A few years back, Melinda Green began noticing crows would occasionally drop by for a rest on her fire escape in San Francisco.
Rather than shoo the birds away, as some people might, Green decided to welcome them.
“I just started putting out some food on my fire escape when I’d see them,” Green told The Dodo.
Simply watching the crows was reward enough for Green — but apparently, the birds decided she deserved something more.
One day, a crow arrived to Green’s fire escape with an object in his mouth and placed it where she could reach it.
It was a piece of crumpled-up foil from the top of a champagne bottle — one man’s litter, yes, but apparently a shiny treasure in the eyes of the crow.
He’d brought it, so it would seem, as a gift for Green. And she was delighted to accept it.
“I was thrilled, of course,” Green said.
Green admits to being somewhat skeptical at first that the foil was actually meant for her.
But then the gifts just kept on coming.
In time, the crows brought her various items — like colorful rocks, bones, nuts from shells. Once, they even brought her a gummy bear.
Green chose not to eat it, but she appreciated the gesture regardless.
The crows’ most recent gift to Green is a somewhat mysterious object.
Though probably just a broken-off piece of machinery, it does have an artful quality the birds must have thought Green would like.
And she did.
“The fact that it really is a gift makes it precious,” Green said.
It’s difficult to say for certain what’s inspired this outpouring of generosity, but it seems Green has endeared herself to the crows by the kindness she showed them first.
“I suspect it’s similar to young human crushes,” she said.
By now, Green has become better acquainted with the crows than she likely ever expected. In fact, over the years she’s seen them grow up to start families of their own, introducing a new generation to Green’s welcoming fire escape.
“I’ve learned just how similar crow families and dynamics are to human families,” she said. “They seem to have long-term relationships and to raise one or two children at a time in nuclear families. The parents are clearly actively teaching their children. They clearly want to show them where the nice lady lives and how to get treats from her.”
Green says the experience with the crows has shown her how to “recognize and respect their personhood.”
And, in the end, that may be the greatest gift of all.