Editor's Column: Latest generation of crows is bigger, hungrier

I used to see them flying into the sunset and mistake them for seagulls, and then eagles. Now, I occasionally see them flying into the darkening sky and think I’m seeing a Boeing 787. Either my eyes are playing tricks on me, or Whidbey Island’s crows are getting bigger.

Yesterday I thought I saw a great blue heron sitting in a tree, but it turned out to be two huge crows, one standing behind the other on a slightly higher limb. It looked like a giant bird with four wings and one head, which may be the next step in crow evolution.

I’m not the only one thinking crows may be taking over the island. Our cat, Walter, agrees entirely. Our particular house is situated in a vortex of some sort where household pets never die. The dog is going on 16 and the cat is even older, but both look as young as ever. They sit on the porch wondering how old I am in animal years, and how much longer they can wait before putting me to sleep. Meanwhile, the crows are starting to scrutinize me like I’m a piece of walking carrion; only my thick glasses prevent them from swooping down and plucking out my eyes.

For his entire life Walter has had competition for his bowl of food on the front porch. He has to eat quickly in the evening before the raccoons arrive, and during the day a ravenous neighborhood dog can raid his food at any time. But only recently has the food been attacked from the air by enormous crows that know no fear. If an eagle flies over, the crows chase him out of their airspace in seconds.

Crows used to be wary, taking flight at first sight of a human. Now they’re proud and arrogant, sitting on the cable TV line that runs down the edge of the road, or inhabiting the trees across the street in a cawing mass of darkness. They dare Walter to come out and get his food, and dare the human to try to stop them from raiding the cat’s food supply. They swoop down to the porch one or two at a time, quickly devour some Purina chat chow and fly away before their brother crows land and push them out of the way. Walter has learned to hide in the garage while all this is going on, and I’m reluctant to go outside and come under crow attack.

Crows are not a species to mess with. I’ve been buzz-bombed for walking in the wrong place at the wrong time, perhaps too close to their nests. I’ve had crows drop clam shells on me, trying to break them open on my head when the asphalt proved too soft. Other crows have dropped walnuts on my head, presumably for the same reason.

A steady diet of clams, walnuts and cat food has in just a few crow generations made these black birds humongous, at least in my neighborhood. They’re fat as a Thanksgiving turkey and fly like the last generation of dodo’s before they became land animals.

So far they haven’t turned on humans, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time since we are generally plumper and no doubt tastier than cat food. I keep looking into the trees, expecting to see some eviscerated jogger or bicyclist hanging from the limbs. It’s bound to happen some time, and when it does it will be a black day for Whidbey Island tourism.

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