Black on White

Crossing the wintry Midwest today, there were few signs of life on the snow-laden farmlands; even the ubiquitous red-tailed hawks and European starlings were relatively sparse.  The lone exception was provided by flocks of American crows, picking through barnyards, feasting on carrion, gathering in the snowy corn stubble or cavorting above the winter landscape.

Members of the Corvid family, which includes crows, ravens, jays and nutcrackers, American crows are hardy, intelligent and aggressive birds.  Highly social, these omnivores cooperate in locating food and fending off predators; in winter, they are especially gregarious, roosting in large flocks.  As any birder knows, today's observation was not unusual; when severe weather or heavy snow cover discourage other species from venturing into open country, crows take advantage of their absence.

Many humans despise crows due to their raucous calls and aggressive behavior; after all, they sometimes raid feeders and gardens and, like jays, may consume baby rabbits and mice.  But, like all predators and scavengers, they play a vital role in nature's cycle and I admire their tenacity.  Against the white winter landscape, their black forms seem to defy any challenge that the season may impose.