The Crows and Mr. X – Time for a Little Levity

by on June 22, 2020 · 8 comments

in Ocean Beach

You have to picture this scenario – a beautiful tall tree, with huge green leaves, and at the top of the tree an aerie – (crossword answer for “nest”).

In that nest are two baby birds, and hovering over those baby birds are three of the biggest crows you have ever seen in your life.  (Well…maybe not in your life, but, relatively speaking, very large.)

As life evolves, a sad thing happened to those baby birds – they both fell out of their nest as they were beginning to learn how to fly. One died on impact; the other one tried to move around but its parents could not get it up to the nest again.  Enter the “Mr. X” – the man of the house closest to the tree and crows’ nest.

“Mr. X” saw the two babies; knew that the nest was too tall for him also and hoped that the parents would be able to save him.  The baby moved over to the garage, and the parents watched him move.  He lived in the shadow of the garage for three days.  Mr. X never saw the parents try to feed him, or save him, but they were always there.  The deceased baby Mr. X. disposed of in a humane manner.  At least he thought it was humane.  Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Crow didn’t think so.

As the parents kept watch, Mr X. kept an eye on the older birds.   They never came down low to feed it, but they also never stopped watching it.  Each night Mr. X hoped that the baby would survive.

As fate would have it, however, the baby lived only for three days, but on that fourth morning Mr. X found that he had another baby bird to dispose of.  But he didn’t count on one important factor – Mr. and Mrs. Crow. Because when he went out to check the baby, he was “attacked” by the adult crows.  And I mean attacked.  They swarmed in on him; pecked him through his hat and actually drew blood.

Their “crowing” could be heard doors away and they attacked endlessly.  Mr. X had to literally run into the house to get away from the adult birds.  And this wasn’t a one-time situation. EVERY TIME Mr. X went into his back yard the adult crows were there to remind him that he let their babies die.  They yelled; they crowed; they swarmed down to attack.  Throughout the entire year they really never let Mr. X alone.

Let us now fast forward to a new year; a new breeding season. This time the crows – same ones, we suspect – are building their nest in the tree next door to Mr. X’s home.  But they have full view of Mr. X’s back yard, and, once again, every time he goes out in the back they let him know they are there.

Just the other day, Mr. X came over to my house to help me dispose of a rat that I caught in a trap in my pool room.  I knew that he was on his way over because he was “announced” by a crow, following him across the street to my house.  That damn crow sat in the tree above my pool room, watching Mr. X the entire time he was here.  Sometimes he was silent; sometime he was squawking. When Mr. X left, Hitomi, my Japanese exchange student, and I watched the crow leave and dip down towards Mr. X’s head as he crossed the street.  He never let him out of his sight, and he flew from tree to tree watching him the entire way. I could detect a slight amount of anxiety in Mr. X’s eyes. After all, when he was attacked last year there were many broken spots on his head.

Saturday night I received a call from Mr. X’s partner, and she told me that she would never go for a walk with Mr. X again.  When I asked her why not, she told me that when they left the house the crows left also. They followed them for blocks, swooping down, squawking, until she couldn’t take it anymore. She was truly afraid that they would attack her too, and let Mr. X finish his walk without her.  When he arrived home, so did the crows!

Sunday, Mr. X came over at 8:30am to check the rat traps, and Hitomi and I knew he was on his way again. Why? Yeah, you got it.  He was “announced” by a crow. Once again that crow came and sat in the tree overlooking the backyard.  And … when Mr. X went into the pool room to get a better look at the rat, the crow changed positions and sat on the garage so he could see into the pool room.  And we always knew it was there because it never stopped making noise.

And when Mr. X went home, the crow flew behind him; flying low enough so that you could count the number of feathers that were extended out of his wings in case he decided to attack.  Mr. X turned around to us and pointed to the crow, which wasn’t really necessary because of the racket it was making as they both went home.

One has to feel for Mr. X.  He tried an experiment going outside for a few moments; coming back inside; going outside, etc.  Every time he went out the crow was there.  And the crow did not stop being a nuisance until he went back inside.  And now, a few days later, the crows (there are three of them) are swooping lower and lower over his head.

Being an adult and being “afraid” of a crow sounds a little insane.  But Mr. X has a small puppy that goes outside often too.  Is he safe? Will the crow take out his dislike of Mr. X on the puppy?  And what about his partner? She said she doesn’t even enjoy drinking her coffee outside anymore because of the crow.  Right now he hasn’t attacked again, but what do you do if it decides to show that it is “Mighty Crow”.  When he attacked before it was all that Mr. X could do to get away from it.  What might happen to the puppy or to her?

