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Caring for Aging Parents–What Crows Teach Us

Posted by at 6:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)


crowA couple of years ago, I moved back to my hometown to be more supportive of my aging mother. A visit from some friends of mine this week led me to reflect on my role as a caregiver as my mother ages. My friends are representative of so many families these days: The adults are living with their aging parents, their teenagers, and their babies. The fact that my friends are American crows doesn’t change the lessons one can draw.

When humans (or crows) are born, the babies are helpless; adults provide food and important lessons about life. Juvenile crows, in a move reminiscent of my heading off to college, leave their immediate family members to join groups of other young crows. But they return to reside with their parents throughout most of the year and often help with raising subsequent generations. The families work together to fend off predators and find food, not unlike those of us who are helping our senior parents fend off identity thieves and assisting with household chores that become harder with age. As crows age, the assistance of their younger family members surely makes survival easier, just as in human families.

I’ve always admired the social cooperation of crows. Whether mobbing a predator (it’s particularly annoying to me when the predator is a feline, who should be safe inside) or raiding food at an unattended campsite, crows work together for the good of their community. Their enormous winter roosts, which may include tens of thousands of birds, seem to be a sort of coffeehouse, where information about the location of food is shared for the next day’s meals. Over the years, PETA has acted to prevent communities from killing the crows in such roosts because people were annoyed by the noise or droppings.

PETA receives calls every day about individuals and institutions that are causing harm to animals. But while some in our society act to inflict harm on others, there is a growing movement to live in peace with our animal neighbors. Whole families of humans live a cruelty-free lifestyle (like PETA Prime’s own Anderlik family), not only by making smart consumer choices but also by studying how to get along with very different beings (such as mice) and helping other families know that animals suffer in circuses and other industries.

It’s natural to help our immediate family, but it takes an extra effort to help those of our own species whom we don’t know and will never meet, or to help individuals and families who are of a different species. It is so easy to provide care to animal families who share our neighborhoods, and some of our support to them can not only leave us with a sense of satisfaction at having taken kind action but also provide other personal benefits. My mom and I recently spent several hours together looking out the window at the birds in the native bird-friendly shrubs that I planted to provide long-term care to our feathered neighbors, even when I’ve moved on.

The life journeys of our families are not that different from those of animals in the most important respects, don’t you agree?

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    pook says...

    February 6th, 2009, 4:07 pm

    a wonderful story. Crows have been part of my spiritual journey since I was a very young child.

    HENRY LANE says...

    February 6th, 2009, 6:03 pm

    keep it up.
    you are right on target.

    robin says...

    February 6th, 2009, 8:22 pm

    Thank you. I’ve always known crows are special.
    I bet we can learn from them!

    Steven Campbell says...

    February 7th, 2009, 5:35 am

    Crows really are very wonderful birds. We call our local friends “Crow-Brothers”. They have saved our chickens and kittens from hawks at times and I had the opportunity to save one of them from the same threat. We feed them when we can (not nearly as much as they’d like nowadays since we’re vegetarian), they come when I call them, and I don’t want to imagine what life would be like without them. They truly are good friends.

    Pamela says...

    February 7th, 2009, 9:17 pm

    Thank you, Scott, for an informative and inspiring article.

    ShirleyBird says...

    February 8th, 2009, 10:24 am

    I personally watched a crow with a broken and dangling leg (it must have been a real hinderance) survive 5 years on my property. We have some really bad winters. Obviously the bird needed help to survive. She/he was always accompied by one or two other birds.

    Carol Lenahan says...

    February 8th, 2009, 3:28 pm

    I, too, am trying to live a completely animal cruelty-free existence. I strive every day to educate friends and/or relatives about the horrors of factory farming, etc. I also am trying to re-create a wildlife-friendly yard to make up for the animal/bird habitat we destroyed when we cleared the land to build our home! It’s the VERY LEAST I can do.

    Margarette says...

    February 9th, 2009, 12:43 am

    I make a 50 min. drive to work. I often take those old crusts of bread that no one @ home wants to eat & toss them out the window into fields along the way for the crows & ravens. I’ve never spotted them swooping down to get them but I’m sure they appreciate them, especially when it’s minus 30 C.
    In the summer, my one neighbour likes to go shoot crows that come into town because he thinks they are noisy but it’s fine for our other neighbour to wake us up early Sat. a.m. with their leaf blower. I’d rather hear a crow any day than a leaf blower or someone blasting crows. I know, I must be more vocal about such cruelty.

    Margarette says...

    February 9th, 2009, 12:35 pm

    When I inquired about the murders of crows being murdered in our town I’m told the crows are very aggressive, eating the young of song birds and driving them out of the area. Is that actually true? I think people’s marauding kittys who are permitted to wander the streets are more to blame than the crows.

    Julie van Niekerk says...

    February 10th, 2009, 2:21 am

    Too sweet. I did not know much about crows. Never too old too learn new things

    kerry says...

    February 11th, 2009, 3:57 am

    I talked my “aging” parents into moving to Liberty Lake so my sister and I could take care of them, but they actually are the ones taking care of us. They babysit our doggies and cook great VEGAN food for us. We are so lucky to have such wonderful VEGAN parents, in their 80’s but still going 100 miles an hour for the animals.

    I am glad to see so many comments from people that care about crows. it’s hard to believe that not too many years ago park officials used to shoot crows in one of our local parks. They thought this was the way to control the crow population. We raised a public outcry and got the media involved and the parks department solved the problem by putting lids on the trash cans. It;s so amazing that they never thought of this simple, totally effective solution until the public and the media got involved.

    carolyn says...

    February 11th, 2009, 11:25 am

    People should learn from animals about how they help each other unconditionally….

    Nancy says...

    February 11th, 2009, 2:04 pm

    There’s a wonderful video on youtube about a crow that took care of an orphaned kitten. I first saw it on TV. Here’s the link:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JiJzqXxgxo&feature=PlayList&p=406D12D0D15000F1&index=0&playnext=1

    cindy c says...

    February 11th, 2009, 5:09 pm

    I HAVE MY 88 YEAR OLD MOM LIVING WITH ME,THIS ARTICLE WAS A EYE OPENER,AND I THINK DIFFERENTLY NOW ABOUT CROWS AND THIER CARING NATURE,WE ALL NEED TO HELP EACH OTHER,AND SOMETIMES WE DON’T EVEN REALIZE WE HAVE BEEN HELPED OURSELVES.

    Karen Taggart says...

    February 13th, 2009, 6:40 pm

    Hey everyone — there is a poll on this Web site asking “Should crows be shot to limit their population and keep them from damaging property?”

    Please go vote NO! http://www.ocregister.com/articles/crows-hribar-shoot-2304567-says-people

    Gabriela says...

    February 18th, 2009, 3:26 am

    AWESOME!!! Sometimes we feel, we HAVE TO help our parents or grandparents, we see it as a DUTY, not as a pleasure, now after reading this article, I can see that human beings, we are, sometimes, so selfish and arrogant. We need to be humble and learn from our crow-siblings and appreciate more our beloved ones, and be there whenever they need, just as the magnificent crows do. Because that’s what relatives are for, right?
    I will share this article with my students in class since we will be talking about animals next course, and I hope they realize as I did; that crows are not bad luck, bad animals or such a thing, but noble, kind and caring beings

    forveterans49 says...

    February 20th, 2009, 8:37 pm

    I feed our crows inhabiting the apt. complex with bread crumbs. I even try to make my ‘cawing’ sound and they hear me and fly down to get the crumbs on the carport roof where I have thrown the crumbs. I consider them my friends.

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