My West Seattle neighborhood has been graced, the past few years, by a most unusual crow. Her actual sex is not definitively known, but those who lived on her street and watched her most closely suggest “she,” so I’ll go with that. This crow was famous in her small circle, and everyone seemed to have their own name for her: Brownie, Malty, Goldy, Chocolate Bar. I called her Leucy, after the pigment mutation, called leucism, that caused her pale color. Crows sometimes have leucistic patches–we see a more lightly feathered area on their wings or neck–but full leucism like Leucy’s is quite rare. She was completely leucistic, including her bare parts–her bill, eye rings, and feet. Tom took this great photo just two weeks ago:
Last Friday I received an e-mail from some neighbors that live about five blocks from me. I’d never met them, but one of Leucy’s favorite perches was right in front of their house. On the day of Seattle’s new heat record (over 103 degrees), they found her body on the parking strip. They were heartbroken at the loss of “Brownie,” and were writing to ask if there was anything they could have done to help her, which of course there wasn’t. I hated to foist my morbid tendencies on this super-nice couple, but this was such an amazing bird–I had to ask, “Did you by any chance save her body? Maybe pop her in the freezer?” They hadn’t. She’d been wrapped in plastic in the garbage for the last three hot days. Still, after receiving my question, they intrepidly dug her out and put her in the freezer. I was a touch worried. But the frozen body is actually in pretty good shape, now in my own freezer, next to the popsicles. She’s worthy of further study.
All who observed Leucy agree that she was a particularly fabulous bird, both in terms of plumage and personality. In her uniqueness, she invited people to look closely at the common birdlife around them. It was her color that drew the initial observation, but her general wild wonderfulness that kept people watching–something shared by all crows, and the rest of the wild life that surrounds us.
Thank you, lovely Leucy, and RIP.
PS: Based on a couple of requests, my husband Tom posted this and another photo of “Leucy” on Flickr.com under a Creative Commons license, meaning you are free to repost them, print them, etc – basically do anything you wish with the images short of profiting from them. They are at high enough resolution for a 5X7 print (unlike the image above in the blog post). Leucy photo 1, Leucy photo 2.
I would love to get a copy of of the photo of leucy .
Any chance you would sell me one ?
Jackie – see the note Lyanda added to the post above. I put the photos online at print resolution.
I’m going to have to pass on Popscicles next time we’re over.
Hi Lyanda — This story brought tears to my eyes and made me wonder about our crow family — I hope they all have survived the hot days. We’ve been doing our best to keep fresh water in the bird bath. Tomorrow I’ll make sure to check on Cripple Crow and her family!
We enjoyed seeing her on our walks around the neighborhood and will miss her her. Thanks for the writeup.
Delia and I saw a Crow on a neighborhood power pole with it’s mouth open panting that day. It occurred to me that they would be stressed, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me that they would actually succumb.
We keep a mud bath outside for Barn Swallows and Robins to use in nest-building and I see all the other birds there using the water, including the Crows. I wonder if that might help them survive a hot day.
Thanks for the great story,
Long live Lucy!
I saw Leucy one day driving through West Seattle on the way to a client’s house some time ago. She was eye catching and beautiful.
This is heartbreaking. I started reading your book last night, in large part because of the Gatewood crows I’ve been observing for years, even before I moved my family up onto the hill last year. And that bird in particular was one I looked for when they were feeding en masse in the parking strips. She always brought a smile to my face and a memory to hold. I’m sorry to hear she’s gone.
Tee-hee! I volunteer in St. Louis at a facility called Wild Bird Rehab. One of my co-workers shares your “morbid tendencies” to the point that, following her rare bird roadkill stories, I always ask her, “And is the bird in your freezer now?” I’ve begun to wonder where she keeps her frozen food, what with all the birds she must have accumulated in there…