March 08, 2007

All Pooped Out

Posted by: David Williams

A crow pooped on my head the other day. I don’t think this is fair. After all, I am a friend of crows. I have written about them and given talks that discuss them. I am always positive and point out their intelligence and resourcefulness. Maybe they are more private than I thought and they don’t like me talking about them. I also admit to once stuffing seven crows in socks and then clipping ID tags to their legs (as seen in the photo above). Had word finally gotten out amongst the crows and I am now getting my reward for bad behavior?

The attack occurred outside the Burke Café during an education staff meeting. Oddly, only 30 minutes earlier a crow, perhaps the same one, had pooped on another Burke staff member. And even stranger, this was the second time in three weeks that I was the recipient of such treatment, which lends credence to my notion of crow revenge.

The two poops were very different from each other. One was white and stinky and one black and unstinky. Did this mean the birds ate different foods? I raise this point because in two programs that we teach in Burke Education, we show the students “coprolites” (fossilized poop). Kids often have the reaction one might expect but we try to temper their concerns by discussing how scientists use coprolites to study an animal’s diet and how that helps researchers put together a picture of the animal’s habitat.

I must admit that I failed to take advantage of the poop that had been presented to me. I didn’t analyze it to discover what delectables the crow had recently eaten. Although I know I should practice what I preach, I sincerely hope that another such teachable moment does not fall from the sky.

- David


Mr. T said...

Scatology: the study of animal scat or poop. Yes, this is a rich (nutrients and otherwise) field for better understanding animal behavior. Years ago I was a naturalist at a state ark in Pennsylvania. On hikes with the public, one of the most amazing things to people were the coyote and bear scats we would find on the trail. The summer bear scats – filled with blueberries and fresh plants – actually had a pleasing smell! To poke apart a scat with a stick and see the bones or hair or seeds, that is an amazing moment. A surprise gift from the sky is still a gift.

Your Local Arachnologist said...

Scatology can lead to fascinating discoveries. I once dissected a bunch of deer mouse poop found deep in caves and found that the mice were contributing to the nutrient-poor cave environment by depositing remains of plants, seeds, and insects they'd eaten outside the cave while only managing to eat an occasional cave insect in compensation. Guess deer mice are so good at reproduction they don't need advanced cost-benefit analysis!

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