My first caramel crow 

A few months ago I was both bewildered and delighted when someone emailed me some photographs of a brown crow that regularly visited them.  I had never seen such a bird myself, and was eager to arrive at an explanation for the crow’s strange caramel-colored appearance.  If you follow the blog, you know that I came to realize there was little to offer by way of explanation.  Instead, this color abnormality presents a rather fascinating mystery of conflicting opinions and an overall dearth of science.

So, after penning my answer I tucked this bird away in the back of my mind and moved forward with the science more relevant to my PhD.  Namely, testing how different crows across the Seattle area respond to dead crows.

To this aim, I spend my days wandering the neighborhoods of Seattle looking for crow families to use for my experiments.  Since I need lots of data points it means I encounter lots (think hundreds) of individual crows.  And wouldn’t you know it.  Sometimes the twain shall meet.

Its mate first caught my eye because, of course, I was looking for black things, not blond things.  Even after I registered the bird, I instinctively thought pigeon.  But then it called, and I realized what was happening.

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At 60m away with my naked eye, I first mistook Blondie for a friendly pigeon.

I FOUND A CARAMEL CROW!  And not just a caramel crow, but a caramel crow with a mate and three fledglings.  A black mate and three black fledglings.  Which suggests that whatever is going on is either recessive or not genetic.  It also shows that, for at least this one caramel bird, the color abnormality did not prohibit it from successfully reaching sexual maturity or finding a mate.  After speaking with the neighbors, it appears “Blondie,” as they call it, has been in the neighborhood for several years and it’s possible she’s not the only caramel crow, though I never confirmed any others.  Outside of that, I can’t say much more from a scientist’s standpoint that I haven’t said before.  So I’ll simply finish the post with a photo story of Blondie.  Enjoy!

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Meet Blondie

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Blondie looks just as good in flight.

 

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Blondie and its mate.  Since I discovered this bird after its nestlings had already fledged, I have no way of determining its sex.

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So beautiful in this juniper tree!

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Blondie’s fledglings were typical looking crow kiddos.

The next batch of images are probably one of the most hilarious bits of fledgling dramatics I’ve ever seen.  It is a scene familiar to many parents I’m sure.  Forgive me for taking my scientist hat off, but I couldn’t help but add some anthropomorphic captions.

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Hello parent I am hungry.

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DID YOU HEAR ME, I SAID I’M HUNGRY.

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(whispering) help, parent, I need sustenance for my growing body.

 

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(muffled whispering) please, have mercy, it’s been over 15 minutes since I was last fed.

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MAYBE I’VE ALREADY DIED AND NOW I’M A GHOST IS THAT WHY YOU AREN’T LISTING TO ME???

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I’m sorry.  I’m just hangry.  I love you.

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Cheers to yet another beautiful crow.  Goodbye for now!

12 Comments

Filed under Birding, Crow curiosities, Just for fun

12 responses to “My first caramel crow 

  1. Kendra Dowd

    Go ahead and add captions – they’re hilarious, and spot on! What amazing luck that you found Blondie! The pics are just wonderful! Thanks as always!

  2. Judith Blades

    oh I remember that earlier post …how wonderful to find another such coloured crow within such a short space of time and to witness the ostensible evidence of likely recessive gene/s(?) and the lack of genetics in the fledglings.

  3. Mary Beth Magyar

    Just in time to honor the Supreme Court decision that allowed mixed race marriages.

  4. Tanya

    Is it a form of leucism? We have leucistic magpies here where all the black markings are lightened (although they show as silvery grey not blonde/caramel). They are often called “ghost magpies”.

  5. Reblogged this on Musings by Mikey and commented:
    fabulously fun, interesting and beautiful.

  6. fabulously fun, interesting and beautiful post

  7. What a lovely crow! It’s a great story; hope you’re able to keep an eye on it for a while. It’s fun to be able to recognize a bird as an individual. I had a piebald dark-eyed junco that came to my feeders every winter for five years. I mourned him the year he didn’t return.

  8. Lisa H.

    What a beautiful crow! I had no idea there were other color variations from black & white. The pictures are really great!

    I recently had two crows take ownership of my yard (in Seattle), I assume there’s a nest nearby because they’ll yell nonstop at anyone who gets close. Is there any way for me to form an alliance so I can use my yard? It’s where we keep our trash/recycling and I’m growing vegetables so I can’t abandon it for the rest of the summer. Will they get used to my presence?

    • Hi Lisa, this late in the game it’s probably that they have fledglings, not a nest. Which is good news for you because fledglings move around a lot more. Bribery seems to work well to keep the peace. Offer a small handful of nuts everyday. Good luck!

  9. Elle O.

    This is awesomely amusing & spot on! I think that fledgling must know my cat! “Hello, it’s been 15 minutes, I can see a bit of the bowl on the bottom iF I hit the bowl with my paw and look at just the right angle, therefore I may starve to death or suffer agonizingly from fatty liver disease! Help! Help!”

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