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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ornithological idioms - Eating Crow

Following rave reviews of my note on Jynxed, by popular request I extend the series on ornithological idioms.

Eating Crow is an American version of the English idiom eating humble pie. It effectively means backing down, an indication of deference, submission or apology. The term presumably came from the fact that whilst the gentry indulged in eating game birds like pheasant, the more humble peasants resorted to eating crow.

But which species of crow is involved? Actually, in some circles, Rook Pie (a member of the crow family) is considered quite a delicacy and was popular in times of war and hardship (nowadays is is illegal to shoot rooks in Britain, so the pie has to be eaten under cover of darkness). In fact there are five species of "black" crows in Europe, so I had better review them.

This is the Hooded Crow Corvus cornix, found throughout northern and eastern Europe, often to be found scavenging in cities, like this one in Berlin.

This is not a crow but it proves I was in Berlin

The Carrion Crow Corvus corone is a close relative of the Hooded Crow but lacks the pale grey mantle and breast

The Rook Corvus frugilegus is about the same size as the Carrion Crow, has a whitish base to the bill, is more gregarious and is often found in flocks on farmland.

The Raven Corvus corax is the largest of the European black crows and lives in mountains

The Jackdaw Corvus monedula is the smallest of the European crows and is distinguished by its smaller size and pale grey nape and upper mantle. It lives around towns and nests in chimneys and holes in trees.

In addition to the "black" crows, there are other European members of the crow family, the best known being the Magpie. Others are the Jay (Europe), Siberian Jay (Lapland), Azure-winged Magpie (Spain), Chough and Alpine Chough.

Picture credits: The Carrion Crow in Berlin is mine; please click on the other pictures to locate the source.


Blogger Maalie said...

Feel free to leave a comment, Maalie will activate them when he gets back from Paris and can weed out the ever-increasing spam.

6:28 pm  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I would imagine that humble or crow pie would go down much more smoothly when eaten with a friend.

8:31 pm  
Blogger Peltops said...

An appreciation of the Maalie....

I was reading 'Island Going' by Robert Atkinson describing his adventures, in the Outer Hebrides and beyond, looking for sea birds and Leach's Petrel in particular and thought the Maalie King would appreciate the following:

"Can the world," said one of the most sensible men at Hirta to me "exhibit a more valuable commodity? The Fulmar furnishes oil for the lamp, down for the bed, the most salubrious food, and the most efficacious ointments for healing wounds, besides a thousand other virtues of which he is posessed, which I have not time to enumerate. But, to say all in one word, deprive us of the Fulmar , and St Kilda is no more." (The Rev Kenneth Macauley, 1758).

all the best


7:08 am  
Blogger simon said...

yes but what about all the crows you saw here in aus?

2:34 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

I love crows. They are some of my favourite birds. We have a pair nesting in the oak at the bottom of the garden.
I still remember that jackdaw we looked after when we were nippers.

Shat spam? Why don't I get any?

8:26 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

"Maalie will activate them when he gets back from Paris" ... Leave a message at your own peril, Maalie may never get back from the City of Light. :-)

May I ask if you are there to study the indigenous crow population? Rumor has it that is an especially stylish one. ;-)

9:14 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait to show your latest post to Miki!


12:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i always wondered what the difference is between a black bird and a raven.

8:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

:-) (=THX!)

8:55 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Thanks for comments everyone!

Roger, great to hear from you after all this time. Could you mail me your contact deatils please?

8:14 am  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

I bet you made your lessons fun, that you were great at teaching. This is so interesting.

I hope you enjoyed Paris, how romantic.

7:27 pm  
Blogger donsands said...

I'm partial to Ravens, since I'm from Baltimore. We have the NFL Ravens, and the renown poet, Edgar Allan Poe, was laid to rest here as well.

"Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'"

2:11 am  
Blogger donsands said...

Excellent photos, I forgot to say.

Have a blessed weekend.

2:12 am  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Nice poem, Don. I'm hoping to acquire more of an appreciation of such.

Nice view and thoughts here. Amazing the sheer beauty of crows. I never looked at crows as such, but can see that now. I guess we used to be pretty good at keeping them out of our garden when I grew up. I think we had something like a scarecrow in it.

4:43 pm  

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