Dahlquist couldn’t believe what he was looking at. He had left the treat in the tree without expecting anything in return. He enjoyed taking care of birds, and doing so gave him peace of mind.
But the crow had other ideas, and it decided to leave him something he could never have expected. And unbeknownst to him, it would be the first of many surprises.
Stuart Dahlquist, aged 56, has been a bird enthusiast for most of his life, not the type that goes bird watching and has heavy gear, but the type who loves birds and finds them fascinating.
A family of crows surprised him and reminded him of why he finds birds to be peaceful beings that bring him joy and fascination. He has always taken a particular interest in crows, but little did he know that his knowledge about them was about to get deeper.
Since becoming an adult, birds became his companions. At one point, Stuart had a crow pet named ‘the judge’ named after Carmac McCarthy’s character in blood Meridian.
Which happened to be one of his favorite television shows at the time. For ten to eleven years, the judge was a wonderful pet that brought him joy and laughter.
Apart from being majestic birds with a menacing look, they can also hold grudges against those who wronged them.
They are calculated in their revenge plan and will go out of their way to make sure you know they are avenging themselves. Stuart was one of the few that got to experience the giving and kind side of crows.
Crows are magnificent creatures, according to Stuart, who has always felt this way about them since he was a boy. Birds of all kinds have been a fundamental focal part of his life.
‘I love watching them, listening to their calls, identifying them, and helping them if they need help,’ says Stuart. He also added that he is not a real birder with high-powered binoculars, but wildlife plays an outsized role in my enjoyment of life.
Stuart recalls one specific rescue in mind that came to him while it was still very young and became relatively tame.
So they rehired him to a wild animal trainer, and as he later came to understand it, the crow’s intelligence even earned him quite a few movie roles. Stuart did all of this without expectations of payment or recognition but simply out of genuine concern.
Stuart recalls how the judge’s pet crow would have still likely been with him had it not been for some raccoons killing him one evening.
While he still had the judge as a pet, the two of them also had a few rescue crows, which they would release once they had nursed them back to health.
It is worth mentioning that none of the birds or crows Stuart rescued were snatched from their parents. ‘They birds came to us when they were injured or had fallen from their nest and could not be returned and had been abandoned.
One rule Stuart says people should remember never to take a chick from its nest.’ Baby birds tend to fall out of their nests occasionally and, unfortunately, end up being left behind by their parents.
One day, as he was walking outside his yard, he noticed something was wrong. Both chicks had fallen from their nest, and their parents could not help them get back into the nest.
The chicks could almost fly but were running around the yard with their parents squawking. The parents felt helpless watching their chicks trying to learn how to fly back to them.
Dahlquist said that ‘he had managed to catch the two chicks and safely returned them into their nest while placing some food and water underneath the tree in case they fell again.’
He also added that the parents were pretty angry with them for what they had done but took it from there once they got them into the nest.
Stuart and this family of crows have been in each other’s lives for nearly four years now, and he has been nursing and feeding them since.
‘They nest in a large douglas fir tree in our front yard, and we could hear the babies when the parents would feed them,’ he said. He was doing what felt genuine to him, and due to this, the birds decided to return the favor by doing something unique for him.
Dahlquist kept leaving snacks at the fir tree base without expecting anything in return. However, the crows decided to show their gratitude with a bit of a gift. The first gift was a bit confusing, said Dahlquist, because it was sitting right in the middle of the area where I tossed their food.
So at first, he did not pay it any attention, he assumed it was dirt or something that had made its way from outside, but soon he would find out that was the first of many.
Dahliqiust recalls how he noticed that it could be a gift because he is sensitive about trash going where it belongs. He likes making sure that rubbish is adequately sorted and away from animals.
He says the pull tab being threaded onto the sprig of fir was not a normal thing to see, and so he decided to hang onto it until he could for certain make sense of what it is supposed to be.
The next day Dahlquist was shocked to find another twig with a soda tab in the same spot. ‘this is when it dawned on us that the crows were making and leaving them.’
He says he had rehabilitated and released several injured crows in the past but had never received a thank you so explicitly back. It took him a couple of days to wrap his head around just how amazing this was.
Dahlquist says he realized that not only were the crows leaving gifts, but they had created something beyond, in fact, they were crafting. Since the exchange of gifts, Dahlquist’s relationship with his crow neighbors has only gotten stronger.
He says they even follow him when he walks, landing on the wires along the way. The adult male is very amiable and will sometimes fly within a few feet, swooping by to say, ‘here I am!’ However, although this story is incredibly wholesome, relationships with crows do come with drawbacks…
It’s difficult to predict just how young children will react to animals. Some children are frightened, some are a little too enthusiastic, and others will form genuine and inexplicable friendships with them.
