Who couldn't use a relaxing moment with nature?

Click the image to enjoy a relaxing, nature- centered video featuring a variety of woodpeckers.

Fun Fact: Woodpeckers have extra-long tongues (up to 4" long), which they use to extract insects from holes in trees, but they will also use them to sip from nectar feeders.

American Crow
Corvus brachyrynchus
This large, iconic bird, while not common at feeders, is well-known by most. All-black, with a stout bill, sturdy build and squared tail, up to 21” in overall length; the crow’s distinctive appearance is matched by its singular personality. Highly social, crows will often form large, noisy flocks. They are opportunistic feeders, and although they are commonly seen feeding on roadkill, they are not scavenger specialists and carrion makes a very small part of their diet.

Decried for their nest-plundering, they also play a role in keeping populations healthy. In their history with humans, there have been determined and repeated attempts by us to exterminate them- fortunately we have never succeeded. They live readily amongst human populations and have adapted well to human-dominated environments, thriving across farmlands, towns, and even cities. Behaviors that once drew farmer's ire are now better understood to be generally helpful, although conflicts still occur.

Crows are highly intelligent and readily exploit new food sources. The will eat anything from small insects, to amphibians, small snakes and lizards, any manner of seeds and berries, and 'found' opportunities at roadsides. Hard-shelled food- whether it's a mussel from along the shore or an acorn or other tree nut- is dealt with by dropping from a distance to a hard surface below. I have often been alerted to the presence of a crow I might have otherwise missed, by hearing the hard crack of an acorn or nut hitting the pavement while I am out for a morning walk, it having been dropped from a power line high above.

The tool-using ability and problem-solving skills of crows has been widely studied. They are known to be one of our most intelligent birds. They are also well-known for their cooperative behaviors in establishing large roosts and colonies and fearlessly defending territory by 'mobbing' other birds such as hawks and owls.

Crows do not breed until they are at least two years old, and crow families may have up to 15 individuals and contain young from up to 5 different years, working together to raise young and staying together as a family group throughout the entire year. Generally in winter and outside the nesting season, these family groups will join larger roosts, sometimes numbering in the hundreds.

Crows can be attracted to your yard by offering a mix of trees, open space, and food such as peanuts and corn on the ground.

Nature Happenings

*Project Feeder Watch starts and extends until April, www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw

* Steller's Jays, the beautiful black crested jay of the mountain forests, become more prominent at lower elevations.

* The local Scrub-Jays will squawk their resentment of the Steller's, as they all search for high-energy nuts and oil seeds.

* Pinon Jays, normally found exclusively in the southern pinon/juniper lands, may move further north in search of winter food.

* Pine Siskins may move in large numbers to lower regions, and will socially join flocks of American Goldfinches to visit finch feeders.

* Keep your hummingbird feeders filled and clean until you have not seen a hummingbird for two weeks. If you are lucky enough to have Anna’s hummingbirds stay around, make sure that you have a couple of feeders handy to make it convenient to keep fresh nectar out through the winter.

* Peak of southward migration. Birds heading south include: White-crowned Sparrows, warblers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Green-tailed Towhees, Song Sparrows and Lincoln and Chipping Sparrows.

* Larger numbers of geese and ducks begin arriving throughout the region.

* Yellow-rumped Warblers are returning.

* Peak of fall warbler migration

* Orionids meteor shower is late-October.

* Leonid meteor shower is November 6-30, peaking mid-month on November 17th.