Using crow calls to round up pesky “caw-caw” birds
The craftsmanship of the two wooden cylinders caught my eye first. I wasn’t sure what they were, but they looked to be both hand-made and well-made.
They’re duck calls, the auction-house staffer said, and I immediately thought of the scraggly-bearded guys on the TV show “Duck Dynasty” who made their fortune creating and selling duck calls, and their name by being unorthodox.
The staffer removed the calls from the glass case and laid them on top of the counter. He unrolled a small yellow sheet of paper accompanying them, and that’s when we both learned what these really were. Not duck calls but crow calls.
I wondered who on earth would want to call those annoying black birds.
The calls were made by a company called Lohman, according to the sheet, and at least one of them was call No. 104. I wasn’t sure how old these were – there looked new and unused – but Lohman was selling No. 104 as far back as 1966. These, though, could have been made years later.
Googling, I learned that crow calls were used to lure birds for shooting when they became pests or to help hunters locate turkeys, which gobble loudly at the sound of the calls. The crow hunter in this video was called in by a farmer whose cornfield was being invaded by a “murder” – that’s what a group of crows is called – of 200 crows. He used decoys and a crow call to attract the birds to a grassy area not far from the cornfield, and then started shooting. He took some of the breasts home for eating.
The description of them as a “murder” comes from folklore and superstitions, according to several sites, when such nicknames were given to groups of animals, including a parliament of owls, a knot of frogs and an ostentation of peacocks.
When I think of crows, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film “The Birds” comes to mind. Who can forget the terrifying – at least it seemed so when I first saw it so many years ago – face of Tippi Hedren with birds pecking at her or flying around her head. There were blackbirds everywhere and that film helped seal their bad reputation.
Apparently, they are not so evil and vicious. They are smart creatures, very social, tight-knit and readily come to the aid of other crows in danger.
They are also pretty common and can be found in most states – except places where there’s too much heat and too much desert. They eat just about anything, even your garbage and chicks they steal from other birds’ nests.
The town of Lancaster, PA, holds an annual celebration of them. For centuries, tens of thousands of crows have been coming to the town that sits about 90 minutes west of Philadelphia. At one point, they were such a pest that town officials were ready to poison them, but a group of folks decided to build two months of events around their arrival and stay. They migrate south in January and February, and head back north in March.
The “Something to Crow About” event includes art shows, music and poetry, all aimed at elevating the stature of the birds.
If you love the sound of the crow’s harsh caw, you can choose from 11 of them as apps on Google Play.