Eight-year-old Gabi Mann is one such child. She formed an incredible relationship with the crows that lived in her garden. But nobody expected the Mann family to be sued for it later.
Gabi’s strange relationship with the crows in her yard began when she was just four years old. She was sitting in the garden eating chicken nuggets when one of the morsels rolled off her lap.
Gabi’s mom was surprised to see an opportunistic crow grab the nugget and share it with the rest of the flock. Now that the crows knew little Gabi was a source of food, they wouldn’t leave her alone.
As the years went by, Gabi and her brother continued to share their packed lunches with the crows that hung around the bus stop, just outside their home.
By 2013, Gabi and her brother had gotten into the habit of making a morning routine out of feeding the crows. They would feed them peanuts, give them dog food, and gave them fresh water. Their mom thought the routine was enduring, but she had no idea what was to come.
Their mom, Lisa, said she hadn’t minded that her children were sharing their lunch with crows, but the routine Gabi and her brother had formed came with a problem.
Because the children were feeding the crows every morning, it wasn’t long before the food attracted more crows. Eventually, the telephone line above the bus stop was laden with them – all squawking and clamboring to get a morsel. Then, something unexpected happened.
Before long, Gabi and her brother started to notice something strange. The crows were obviously grateful for the food they were given, so they started to express their gratitude in the most unusual way.
The crows started to bring little treasures to Gabi. She noticed that they started carrying small, shiny objects in their beaks.
The crows routinely cleared the feeders of dog food and peanuts and began leaving shiny trinkets in return.
An earring, a polished rock, a hinge, beads, buttons, lego pieces – anything that was shiny and small enough to fit in their beaks. Soon, there were so many gifts that Gabi began to keep them in a bead storage case. She even had a favorite.
One time, the crows brought a tiny piece of metal, engraved with the word ‘best.’ This gift became Gabi’s favorite. “It’s showing how much they love me,” she told BBC in an interview.
“I don’t know if they still have the part that says ‘friend’,” she said, laughing at the thought of a crow wearing the other half of the pendant. John Marzluff, a professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington, weighed in on the crows’ behavior.
Marzluff specializes in bird behavior – particularly that of ravens and crows. “If you want to form a bond with a crow, be consistent in rewarding them,” he advises.
Marzluff and his colleague Mark Milled actually did a study on the relationships between crows and the people who feed them. What they found was astonishing.
Marzluff and Miller were astonished to find that people and crows can form strong, personal bonds. “There’s definitely a two-way communication going on there,” Marzluff says. “They understand each other’s signals.”
“I can’t say they always will always give presents,” Marzluff admits, “but I have seen an awful lot of things crows have brought people.” Gabi’s mom was so surprised by the crows’ behavior that she decided to document it for herself.
Lisa decided to track and chart the behavior of the crows her daughter fed by photographing them and studying their habots.
But, one day, she found her efforts hampered when she lost the lens cap for her camera in a nearby alley. Then, the crows did something even more astonishing than just bringing more shiny gifts.
Lisa was flabbergasted when she found the lens cap in the birdbath in her yard. In disbelief, she checked the birdcam she had set up in the garden and saw something that made her head spin.
The footage revealed that the crows had indeed returned the lens cap – but, not only did they bring it back, the footage showed one of the crows rinsing it off in the birdbath! However, not everyone is happy with the situation.
Lisa’s neighbors on both sides jointly filed a lawsuit against her, and they were seeking $200,000 in damages. Additionally, they were seeking compensation for emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of property.
The neighbors claimed that the Mann family’s feeding practices attracted as many as 100 crows at a time – along with the rats that came after to look for leftover morsels in the feeding tray. Could they possibly win?
“Large numbers of birds swarm the feeding operation daily, leaving behind dirt, feathers, peanut particles and shells, feces and urine on the surrounding properties,” the neighbors asserted.
“No one wants to be trapped living inside an Alfred Hitchcock horror movie,” attorney Anna Johnsen said in a Seattle P-I article. “This is a residential neighborhood that was not designed to host a large-scale wildlife feeding operation.”
The ridiculous lawsuit went to court and the Mann family had no choice but to settle for an undisclosed amount of cash.
Gabi was now also restricted to providing no more than four ounces to the crows per day for eight years. Gabi’s story did make international news, though, and it highlighed the surprising intelligence of these birds.
As Marzluff points out, crows may not always give humans desirable gifts. Sometimes, they will bring trinkets that they think another crow would like – like a rotting crab claw or dead baby bird.
Gabi was the recipient of one such ‘icky’ gift, which her mom promptly threw out. One thing’s for sure, though – crows are amazing because they are the only animals to give gifts to humans.