I love crows. I realize there are reasons not to, but for just a minute hover over these reasons to marvel at them.
To judge the relative capacity of a species’s brain, it isn’t how big the gray matter is, rather, it is a brain’s size relative to its body. Crow and human brains are the same in terms of relative size, and it is estimated a crow has the intelligence of a seven year old human.
Crows can recognize human faces. Think twice before sticking your tongue out at one.
They use tools, plan for the future, and adapt to new situations. They can even understand analogies and do complex problem-solving. Impressed yet?
But crows are not very nice. It is one strike against them.
According to a nationwide study that incorporated 100,000 observations of bird interactions at bird feeders across the nation, crows sat at the top of the massive Aves pecking order enforced by aggression. (Truthfully, wild turkeys were Number One but crows are much more common at backyard feeders). Grackles, woodpeckers, blue jays, morning doves, and sparrows were all relatively high on the hierarchy while finches and chickadees were the bruised and battered denizens of the bottom. Reading about this list published on several websites, including The Washington Post, it gave me some insight into my backyard.
We host several bird feeders and mostly what we get are finches and chickadees, in between quarrels of sparrows that fly through, feast, and fly away. The influx of sparrows makes me think of a school of fish darting across an aquatic scene.
Nonetheless, we seem to host a sanctuary for those at the bottom of the pecking order. It may have something to do with a giant red-tailed hawk that hangs out in our neighborhood at mealtimes. Only the desperate bottom-feeders dare risk it.
The difference between humans and birds, or at least one of the characteristics we would claim for humans, is that we are — well, more humane. A deep and merciless pecking order is something that democracy aims to resolve. Realistically, democracy does not do away with class, which is the name for one of our human pecking orders. It is, however, supposed to soften the hard edges of class and empower those who would otherwise be pecking for food after everybody else has feasted.
Capitalist Democracy has done a particularly bad job at insuring that all of us get the goods, and that any ruling majority protects the rights of the minorities. But what is looking particularly grim right now, is the passion of some within our species to just take the top spots and hold them for themselves.
By some accounts, as many as thirty percent of voters want to make a crows nest in state and national capitals: that is, steal power from the majority and control it for themselves. By the dangerous and twisted logic of resentment, they believe that even though they are a minority they should have the power and enforce their will on the majority. They are even changing voting laws where they are able, to enable them to rule. They are crows — smart enough to take what isn’t theirs and keep others from getting it.
As I said, I like crows, the birds. The humans who act like crows, not so much.