Let me start off this by saying: I love crows, but it hasn’t always been that way. When my wife and I first moved to a rural area I was amazed how much the birds ruined the beautiful relaxing atmosphere of the countryside with their squawking. They would splash all the water from our little finch bath, scare away other birds, dig through the garbage if we left the lid off, and were always kicking things out of our compost bin. They were pests.
After watching a video online a few years ago of a lady petting and hand feeding a couple crows I fell down a rabbit hole of Corvid videos. Did you know some can even mimic? Not to the extent parrots can or anything, but it's freaky how smart they are. So after doing a little research I went out and got a bag of whole peanuts, like they sell for squirrels. I work from home, so I set an alarm every day to go out and throw a few peanuts where I would see them hang out. It took a little longer than I expected for them to get it, but once they realized the pattern, they’d be here and waiting just before my alarm went off. Instead of being annoyed at how loud and destructive they were, I began to watch and enjoy them.
I began to recognize some of our “frequent fliers” and it seemed every year there would be more birds than the last. It was an adventure and I loved getting to know them and building my relationship with the birds. After about two years we would find “gifts” from a pair of the birds at the feeders at relatively regular intervals. Most of them before were small and shiny things, bottlecaps, rocks, pieces of metal and foil. We haven't had very many gifts, but every time we got one I would get a rush of excitement. It felt like we had our own little barter system, me and the crows.
The last few weeks we had received something different. It was a small piece of flat oval plastic with a chipped green color on one side. I happily put it with the other trinkets on the shelf next to my computer. The next one was a belly button ring with a bright blue gemstone in it, my first piece of jewelry that wasn’t an earring. I carefully placed it next to the piece of plastic. The next gift from the birds was a few pieces of bone. They were small, long, and from what I assumed to be a tail of something they must have scavenged.
When I showed it to my wife, she said it didn’t look like tail bones, “tails look like vertebrae I think,” she said. We began to google bones of different critters we have around here, raccoons, opossums, deer. They were dainty, but not like bird bones. I kept it on the shelf next to the rest of the gifts. Curiosity faded as life went on, until I received a second green piece of plastic and showed that to my wife too. Her face went a little pale as she looked at my most recent offerings.
“Those are nails,” she said pointing to the plastic. “Acrylic ones you get from the salon.” She wiped the dirt off one and was horrified to see a natural fingernail stuck to one side. Picking up the second, newest nail, we saw about half a nail on the flip side.
“So they stole somebody's fake nails? They just swooped down and took somebody’s nails?” I asked quietly, but looking at the belly ring and the small bones I already knew the answer.
We called the police and filed a report. At first it felt crazy explaining, no, we didn’t just happen upon these creepy things, yes, birds have been bringing them to us. I showed them the other small things in my collection and some photos on my phone of the birds nearby while I was feeding them. They took our macabre trinkets and thanked us, saying they’d be in touch if they needed any more information, or if we should get any more gifts from the birds.
Like I said, we live in a rural area and don’t have a lot of neighbors. We have trees and farms and wild animals. Did our “murder” find one of their own? I’m not sure how far the birds fly each day, but it keeps me up at night to think they may also be feeding from where they found these things.