I was at a birthday party this weekend. At some point in the conversation the topic of our pets came up. I contributed by noting that we have had dogs and we have had cats, (and fish, turtles, canaries, and a baby squirrel that we rescued and inadvertently tamed by feeding and teaching him (or her) how to climb a tree) but now, with the children grown and gone, we have our best pets ever: a flock of crows that have come to be the predominant birds frequenting our balcony.
Usually there will be about five or six at a time, with another fifteen or so in the nearby trees waiting their turn. At times though they all come at once, and the balcony rail is packed with them, a couple of dozen at a time. A few of them have us well trained; early in the morning they will come and land on a perch and start calling us to bring them their breakfast. We hop right to it, of course.
My wife is the main birdwatcher in the family. Her ear for different bird calls is phenomenal, surpassed only by her extensive knowledge of their habitats, migration patterns, and behavior. My interest is pretty much confined to crows. If you’ve been reading these Cups a while, you might remember the one about crows fashioning tools, making barbs on the ends of twigs, so as to be able to spear larvae in rotting trees and pull them out. My mantra since seeing that on TV has been “A crow could figure this out” whenever I’m feeling stuck by a problem.
My wife has come to recognize some individually, distinguishing the males from the females, and the dominant member of the flock, a large male. She has seen some remarkable behavior, such as the dominant male feeding his presumed mate. I don’t have her eye for these distinctions, but it doesn’t minimize my regard of them that I can’t distinguish one from another.
We do feel good about feeding them, and the other birds too, of course, the chickadees, the titmice, and the sparrows, to name a few, especially on these bitterly cold days when all their other food sources are encased in ice. From having fed them in good weather, they know where to come in hard times. It is another way of sharing our abundance with Gods’s creatures, and it brings joy to do so. In a way, our throwing food on our balcony is similar to God’s profligate showering of blessings on us all – as Jesus noted, the sun shines and the rain falls on the good and bad alike. It remains to us in some measure to see that the distribution of this abundance is not frustrated by human greed and selfishness or just lack of awareness of the needs all around us.
“…do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (BCP pg. 377)
“All birds of the air, glorify the Lord, praise him and highly exalt him forever.” (BCP pg. 89)
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 17-February-2015.