To the uninitiated, the birds all look the same — shimmering black feathers, with eyes, beaks and feet to match. They sound the same, too, their calls collapsing into cacophony as they rise and fall on the wing.
Not so for behavioral ecologist Anne Clark. Binoculars at the ready, the Binghamton University associate professor of biological sciences sees enough intrigue and drama among a murder of crows to one day fill a novel. There is the peanut hound abandoning her nest for a treat, the devoted father driven from home in his dotage — by his sons — and the orphaned juveniles insinuating themselves into a new family. Hear the alarm call? The territorial declaration?
Clark has devoted the past decade of her research career to deciphering the biological and social relationships among a population of some 2,000 American crows in Ithaca, N.Y. “I’m interested in social behavior,” she explains, “and these birds are not only long-lived, they have a very complex social life.”