You and I have a personality, because we’re persons. Also our pet dogs and cats might have a personality, since we’re so interdependent. Interestingly, the word’s source is the Latin “persona,” denoting an ancient Roman actor’s mask. Dictionaries list character as a synonym for personality, but the two aren’t really synonymous. Character derives from the Greek “kharakter,” a stamping tool, which came to mean a distinguishing feature or trait.
Crows may not have a personality but I’m convinced they have character. To date there are three crows that consider me their go-to person for peanuts – Mrs. Crow and two of her young, born 2017 and 2018.
Mrs. Crow became a regular visitor in 2017. She won my heart with her stubborn insistence and her trick of meowing like a cat. I suspected she lurked in the trees, keeping an eye out for me. As soon as I opened the door, she’d swoop down, feigning that our simultaneous arrival was a happy coincidence. From the driveway she’d sail up to my car roof, landing with a thump. The car roof became her podium for delivering her message – “Peanuts!”
Sometime in late spring I began to hear what sounded like a cranky baby, but coming from the trees. It was Mrs. Crow’s offspring, and one day she brought it along. I was spellbound as I watched her feed it, ramming her full beak down its throat. Over the next months, the young crow dutifully imitated everything that Mrs. Crow did, except without her speed and guile. And never once did it jump on to the car roof.
I couldn’t decide if it was shy or just a slow learner. Mrs. Crow, after all, was a kind of Supercrow, and I could imagine that a young one, learning the ropes and not as strong or agile as a fully grown bird, might feel intimidated. There couldn’t be any doubt that it was her offspring, but I began to think that Mrs. Crow must be wondering how she came to hatch a somewhat wishy-washy creature.
The months passed and 2017 rolled into 2018. In due time, after I‘d heard another cranky baby sound coming from the trees, the newest family member entered the picture. Soon it became clear that the youngest crow was made of different stuff. It was swift but not reckless. It was also feisty.
When all three came together, they’d position themselves in a triangular formation – Mrs. Crow and the youngest to right and left at the base, the older sibling at the apex, where it dawdled, only occasionally fielding a peanut and never trying to compete with the champions in the lower corners.
One day late summer I heard a familiar thump, but it wasn’t Mrs. Crow on my car roof – it was the youngster, daring to go where the older sibling feared to tread. Mrs. Crow arrived soon afterwards and, unperturbed, joined her brazen offspring on the car roof.
Now I’m waiting for the cranky baby sound of 2019.
Sabine Eiche is a writer and art historian.