Many people leave out birdseed for feathered-friends in the neighborhood, although few get anything in return besides a lovely view of the birds, and a patio polluted with seeds. Eight-year-old Gabi Mann from Seattle, Washington started feeding the crows in her family's garden, and now this lucky little girl gets gifts from the crows.
Gabie keeps her gifts in specially labeled bags tucked safely inside a bead storage box. After all, these are her most treasured possessions. Her labels are detailed, for instance one containing a broken light bulb reads: "Black table by feeder. 2:30 p.m. 09 Nov 2014."
Gabie has received all kinds of gifts from the crows, including Lego pieces, beads, buttons, paper clips and pieces of foam. Her favorite gift of all is a pearl colored heart, she said, "It's showing me how much they love me."
Gabi started feeding the neighborhood crows by accident, as she was prone to dropping food. She'd climb out of the car and a chicken nugget would fall off of her lap, prompting every crow on the block to circle in for a snack. Gabi noticed and started rewarding the bird's quick and hungry behavior, feeding them food scraps on her way to and from the bus stop with her brother.
It didn't take long for the crows to learn who Gabi was and wait for her to get off the school bus each day. The crows were consuming most of Gabi and her brother's packed lunches, but Lisa, Gabi's mother, didn't mind one bit. She said, "I like that they love the animals and are willing to share."
It was a slow transformation, but soon the whole family became more interested in the crows. By 2013, Gabie and her mother made offering food to the crows a daily habit. The pair now spends each morning filling the backyard birdbath with new water and spreading out plenty of peanuts and dog food. As they set up, the crows gather around and call out to them.
It was this routine that started the gift giving. The crows consume all of the peanuts left out in the feeders and sporadically leave behind a treasured trinket in return, such as an earring, polished rock, or hinge. Basically anything shiny and small enough to fit inside of a crow's mouth has been found in the feeders.
Some of the gifts are truly incredible, like a piece of metal with the word "best" stamped on it. Gabi finds it funny to think one of the crows is wearing the matching half that says "friend."
Want your own gift-giving crow friends? John Marzluff, professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington advises, "If you want to form a bond with a crow, be consistent in rewarding them."
Marzluff has conducted numerous studies on crows, and he has found humans and crows can form very meaningful relationships, although gifts are never guaranteed. Marzluff has never personally received a gift from a crow, but he has seen crows give items to others.
They are not always shiny trinkets though; sometimes gifts from crows can be a bit gory. Marzluff said, "Some people, their presents are dead baby birds that the crow brings in."
Gabi has received some disgusting gifts, one time her mother had to throw away a rotting crab claw left behind.
Gabi's third favorite gift from the crows is a screw, although she prefers not to touch it she considers it a favorite because, "You don't' see a crow carrying around a screw that much. Unless it's trying to build its house."
Lisa's favorite treasure gifted by the crows was her camera lens cap. She had lost it in an alley near her home while capturing photos of a bald eagle. Before she had a chance to go out and look for it, she found it sitting on the edge of the birdbath.
Lisa just had to know if it was really the bird's that brought the cap back. She logged onto her home computer and checked on the bird cam. Sure enough, "You can see it bringing it into the yard. Walks it to the birdbath and actually spends time rinsing this lens cap."