Friday, January 29, 2010



I've started this watercolour of a crow and its in the early stages, where I've laid down some colour and am starting to go back into the first washes to define shapes and values.  There are so many colours in what is initially seen as a 'black' bird. Purples, reds, blues and browns all come into the plummage to give the illusion of black.  Even in the darkest areas of this piece so far, such as the eye area, contains no black.  It consists of nothing more than indigo, prussian blue and a touch of payne's grey.

Its not a large piece - about 9 x 12 and may be the start of several in the corvid family of birds.
I have a fixation with the corvidae genus of birds.  The common English name used is corvids (more technically) or the crow family (more informally), and there are over 120 species. The genus Corvus, including the crows and ravens, makes up over a third of the entire family. I think they are the most amazing, intelligent birds on the planet.  They have become the early warning system for predators here on the farm and we feed them mice that are caught or occasional dead chicks.  Its a bit like paying for mafia protection but without the threats.  Of course if eggs are out in the open such as in the duck pen this summer, crows think they are fair game and swoop in to take them.

Crows have an inbuilt dislike for owls as was seen a few months ago when a great horned owl killed several ducks in the summer pen in the meadow.  The crows were my early alarm system that something wasn't right that morning and they continued to join forces and dive at the owl, eventually driving him into the trees.

Here are a few crow facts:
  • Crows are among the most intelligent of birds. Experiments indicate that American crows can count to three or four, are good at solving puzzles, have good memories, employ a diverse and behaviorally complex range of vocalizations and quickly learn to associate various noises and symbols with food.
  • Crows can mimic sounds made by other birds and animals and have been taught to mimic the human voice.
  • Crows begin nesting in early spring (February to May, with southern nests starting earlier than northern ones) and build a nest of twigs, sticks, and coarse stems ranging from 18 to 60 feet (5 to 18 m) above ground.
  • Crows usually partner for life.
  • The female incubates the eggs and is fed during incubation by the male and nest associates. The young leave the nest at about five weeks of age and forage with their parents throughout the summer. Later in the year, the family may join other groups that in turn may join still larger groups. The larger groups often migrate in late fall or winter.
  • Few crows in the wild live more than four to six years, but some have lived to 14 years in the wild and over 20 years in captivity.
  • American Crows congregate in large numbers in winter to sleep in communal roosts. These roosts can be of a few hundred, several thousand, or even up to two million crows. Some roosts have been forming in the same general area for well over 100 years.


RHCarpenter said...

I, too, have been working on crow paintings in the past week or so - perhaps they are calling to you, too. I like them even more now that I know more about them :) Thanks for sharing - and I look forward to seeing this one take shape.

sue said...

You're off to a wonderful start on it, Jeanette. It's beautiful. Interesting notes on crows!

Pam Johnson Brickell said...

This is going to be a yummie painting. I'm another crow lover. They are great announcers for seeing raptors :)

Jo Castillo said...

This is going to be beautiful. The drawing is lovely. Thanks for the facts.

Billie Crain said...

I like the beginning of this painting! I'll be watching to see how you chose to complete it. I've always been fascinated by crows, too. Many years ago I used to collect bird feathers but finding a crow feather was next to impossible. Almost as scarce than hen's teeth.

laura said...

Your painting is beautiful, ethereal, and it shows the intelligence of the crow. It's sad they have such a short lifespan!

Elizabeth Seaver said...

Fascinating facts. I love birds, but I don't know a whole lot about crows. You've piqued my interest.

I love the start to this watercolor. All the color in the black will make it so lovely.

Jennifer Rose said...

very nice start :) The ravens are huge here, kind of scary coming across one actually lol Could do a lot of damage if they wanted.

I often use crows as an example of how smart animals can be when people go on about animals being dumb.

Pablo Villicana Lara said...

I just found your blog and love it! can't wait to see the finished crow!

vivien said...

I saw a film of crows in Japan who walk out into the road with nuts that they can't crack - place them where cars will run over them - then walk out to pick up the kernel - and they have a brilliant awareness of where the traffic will go and how long they have to get the nuts and return to the safey of the pavement (sidewalk)

watching this with interest :>)

Jan said...

Great start, Jeanette!

LOL, Vivien, we have pecan trees and the driveway is littered with nuts during the season. The crows get so angry and scold because I pick up the nuts as I walk down to get the mail!

I'm in awe of their intelligence but get very angry at them for pulling up seedlings in the garden!

Thanks for the facts about them, Jeanette. We seem to have hundreds here but they're so wiley that I haven't been able to get a good photo of them yet. Can't wait to see the finish of this.

Jeanette said...

Crows are either loved or hated. Either way, I still think they are fascinating birds.

The piece is slowly coming along. Thanks to everyone for the words of encouragement.

Haddock said...

And I like the finished product.
Crows are always fascinating.