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Source: George Warner, 1912 (Queen Mary's Psalter) Copyright 2003-2004 David Badke Manuscript description British Library, Royal MS 2 B. vii, Folio 130r



Latin name: Cornix

Other names: Cauue, Corneille

A long-lived bird that fortells the future


General Attributes

Crows live a long time, and are monogamous. If the male crow dies, the female will never take another mate (compare this to the story of the turtledove). Crows take responsibility for feeding their offspring, and escort their young in flight. The crow's voice predicts rain, and the crow is said to be able reveal ambushes and foretell the future. Crows lead flocks of storks when they cross the sea to Asia. When the crow finds a corpse, it first pecks out the eye.


The Aberdeen Bestiary takes the opportunity with this bird to present a sermon on parenting: "Let men learn from the crow's example and its sense of duty, to love their children. In contrast, women of our human race wean their babies as soon as they can, even the ones they love. ... If the women are poor, they cast out their infants... The rich themselves also kill their children in the womb, to avoid dividing their estate among many heirs... What creature but man has taken the view that children can be renounced? What creature but man has endowed parents with such barbarous rights? What creature but man, in the brotherhood created by nature, has made brothers unequal?"

Sources (chronological order)

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 10, 14): If a nut is too hard for a crow to crack with its beak, it will carry the nut into the air and drop it on rocks or roofs until it breaks. The croaking sound of a crow is thought to be unlucky, particularly during its breeding season. Unlike other birds, crows continue to feed their young even after they can fly.

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 7:44): The crow is an old bird. Seers say that it increases anxiety by the indications it gives, reveals ambushes, predicts rain, and foretells the future. But it is a great wickedness to believe that God gives his counsel to crows.

Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (De proprietatibus rerum, book 12): The crow is a bird of long life, and diviners tell that she taketh heed of spyings and awaitings, and teacheth and sheweth ways, and warneth what shall fall. But it is full unlawful to believe, that God sheweth His privy counsel to crows. It is said that crows rule and lead storks, and come about them as it were in routs, and fly about the storks and defend them, and fight against other birds and fowls that hate storks. And take upon them the battle of other birds, upon their own peril. And an open proof thereof is: for in that time, that the storks pass out of the country, crows are not seen in places there they were wont to be. And also for they come again with sore wounds, and with voice of blood, that is well known, and with other signs and tokens and show that they have been in strong fighting. Also there it is said, that the mildness of the bird is wonderful. For when father and mother in age are both naked and bare of covering of feathers, then the young crows hide and cover them with their feathers, and gather meat and feed them. (Mediaeval Lore from Bartholomew Anglicus (London, 1893/1905) Steele edition of 1905)

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