Thursday, June 11, 2020

Young Crow

I walked this morning, in the burgeoning steam and moist of a Virginia summer day. From up the street there came a peculiar ruckus, one that caught my attention. A voice, yelling out. "Awk AAAA Ewwww. Ak. Awk AAAA aaa ew Awk AAA."
I scanned the tree line for the source of the sound. There it was. A crow, alone on the branch of a dead tree. It preened, and then called out. Preened, and then called out. "Ah Waaak A Ock. Ock Aaa. Ock AAAA! Wak Ock Aaaaa."
Not short calls, but long perorations, whole sentences filled with a medley of gargling, subtly changing tones. It felt less like a cry, and more complex, more like something we mostly hairless bipeds would consider language.
Which told me, because I feel an affinity to crows and ravens and have studied their ways, that it was likely a juvenile. Where adult crows settle in to simpler, familiar, useful calls, crow adolescents experiment. They play with sounds. They sing out intricate patterns to the world, testing their voices. For a while, those songs are as subtle as those of their wise-eyed raven cousins. But then, slowly, young crows settle down into the simple caw of adult crow life.
Being the sort of silly person who says things like "I feel an affinity to crows and ravens and have studied their ways," I called back, mimicking phrasing. But, as expected, I got no reply. It simply sang on, exploring the voice of youth and neatening its feathers.