Since the age of four, Gabi Mann of Seattle has forged a relationship with the neighborhood crows by offering them food. Then suddenly something unexpected happened — the crows, in an apparent act of reciprocation, started to present various trinkets to Gabi in return.
As BBC's Katy Sewall reports, it all started quite innocently when, as a four-year-old, Gabi would drop food to the ground and the crows would scramble to gobble it up. Years later, she would offer them scraps of her packed lunch on the way to school. By 2013, Gabi and her mom Lisa were offering food to the crows on a daily basis.
And that's when the gifts starting appearing. As Sewall writes:
The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn't a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically - anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow's mouth.
One time it was a tiny piece of metal with the word "best" printed on it. "I don't know if they still have the part that says 'friend'," Gabi laughs, amused by the thought of a crow wearing a matching necklace.
When you see Gabi's collection, it's hard not to wish for gift-giving crows of your own.
No doubt, Gabi's collection is quite impressive. She considers them her treasures, and she meticulously stores, labels, and categorizes each object in a bead storage container. One bag contains a broken light bulb with the caption, "Black table by feeder. 2:30 p.m. 09 Nov 2014." Other objects include paperclips, buttons, earrings, and worn glass. One trinket, a screw, is marked as "third favorite," because as Gabi puts it, "You don't see a crow carrying around a screw that much. Unless it's trying to build its house."
As for her very favorite, that's a pearl colored heart, which shows her "how much they love me."
So why are the crows exhibiting this remarkable behavior? Sewall quotes John Marzluff, a professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington who says, "If you want to form a bond with a crow, be consistent in rewarding them." He and his colleagues have shown that crows and people can form personal relationships and that they're capable of understanding each other's signals.
Read Sewall's entire article at the BBC.
Images: Lisa Mann/Katy Sewall/BBC.