[Footnote: Abstract of a recent discussion before the Connecticut State Board of Agriculture.]
Prof. W. A. Stearns, in a lecture upon the utility of birds in agriculture, stated that the few facts we do know regarding the matter have been obtained more through the direct experience of those who have stumbled on the facts they relate than those who have made any special study of the matter. One great difficulty has been that people looked too far and studied too deeply for facts which were right before them. For instance, people are well acquainted with the fact that hawks, becoming bold, pounce down upon and carry off chickens from the hen-yards and eat them. How many are acquainted with the fact that in hard winters, when pressed for food, crows do this likewise? But what does this signify? Simply that the crow regulates its food from necessity, not from choice.
Now, carry this fact into operation in the spring into the cornfield. Do you suppose that the crow, being hungry, and dropping into a field of corn wherein is abundance to satisfy his desires, stops, as many affirm, to pick out only those kernels which are affected with mildew, larva, or weevil? Does he instinctively know what corns, when three or four inches beneath the ground, are thus affected? Not a bit of it. To him, a strictly grain-feeding and not an insect-eating bird, the necessity takes the place of the choice. He is hungry; the means of satisfying his hunger are at hand. He naturally drops down in the first cornfield he sees, calls all his neighbors to the feast, and then roots up and swallows all the kernels until he can hold no more. There is no doubt the crow is a damage to the agriculturist. He preys upon the cornfield and eats the corn indiscriminately, whether there are any insects or not. That has been proved by dissection of stomach and crop.
If corn can be protected by tarring, so that the crows will not eat it, they will prove a benefit by leaving the corn and picking up grubs in the field. Where corn has been tarred, I have never known the crows to touch it.
Mr. Sedgwick remarked that, in addition to destroying the corn crop, the crow was also very destructive of the eggs of other birds. Last spring I watched a pair of crows flying through an orchard, and in several instances saw them fly into birds' nests, take out the eggs, and then go on around the field.
In answer to Mr. Hubbard, who claimed the crow would eat animal food in any form, and might not be rightly classified as a grain-eating bird, Prof. Stearns said the crow was thus classified by reason of the structure of its crop being similar to that of the finches, the blackbird, the sparrows, and other seed-eating birds.
THE AMERICAN CROW.
Mr. Wetherell said: Crows are greedy devourers of the white worm, which sometimes destroys acres of grass. As a grub eater, the crow deserves much praise. The crow is the scavenger of the bird family, eating anything and everything, whether it is sweet or carrion. The only quarrel I have with the crow is because it destroys the eggs and young birds.
Mr. Lockwood described the experience of a neighbor who planted corn after tarring it. This seemed to prevent the ravages of the crows until the second hoeing, when the corn was up some eighteen inches, at which time the crows came in and pulled nearly an acre clean.
Crows, said Dr. Riggs, have no crop, like a great many carnivorous birds. The passage leading from the mouth goes directly to the gizzard, something like the duck. The duck has no crop, yet the passage leading from the mouth to the gizzard in the duck becomes considerably enlarged. In the crow there is no enlargement of this passage, and everything passes directly into the gizzard, where it is digested.
Dr. Riggs had raised corn and watched the operations of the crows. Going upon the field in less than a minute after the crows had left it, he found they had pulled the corn, hill after hill, marching from one hill to the other. Not until the corn had become softened and had come up would they molest it. In the fall they would come in droves on to a field of corn, where it is in stacks, pick out the corn from the husks, and put it into their gizzards. They raid robbins' nests and swallows' nests, devouring eggs and young birds. Yet crows are great scavengers. In the spring they get a great many insects and moths from the ground, and do good work in picking up those large white grubs with red heads that work such destruction in some of our mowing fields.
Mr. Pratt stated that he had used coal tar on his seed corn for five or six years, and had never a spear pulled by the crows. Dr. Riggs never had known a crow to touch corn after it got to the second tier of leaves. Mr. Lockwood said crows would sample a whole field of corn to find corn not tarred. Mr. Pratt recommended to pour boiling water on the corn before applying the tar. A large tablespoonful of tar will color a pail of water.
According to Dr. Riggs, the hot mixture with the corn must be stirred continually; if not, the life of the corn will be killed and germination prevented. It may be poured on very hot, if the stirring is kept up and too much tar is not used. If the water is hot it will dissolve the tar, and as it is poured on it will coat every kernel of corn. If the water is allowed to stand upon the corn any great length of time, the chit of the corn will be damaged. The liquid should be poured off and the corn allowed to cool immediately after a good stirring.
Mr. Gold had known of crows pulling corn after the second hoeing, when the scare-crows had been removed from the field. The corn thus pulled had reached pretty good size. This pulling must have been done from sheer malice on the part of the crows.
Mr. Ayer was inclined to befriend the crow. For five years he had planted from eight to twelve acres of corn each year and had not lost twenty hills by crows. He does not use tar, but does not allow himself to go out of a newly-planted cornfield without first stretching a string around it on high poles and also providing a wind-mill with a little rattle box on it to make a noise. With him this practice keeps the crows away.
Mr. Goodwin thought crows were scavengers of the forests and did good service in destroying the worms, grubs, and insects that preyed upon our trees. He had raised some forty crops of corn, and whenever he had thoroughly twined it at the time of planting, crows did not pull it up. In damp spots, during the wet time and after his twine was down, he had known crows to pull up corn that was seven or eight inches high.
Respecting crows as insect eaters, Prof. Stearns admitted that they did devour insects; he had seen them eat insects on pear trees. Tame crows at his home had been watched while eating insects, yet a crow will eat corn a great deal quicker than he will eat insects.--Boston Cultivator.