Bird Watcher's General Store

Crow Suspect in
"The Case of the Missing Watch" - 09/12/08

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Dear Bird Folks,

While gardening last week I laid my gold-plated watch on a window ledge of my house. When I returned to retrieve it, I discovered it was gone and I have not been able to find it anywhere. My neighbor speculated that either a hawk or crow, which we have plenty of, carried it off. Is that possible, and if so, is there a large avian lost and found that you could direct me to? The absence of my watch is affecting a number of my personal relationships.

- Scooby, Orleans, MA

Hey, Scooby,

I hope you like that name because that's what I've decided to call you. You wrote a lovely note, but opted not to include your name, so I was forced to give you one. Since there has been a noticeable shortage of people named "Scooby" writing in, I figured now would be a good time. And speaking of a good time, you sure seem to be having some good times. I'm impressed that you have a "number" of personal relationships going on. Way to be a player there, Scooby. Who knew the key to having several relationships at once was a gold-plated watch? Where can I get one of those watches?

About your neighbor's suggestion that your watch was stolen by a hawk or crow. Why would you ever listen to your neighbor? Next to talk radio, neighbors are the least reliable source of information. Think about it. Why would a hawk take off with your watch? Because it wants to see time fly? (That's for all the nine-year-olds out there.) Because it wants to pay off a gambling debt? (That's for all you GoodFellas out there.) Because it wants to tease you? Hawks aren't funny birds. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a hawk? They look like they're mad about everything, or are in desperate need of a bran muffin. A hawk didn't take your watch.

Crows, on the other hand, are a different story. They are clever, inquisitive, and extremely intelligent. Because they are so intelligent there is no doubt in my mind that they have a sense of humor, too. Just today a customer told me about his semi-wild pet crow. They had raised it from a chick, but it was free to come and go as it pleased. One day the guy (who was telling me this story) came home from work, went to unlock his front door and dropped his keys. Before he could pick them up, the crow swooped in, snagged the keys, flew away, and did not return. The guy had to sit outside in the cold for two hours until another family member came home to let him in. Now, that's funny.

Crows are impressive birds. In many ways their intelligence rivals that of monkeys. Crows can count. They can use tools and they have great memories. A group of college students who trapped a family of crows in order to study them, learned about the birds' memories the hard way. After the crows were released the birds screamed and dive-bombed these particular students any time they appeared on campus. This harassment continued until the students graduated and moved away. I don't really know what that had to do with your question, Scooby, but isn't it an interesting story?

Although tame crows are apt to steal things from humans, it's a totally different story with wild crows. Wild crows, for very good reasons, are wary and cautious when it comes to interacting with humans. Over the years crows have been shot, poisoned and dynamited. Yes, dynamited. Millions have been destroyed in an effort to protect farmers' fields or shot just because some people like shooting and killing things. Though it's a possibility that a wild adult crow might have stolen your watch, it's not likely. So what happened to your watch? Here are a few thoughts.

Staying with the bird theory for the moment, there's a slight chance that a young crow was involved. Young, inexperienced crows are likely to investigate odd items in their search for food, but they don't take what they find to an "avian lost and found." Like gulls, crows drop hard items from the air, in the hope that the impact produces something edible. If that's the case, even the extended warranty won't help. Or, maybe it wasn't a bird at all, but a squirrel. I've never heard of squirrels taking watches, but since most people blame squirrels for everything, I might as well put it out there for consideration.

At this point I doubt a wild creature had anything to do with your lost watch. If you are like me, you probably thought you left it on the window ledge when you actually put it someplace else, like in the refrigerator, next to the mustard. I often find the TV remote there. But my number one guess is that your neighbor is the offender. He heard about your numerous personal relationships and thinks that if he has your watch he'll be able to get in on the action. The hawk and crow suggestion was just his way of throwing you off his trail.

If I were you, Scooby, I'd just keep looking. First, check the refrigerator, next to the mustard. After that, go over to your neighbor's house. If you hear Sinatra music and smell Old Spice, I think you have found your culprit.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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