There's no mistaking their raucous calls. High in the snow-colored sky, crows are back in south Oak Park, gathering in the tall oak tree across the alley.
For years, there was a family of crows living there, coming and going, high in that tree. I could hear and see them.
Then, West Nile Virus came. The crow population was decimated, as crows and jays are especially vulnerable to this virus that also affects humans. Usually, it is not deadly to people, although there were some serious cases in Oak Park. But it was deadly to the crows, as far west as the Forest Preserve. For years, the sky was empty. I did not hear them.
Maybe once in a while, I would see a crow or two, flying overhead. This was a "fly-over zone"--they didn't stop here.
There are crows in Chicago--I have seen them downtown, and in Lincoln Park, near DePaul University. Maybe you have seen them in other parts of the city wherever there are some big, tall trees. I have seen crows further west, too, out in the corn fields, on country roads.
Now, it seems they are coming back. I can hear their harsh cries in the cold March sky. I hope they stay.
For many, the crow, or any black bird is an omen of misfortune, of death--a murder of crows, Poe's raven. But crows are very intelligent. They can use twigs and sticks as tools. They have a collective memory. They remember human faces. Here is a link to the PBS Nature documentary, "A Murder of Crows."
And they can leave gifts, as this story in the Guardian describes. Even if they don't leave little gifts, their comeback is gift enough.
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