Corvus corone – A common resident.
In the “mountain” parts of the county this destructive and mischievous bird is so numerous as to be quite a pest. He is always thieving, and on the watch for newly dropped lambs, young rabbits, wounded game, eggs of all kinds, chickens, &c. Great used to be our indignation at finding throughout the spring freshly sucked Pheasants’ eggs lying everywhere about our covers. From the bare district around us the Crows would gather in our plantations at the nesting season, vexing our ears all day long with their discordant croaks. We never left them alone, and it was only when the nest was so successfully concealed as to escape our search that the black marauders were able to bring out a brood. When the young are first out of the nest they keep together for some weeks, and are then to be easily approached and shot.
One spring we took over twenty nests in our small plantations, and had a grand series of seventy Crows’ eggs as the result. One nest, cleverly hidden in an ivy-covered tree, was detected owing to the shells of Pheasants’ and Moorhens’ eggs, more than a dozen lying on the ground beneath. Most of these eggs still contained the whites, showing that it is the yolk only that the old birds carry in their beaks to their precious young. A Crow’s nest is a veritable fortress, constructed of such a mass of sticks and twigs as to be quite impenetrable to shot if it is fired up at from below. It is closely and thickly lined with sheep’s wool, and is such a perfect nest as to be gladly adopted by various other birds when they have the chance, such as Brown Owls, Kestrels, Sparrow Hawks, &c. Carrion Crows are devoted parents.
Cunning as they are in keeping out of danger at other times, we have frequently had them fly boldly up to our gun when we have been near the nest containing their fledgelings. In dry weather in the middle of the summer we used to see the Crows searching the shallows of the Cleddy for fresh water mussels and small trout. In a long continued drought they suffered severely, and numbers would be found lying about dead.
In his district, Mr. Dix states that they went by the name of the “Farmers’ Crow,” and were terribly destructive, particularly to the young lambs of the mountain sheep, and adds: ” It is surprising how quickly they kill them; stealing upon them when asleep they effect their object by first tearing the eye out, and by repeated blows through the socket. They generally attack the young and weakly lambs.” When we were on Skomer we were informed by Mr. Vaughan Davies that the eggs were taken from a Carrion Crow’s nest on the island, and were replaced by the eggs of one of the farm-yard Pullets, and that in due time these substituted eggs were all hatched out by the Crow, and the Chickens then taken from the nest were all black. As there were no black Fowls upon the island at the time this was regarded as a prodigy, due to the agency of the Crows !