When someone close to us leaves to begin the next step on their spiritual journey, we are left behind to begin the grieving process. Our typical process would first be our own personal way of saying goodbye, whether that be a funeral, or I, as many others will refer to it as a “celebration of their life.” Yet, coming to terms with the death of a loved one is not exclusive to the human condition. This is also true to a vast array of animals including crows. Crows feel empathy to other creatures and will mourn the death of another crow.
A murder of crows take death seriously.
When a crow dies a group of crows (called a murder of crows) will begin cawing, calling other crows to the site. The crows then form a circle around the crow appearing to say their goodbyes. They will then gather twigs and place them on the crow as if to bury him. This ritual will last for twenty to thirty minutes. Crows have an indelible memory and will remember the area in which the crow died. If a man or woman comes near during this time, their faces will be committed to memory and crows will forever associate these specific people with the death of the crow, therefore posing a threat. The crows will start cawing loudly and then swoop down near this person in order to defend themselves or perhaps just to scare them away.
The grieving process for the parents of a nestling is longer. Crows name their offspring and the nestling will remember that sound for the rest of their lives. The parents will stay nearby their baby after all other crows have left. The male will leave first but the female will stay up to four days watching over the nestling to protect it from predators.
Even though crows are known to mimic sounds and are believed they can be taught to speak, until then, we can’t ask them what they are doing exactly when they gather around their dead but it still seems pretty clear they are having their version of a funeral.
Author: Kathleen DePaola
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