Hitomi and I suggested that he make it a pet. Give it food to eat; a bed to sleep in; a glass of wine every now and then. We make fun of him and his “pet” but in all honesty, it isn’t a laughing matter.  (Remember Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds?”)  Did you know that the life expectancy of a crow is anywhere from 6-20 years???  Will Mr. X have to dodge this bird for the next 18 years?

Mr. X and I tried another experiment.  I bought a scale to check and see when my BBQ butane tank is nearing empty.  Almost immediately after opening the back door to check the tank the crow came from the front tree to the back tree.  And yes, he was “crowing” all the way.  When we went back into the house the crow moved to the tree in the front.  I so wanted to get a picture of Mr. X and the crow so I walked home with him, the crow moving from tree to tree until Mr. X was on his front lawn.  Then the crow perched on a lower branch to get a better look at Mr. X.  For a moment or so I wondered if the crow would follow me back home, but he didn’t.  He kept his eyes on Mr. X. And, unfortunately, he was too high up for me to get a good picture.

So here’s a few words of advice.  If you happen to see a man walking down Sunset Cliffs – which he does daily – with a large noisy black bird flying overhead, I suggest that you say hello – from a distance.  Don’t walk to close to him, and don’t let the bird know that you might know Mr. X.  After all, you would not want the bird to think that you and Mr. X were friends.  And if you have some idea of a way of ditching the bird, legitimately of course, Mr. X might be interested in your advice.  But remember – these crows have a long memory. You wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of it!

Stay safe, Mr. X.  Let’s hope that the new babies live a full and exciting life. And…if they fall out of the new nest that they fall in your neighbor’s yard.  Not yours! There is an old saying that Mr. X needs to be aware of. It goes like this: “The crow commands; the captive must obey.”   Best of luck. Hope you stay in charge.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Judi Curry June 22, 2020 at 2:45 pm

The crow stayed in my trees today the entire 5 hours that Mr. X was working on a project. And, when he left, so did the crow!


Frank Gormlie June 22, 2020 at 3:28 pm

Maybe the “large crows” are ravens!


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman June 22, 2020 at 9:07 pm

I think Frank is right — gigantic is a raven. Ravens go in pairs; crows go in groups. Both are corvids and both are very intelligent. I never could distinguish crows from ravens until last March when I saw a gigantic raven on the cafeteria patio of Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines: it was about two feet tall, perched on a directional sign saying “Trays Here” and obviously was acclimated to patio diners leaving crumbs behind. It had a huge wingspan. Crows are much smaller and their bills are more delicate and pointy.
For the first time in my life I am feeding a few Costco unsalted mixed nuts to several crows who caw me out of the house every midday. I am thrilled to comply, to put the nuts up on a high wall where it’s easily accessible and then I sit down to wait for the birds to show up.
Getting summoned by crows to feed them a snack is very neat; but people handling crows’ dead is something else and is probably considered transgressing. That’s why Mr. X is a marked man.


Judi Curry June 22, 2020 at 3:34 pm

For his sake I hope not. Life expectancy for a Raven is 44-60 years!!!


Andy June 22, 2020 at 3:48 pm

The crows will remember poor Mr. X for years, according to this study:

“Newly published research shows that crows remember the faces of humans who have threatened or harmed them, and these memories probably last for the bird’s lifetime. Not only do crows scold dangerous people, but they include family members — and even strangers — into their mob. The hostile behavior of crows within mobs allows naïve birds to indirectly learn about a dangerous person, and to also learn to associate that individual’s face with danger and react accordingly. “


retired botanist June 22, 2020 at 4:12 pm

Well, on the plus side, crows need sturdy trees to roost in, like those taken down on Saratoga Ave., so once all the Torrey pines are removed from OB, you’ll just have jacarandas, which are not suitable for crows.
Crows are extraordinarily smart avian species. You think Hitchcock’s “Birds”? Here on the east coast, right outside my window, because there are a lot of large, old, oak trees nearby, they periodically gather at dusk in the many HUNDREDS. It is a stunning, mind-stopping display. It is like a large thunder storm, like an occupation, like a crow murmuration!
Sorry, but change your perspective. Because these are natural phenomena that we might not see again, if our planet continues on its current trajectory. As Thoreau said, to paraphrase, “marvel in your backyard”


Geoff Page June 23, 2020 at 8:32 am

I’m curious, where on the East coast are you living, retired?


Laura D in OB June 22, 2020 at 8:00 pm

Crows REMEMBER! and they alert their buddies! Check out this article in Science Magazine with a caveman mask and a Dick Cheney mask.

In another article, that I can’t find. The crows began to recognize the car of the researcher and would harass his car as he drove to work. How’s that for intelligence? I can’t even remember my neighbor’s car!!

Many Native American tribes regard the Crow as the visual symbol of wisdom.


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