This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

UPDATE: We have been staying out of our yard, and this morning I've watched the parent crows sidle up to the groundcover (pretty close to our house) twice and go in to feed the baby. Yay!

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Crows are the punctuation of being outside in the Pacific Northwest. During summers here, when it's pretty much full light by 5 a.m. and where mild temperatures mean windows are usually open, the relentless cawing can wear on a person. But this year, for the first time, a group of crows has a nest in a large fir tree that extends above our yard, and we're learning some things that are making me a little more protective toward the crows.

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For one: like most baby birds, crow babies aren't particularly good at flying. Last week a baby crow (okay, it's officially a fledgling crow — but look at that face above of one about the same age; that thing is a baby) showed up in our yard and I got learned about crows mighty fast. They hop around in the tree before their wings are mature enough to fly, and a lot of them end up on the ground. Not too much danger of critters where we live since our yard is fully fenced, but this one didn't appear right. After a sleepless night (I know it's the Circle of Life and all that, but I was really worried about it) and getting close enough to see blood on its wing, we called an animal rescue. That baby was indeed injured, but the woman from the rehab place had high hopes that it would make it.

So as it turns out, if a fledgling crow ends up in your yard and is not injured, it could be there for days. They simply stay there on the ground and hop around (and sometimes the parents keep feeding it) until the wings are strong enough to fly. The rescue told me that unless they're injured, you just leave the babies alone.

So yesterday we look outside, and there's another baby in our yard. We took a look at it (crow parents are loud loud LOUD when you get near a baby, but they did not dive-bomb us or anything) and it was perched (not lying down) and didn't appear injured, so nothing to do but leave it be. Then the weirdest part: I'm turning to go back inside and a third baby crow literally fell into the yard right next to me, with a thud. Startling to be sure! But though it had fallen a long distance, Crow the Third managed to hop over onto our patio and then into the groundcover alongside.

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I was feeling pretty sanguine about all this crow business, checking on them, keeping my distance, but just letting them go about their business, until this afternoon when we noticed that Crow the Second wasn't moving. I donned gloves (you don't want to touch them directly, not because the parents will reject them — they won't — but because they can carry West Nile Virus) and we went out to investigate. Baby was gone. I picked it up and we placed it in a bag, the parent crows cawing loudly the entire time. I'm sorry, parent crows.

We checked on Crow the Third. Still in the groundcover, still breathing. I hope he makes it.

It's a very small thing in the world and I'm not very eloquent about it today. I just feel sad, and I'm wondering about things that exist on earth for such a very, very, very short time.

Baby crow photo by Flickr user Whitnie Keller.