If you really want to see joy in motion, exultation in flight, then watch a gang of pied crows on a windy day.
They truly dance with the gusts, riding the thermals as playfully as children, jousting with one another in daring games of ‘air chicken’.
Not only do their broad wings give them great powers of flight, crows in general are considered some of the most intelligent birds on the planet. They are curious, great mimics, consummate opportunists and like humans, they are tool users.
For example, they’ll sometimes crack open birds’ eggs by tapping them against a branch. In other parts of the world, crows have been seen dropping nuts in front of cars, then picking up the contents once the shell is crushed. Pied crows have also been seen dropping stones onto ostrich eggs to crack them open.
Pied crows are omnivorous, happy to eat everything from roadkill to dogfood, bats and birds caught on the wing, seeds, roots, frogs, fish and rodents.
They’re found in most parts of South Africa, but prefer warmer, treed areas, human settlements and dump sites, scavenging what they can. They’ll prowl the edges of fires for fleeing insects and small creatures, and will hop along after ploughs for the same reason.
Some people have raised young pied crows to become pets, but they’re like hyperactive children and require constant attention and entertainment.
The name ‘crow’ comes from the cawing noise they make, but they have a wide vocabulary, making nasal and throaty sounds, and even expressing contented affection with a raucous, gurgling purr.
And they’re nothing if not supremely confident. You’ll sometimes only notice a lone eagle flying through the sky because a group of crows is noisily mobbing it. And again, you’ll just have to gasp at the incredible aerobatics above you.