Archive for April, 2016

On the ingenuity of Japanese crows

April 20, 2016

A pair of architects recently built and moved into a new home just a few blocks from my apartment. The high-rise residence uses traditional building methods to re-purpose modern industrial materials.

I refer, of course, to a crow’s nest made of wire hangers.

 Nest Mark

When I first noticed my new neighbors about a week ago, I wondered where all of those hangers came from. Did a hapless dry cleaner leave a window open? Nearly everyone in Japan hangs their laundry outside to dry, but I assumed that a hanger with clothes on it would be too unwieldy for a crow to handle. Where would they find empty hangers?

The other day, I stumbled across the answer while reading the Yomiuri Kodomo Shimbun children’s newspaper. In an educational manga by Akane Kasugaa group of kids stake out a parking lot to find out who has been removing rubber strips from vehicles’ windshield wipers. The wiper-taker turns out to be a crow. They follow the bird back to its nest, which – lo and behold – is made entirely of wire hangers. 

According to the manga, the crow nest-building season runs from March to May. So we’re right in the middle of it now. 

One of the children in the manga had recently lost a school uniform that she had hung out to dry. It turns out that the crow took that, too, to make a soft lining inside its wiry nest. The rubber wiper blades serve the same purpose. Apparently, hangers having clothes on them is not enough to stop a determined crow after all.

The children talk about the crow having “stolen” the materials for its nest, but I’m not sure this vocabulary is correct (even if I often use it myself). It’s more accurate to say they are “gathering” material to build a nest – just as they would if they lived in a forest.

Japanese crows have adapted to life in a totally man-made environment. And in that environment, they are doing exactly what birds are meant to do.