Playing Crows

A few years ago, I was sitting in my backyard. It was summertime, and I noticed the four neighborhood crows wheeling around in the sky. Then the largest one cawed, and they all flew into a single tree.  

Crows aren’t usually that interesting, so I was about to turn away when one launched from a high branch. It flew straight toward a powerline pole. It dove, then banked an extreme turn around the pole. Churning its wings, it flew back up to the branch, greeted by a cacophony from its fellows. 

Then, one by one, each did the same. They continued this for a while, and I was enraptured. Their cawing, usually grating, became the sounds of encouragement and enthusiasm.  

They must be playing, I thought at first. And I think they were. But I also think that they were doing drills, practicing difficult maneuvers that would be useful in tight forest spaces.  

I gained a great respect for crows that day, and the experience stripped away the biases often associated with these sophisticated carrion birds.