.

They're also fairly aggressive--so much so that some places even have warning signs posted in Japanese and English warning people to "beware of crows." (A note: the warning is primarily designed to ensure people don't get mugged--an experience you won't quickly forget, and one I've shared in a previous MIE post.)

A mug(ger) shot from my past.

In Japan, the crow is revered as a harbinger and messenger of Amaterasu Omikami, the chief deity in the Shintō pantheon. Her primary messenger, the divine three-legged crow called Yatagarasu, is reported to have led Jimmu, the first emperor of Japan, to the place where he assumed the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Jimmu and Yatagarasu - the crow as messenger of the divine.

The crows of Japan certainly seem to remember their place in the divine order; they are brash, self-confident, and loud enough to be heard several blocks away when arguing with their brethren--and believe me, they argue constantly.

My apartment sits approximately a block from a park with a bamboo grove and a block and a half from a Shintō shrine. We have resident murders (of crows) in both locations, and I hear them at almost any and every hour of the day and night. (Fortunately, I like their calls.)

Attempted murder, anyone?

During this time of coronavirus isolation, I've resumed a practice I began about a year ago--attempting to win the trust of one of the larger local crows. He likes to sit on the TV antenna and roof of the house next door, and I'd noticed him watching both Oobie and me through the window.

On a whim, I placed a cookie on the balcony ledge. After I closed the door, he swooped in to take it. He's a clever fellow, and it only took him about two days to realize I'd resumed the cookie offerings. We've been at it for almost a month now, and he knows that the cookie goes out between 9 and 10 am. He hasn't quite decided whether he's stealing it or not (a critical first step in winning his trust) but he's happy to come and take it either way.

Hachi coming in for his treat.

For my part, I'm happy to have a visitor who understands the idea of social distancing.

The crow (who I've named "Hachi"--which means "eight," and is a Japanese play on "Yatagarasu"--the "eight span crow") has brightened someone else's days as well: my cat, Oobie, loves to watch Hachi get his cookie, and waits for him by the window every morning.

The cookie grab.

It gives all of us (including Hachi) something to look forward to - and although I hope the social distancing measures will be lifted sooner rather than later (hey, a girl can dream) my "visits" with Hachi are making the days a little brighter in the meantime.

So tell me . . . what are you doing to amuse yourself during quarantine?


  1. :-) Cute story, Susan. Pretty much "same ol', same ol'" here. I've been working at home for ... 23 years now, and we live a little bit out of town, so about the only thing that's changed is the frequency of our trips to town for supplies (dropped), and the visits with our kids and grandkids (also, unfortunately, dropped :-(. Glad to hear you're staying healthy and entertained. :-)

  2. I also have some birds that have decided I'm an easy touch. Wild bird seed for the seed eaters, old apples for the fruit lovers, and cheese for the drongos. They are adventurous and perky, and catch insects on the wing. They are more than happy to grab small scraps of cheese from midair. Or out of my hand for that matter. I expect them to start opening the fridge pretty soon...

  3. I can't believe that EvKa and I actually found something in common... aside from______. Yes, Barbara and I don't mind our isolation, and actually consider it an intrusion when we must head off to meet up with civilization. As for the birds, we've watched a pair of Canadian Geese prepare, nest, hatch and now try to protect six goslings from the snapping turtles and fox. I'm sure there's a literary analogy there somewhere. As for crows, we don't have that many here, which made the other day quite special. A red-tail hawk came sweeping over the barn and out across the pond, pursed by a screaming, murderous murder of crows. It was our excitement for the week. Take care, and may your cookies continue to bring the world happiness. xoox Ma and Pa Kettle.