News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 13, 2012

RONN MOTT: Crow season in Terre Haute

Ronn Mott
Special to the Tribune-Star

---- — Autumn is here and winter is not that far behind. One of the telltale signs is when the weather gets colder, the crows flock into town. It’s easy to understand why. First of all, it’s warmer in town and, secondly, there’s almost an unlimited amount of spare food for them to feast upon.

Crows are one of the smartest of birds and they are extremely sociable. They like to gather and exchange information about food sources, heat ducts, and wind breaks. The city is ripe for that type of activity.

When I was driving to Parke County every day to be on the radio, crows would gather on the bridge that crosses Raccoon Creek just before my destination. I didn’t stop and examine, but it did appear as if I was seeing the same birds at the same spot and at the same time every day. This went on for many weeks and one day all of them were gone. Of course, here in the city, they all like to roost together and, like the gathering on the bridge, they like to exchange information.

Once a crow gets positive facial recognition of you, and you have done something wrong to him or her, you become an enemy for life. Very smart birds. In New England, an ice fisherman would set his pole and bait over this ice hole and if the pole was tipped down he knew he had something. He ran into a bit of a dilemma. The pole was not tipped down as in a catch, but was setting straight up as if there was no catch. But the bait was gone … so, somehow a fish or something had gotten the bait without tipping the pole down. This was very frustrating, so the man set up a camera to record what was going on when he wasn’t there. The video solved the mystery. A raven, cousin to the crow, came by and pulled the bait out of the ice hole, slipped the bait off the hook, and ate it. He then put the bare hook back into the water and straightened up the pole as if nothing had happened. Ingenious.

The city has a group of volunteers who shoot off bottle rockets, fire crackers, etc., to confuse the birds, scare them, and drive them off. Again, the crows are smart. They simply pick up, fly away, and find someplace else to exchange gossip, talk about food sources, and enjoy the winter clustered together.

The crows were on this continent before man and I suspect they will outlast us. Anyway, if I were forced to bet on one or the other, I would bet on the crows.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.