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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

June 18, 2011 at 1:18 AM

One out! Fairview Avenue Crow update

Well, one of the crows is still in the nest — and looking mighty sick of it, as you can see on our live Crow Cam here on the Field Notes blog. Stretch, stretch, flap, flap, picking at leaves, everything but yelling “Are we theeere yeeeet?”

But the other young crow has taken a small excursion to another branch, near the nest, but just far enough away from it to be out of view of the Crow Cam. Bob Payne, an editor for Seattletimes.com, saw the baby crow fly to a nearby branch today. A short flight, he reports, not up, but sideways, to the branch.

One of our commenters notes branch hopping is a first stage of flying. So perhaps that is what we are witnessing. Our big question: can he/she get back? Or is this it? The big break?

Bob saw one parent crow feed the crow in the nest today, but not the crow on the branch.

Even once they are out of the nest, both crows will continue to depend on their parents for food, notes John Marzluff, UW biologist and an expert on crows. He writes in his wonderful book on crows In the Company of Crows and Ravens, illustrated with incomparable drawings by local artist Tony Angell, that even after the baby crows leave the nest they will continue to depend on the adults for food for weeks and even months.

While they may look like adults, closer inspection, Marzluff writes, reveals the young are less glossy than the adults, have a pale blue iris that turns brown only after several months of life — you can see it in Alan Berner’s photo in our first crow post. And, for the first year of life, they have shorter tails and wings, and browner and more worn plumage.

Crows usually fledge, or leave the nest, after just three or four weeks, which would put the Fairview Avenue crows right on schedule.

Marzluff writes that the young closely follow the parents, fluttering their wings and begging with a continuous gravelly whine. They may even stick around for years, and help raise subsequent broods, perhaps even at the same time apprenticing in the tasks of feeding, tending and protecting nestlings, Marzluff notes.

I have yet to witness any test flights … but I can’t believe it will be long now.

Lynda Mapes: 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com

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