Why would anybody care about crows? They aren’t pet material, like parrots, they make an obnoxious racket, and they basically seem dirty. Perhaps Poe’s “Raven” instilled some cultural hate for the raven and it’s close relatives, including the crow, as well. How deep does our distaste for crows go? Let’s take a look.
Crows caw. Many birds sing or make no noise at all, but crows are on the opposite end of the spectrum with their discordant squawk. It’s a sound that can sound shivers up the spine and hurry a casual walker along much faster as they try to get away from it. It’s simply not pleasant on the ears, but there are lots of unpleasant things in the world that are still tolerable. What about the caw of a crow is utterly intolerable?
It’s possible our perception of this big black bird is created and driven by the media. That’s right, just blame it on Hollywood. Edgar Allen Poe started it and they took it from there, placing crows in nearly ever horror movie to hit the silver screen. A crow gets exponentially scarier if it suddenly flies at you from nowhere. Throwing in a crow is the quintessential horror movie “cheep thrill.” But is Hollywood really prevalent enough in our lives, powerful enough in our lives, that it could alter the deep seated disliking of the bird? I think not.
Crows eat other animals. Fine, survival of the fittest; its how the world works. However, it’s a bit more complex than that. We tend to revere the great hunters of the animal kingdom, such as lions, but crows are not great hunters. In fact they are the birds of cowardice as they wait until their prey is already dead and then pick at the rotting meat. What more unpleasant image is there in the animal world? So crows managed to establish their own reputation with a habit like that, but our view of them was made far worse over time by the basic use of the English language.
English can be a beautiful language and the words can be used powerfully. In the case of crows, only the latter is true. With most groups of birds, you have a flock, but when it comes to crows, you have a murder of crows. But did that terminology cause the superstitions or did superstitions result in the creation of that term?
All in all, we expect bad things when we see crows. Therefore, when I looked out my window last night and found that the tops of all the trees (bare branches for the coming winter), were being occupied by a murder of crows that had swelled in ranks to army proportions, I was more than a little displeased by the sight. It was unsettling and ominous. My roommate and I exclaimed in surprised horror as the big black birds took to the sky and we found that their numbers were such that there had to be upwards of two hundred black bringers of death in the sky over our campus. But they’re just birds, like any other innocent creature… right?