Eating Crow

crow posterI’ve been hearing and/or seeing crows most days lately in my Brooklyn neighborhood. There seems to be a family of three — as highly social birds, they will maintain multi-generational family units — in the area. The other day I saw one with nesting material in bill.

Meanwhile, in other counties of New York (outside of NYC, that is: all of upstate and the rest of Long Island), you can actually murder crows from Friday to Monday, September to March, sunrise to sunset, with no bag limit; non-toxic shot and migratory bird stamp aren’t even required. Toxic shot can be carried by wounded birds to other animals who prey on the shot birds, spreading the poison. I had no idea this went on, particularly after West Nile fever did such serious damage to the American Crow population, and still remains a threat. There were several years in the Oughts when I saw no crows at all in Brooklyn.

The Rip Van Winkle Rod & Gun Club of Palenville, in Greene Co., hosts this particular crow slaughter — calling it a “hunt” or a “sport” would be a disservice to those words. It’s a contest to see who can kill the most birds, plain and sick. It smacks of a hold-over from the 19th century, when crows were persecuted as pests. Neither colorful nor cute, crows have never had a good reputation among those who aren’t familiar with them. Some birders even dislike crows because they prey on eggs and nestlings of other species (which they do, but not nearly as much as those cute-muffin Chipmunks).

An email I saw from the club seemed to suggest that the crows they shoot are actually eaten, and cited the old English rhyme “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie” for evidence of this long tradition — but of course those were Blackbirds (Turdus merula), a Eurasian relative of the American Robin (T. migratorius). “Sing A Song of Sixpence” dates to the 18th C., if not earlier; a 1744 version has “four and twenty Naughty Boys” instead of birds. And of course the birds are alive and singing when the pie is set before the King — recipes for these live-bird between-the-courses fancy food spectacles for aristos go back to the 16th C.

I suppose you could eat crow, but it is not known for tasting like chicken. Just the opposite, in fact. “Eating crow” is of course a well-known colloquial phrase for having to take back an opinion, in a humiliating way. The British “eating humble pie” is similar, the humble here being the “umbles,” from the French for deer innards (the “pluck” and the “lights”). Both phrases are meant to suggest the unpalatable. Farther back still, if you put your faith in desert tribes, the rule-giving Leviticus decrees that ravens and their kind, the Corvids, are among the birds that “shall not be eaten, they are an abomination” because they were associated with scavenging the remains of battlefields. (Typical, blame an animal for taking advantage of human-on-human slaughter.)

Judging from their 2nd Amendment misinterpretation, moral suasion won’t be working on the gun-fetishists of the Rip, whose members also prove their sadism by shooting squirrels in another regular “contest,” a event that also seen protest from more humane humans. State law will have to be changed. A law is being proposed by NY Senator Avella to end such crude and cruel events, which many actual hunters decry.

Update: There is a petition in support of ending wildlife killing contests in New York State.

11 Responses to “Eating Crow”


  1. 1 McMackin, Rebecca (BBP) March 24, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Thanks for this Matthew,

    If there’s a petition to sign or someone to call, please let us know.

    Best,

    Rebecca

  2. 2 kristin wartman March 24, 2014 at 10:08 am

    This is outrageous. Is there something we can do to protest this? I’ve also noticed more crows in Brooklyn within the past year or two and am happy to see them here again. If there is not a petition already, perhaps we can start one?

    • 3 mthew March 24, 2014 at 10:12 am

      We can work on getting our State representatives to pass this bill. Upstate reps may be intimidated by the gun nuts who hold so much of America hostage, so every down-state rep aboard the better. Of course, Avella’s law would only ban these contest events; the longer term project is to elevate American and Fish Crows to the protected category of song birds.

      • 4 kristin wartman March 27, 2014 at 10:29 am

        This takes place in Palenville, NY. This is the number to contact at the DEC to voice complaints:

        Public Affairs/Participation – Media Relations, Press Releases, Public Participation, Education, Outreach; (518) 357-2075

  3. 5 Out Walking the Dog March 27, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Appalling. Thanks for unearthing this – I had no idea. Such unlimited killing-spree contests go on for coyotes in many states, another family-oriented species that many people have learned to hate.

  4. 6 Kay Paulsen March 27, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    This makes me sick. When I was a child, my family raised 2 crows. I understand it’s illegal to do this, but it was 50 yrs.ago. They were never caged, & were gentle, smart, playful, & good mimics of human laughter. Eventually they returned to the wild when they were ready. 2 years later, one of them made a brief reappearance & greeted my brother.

  5. 7 adrianaeloisa March 28, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    I called the DEC (518) 357-2075 and he absolutely agreed with me when I said that making a contest out of killing any animal is ridiculous and inhumane. He said that unfortunately until there is a law against this kind of thing, animal killing contests, we should contact the Governor and try and get him to do something. Thankfully Senator Avella is in Albany already and opposed to this!


  1. 1 Killing Crows in New York State | Green Earth Report ® Trackback on March 27, 2014 at 11:17 am
  2. 2 Blue Dolphin Bay | Killing Crows in New York State Trackback on March 27, 2014 at 11:26 am
  3. 3 Killing Crows in New York State | Kristin Wartman Trackback on March 27, 2014 at 12:07 pm

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