With the advent of social media, the number and official community of crow feeders is more apparent than ever. They come together on twitter and facebook, though blogs and websites, to share their observations and even document the lives of individual crows. They think deeply about crows and their relationship to them, but I wonder how much thought they’ve given to the science of their own activities and their relationship to fellow feeders?
For those curious how their own food provisioning behaviors relate to those of their peers, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel; crow expert, John Marzluff, and renowned culture anthropologist, Marc Miller, tackled this very question as a part of pilot study for a chapter in Biocommunication of Animals1. They argue that crow feeders can be sorted into two categories: ‘crow friends’ and ‘crow observers’.
Crow friends exhibit the following characteristics:
- Have a personal commitment to the wellbeing of one or more named crows.
- Care about signaling approval, disappointment, sadness, praise, hope, etc.
- Motivated to improve their friendship.
- Value a symmetric relationship where both crow and human benefit equally.
- Relationship mirrors that of a human/human relationship (commitments are honored, routines developed, and feelings considered).
Crow observers on the other hand are identified by these metrics:
- Prefer interacting in unobtrusive and passive ways.
- Do not identify or name individual crows.
- Value providing food but do not consider what the crow may think of their actions.
- Do not care if the crow comprehends their humanity.
- More interested in learning general crow behavior and not the behaviors or personality of a specific crow.
With these guidelines in mind I’d love to learn which category you fit into. Do you fancy yourself a crow friend or a crow observer? Why do you prefer that approach? Let me know in the comments!
- Marzluff, J.M, & Miller, M. 2014. Crows and crow feeders: Observations on interspecific semiotics. In: Witzany, G. ed., Biocommunication of Animals. New York: Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. pp 191-211.