Joan Larsen Presents: Tender Gifts From Birds – The Girl Who Gets Gifts From Crows

Posted on March 4, 2015


By Joan Larsen

Many thanks to Katy Sewall for alerting us to this wonderful story!


Gabriella – a 4-year-old child living in Seattle, Washington – was prone to dropping food – when she was getting out of the family car or just munching in her yard. So very typical of children that age.

But, the word had to passed to all the crows flying overhead that free food was theirs if they just waited for Gabi to come home. Another year passed, and the little girl began rewarding their personal attraction to her. She dropped bits and pieces of her packed school lunch for them – with her mother’s encouragement.

Something rare was happening here. The crows began to line up in the afternoon, waiting for Gabi’s school bus to return, just hoping for another feeding session. And so scraps were thrown out now and then for the crows . . . but Gabi became hooked, beginning to offer food as a daily ritual.

Photo:  Lisa Mann

Photo: Lisa Mann

With her mother’s daily encouragement and help, they filled the birdbath with fresh water and the covered bird-feeder platforms with peanuts. In this endless buffet, Gabi was watched as she threw handsful of dog food into the grass. The crows, up on the telephone wires, would “crow” loudly in anticipation of the largesse that would be theirs.

4-crows-gabiAnd then – THEN – gifts from the birds began to appear for Gabi. The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and in their place Gabi would find shiny trinkets on the empty tray: an single earring, a hinge, a polished rock. She could expect anything shiny and small enough to fit in a bird’s mouth. Once she was consistent in rewarding her bird friends, they began to bond with the little girl in this touching and very distinct way.

One of the favorite moments she had was finding a tiny piece of metal with the word “best” printed on it. And Gabi is 8 now – and as a special treat, has brought out a bead storage container, clicking it open. “Look”, but “don’t touch” is her admonition.

As you can see, inside the box are rows of small objects in clear plastic bags, all labelled. One reads: Table by feeder, 2:30 p.m., 09 Nov 2014. Inside is a broken light bulb.


Photo: Katy Sewall


Look closely and you will see there is a miniature silver ball, a black button, a treasured blue Lego piece, a rusty screw, single silver earrings deposited at different times. Such an odd assortment of things for a little girl to treasure, but to Gabi these things are more valuable than gold.


A professor the field of birds amplifies what has happened here. Birds communicate with each other by how they fly, how close they walk, and where they sit. The child and her mother have learned the crow’s language. And the crows watch and learn the human feeder’s patterns and language as well. They can begin to trust each other. And sometimes, a crow will leave a gift.

Gabi’s mother regularly photographs the crows and charts their behavior, and gone as far as putting up a bird cam. But she told us that, only a few weeks ago, she was filming a bald eagle in a nearby alley, and dropped her lens cap – later forgetting to pick it up.

But she didn’t have to look for it, as it was left sitting on the edge of the birdbath. Unbelieving that this could have happened, she pulled up the scene on the bird-cam. “You can see the crow bringing it into the yard, walking it to the birdbath and actually spending time rinsing this lens cap.”

Her final words about this incident were spoken with the deep belief that she shares with her daughter. “I am sure this was intentional. They sit on that wire and watch us all the time. I am sure they knew I dropped it. I am sure they decided they wanted to return it”.

You too have now seen Gabi’s “box of many treasures”, carefully brought and given to her by her good friends now, the crows. Perhaps we are never meant to fully understand the depth of relationship between humans and animals. But we find ourselves touched by the bond we so closely have with our pets. And so it is now with Gabi and her mother. They too do not question their gifts from the crows.

But they know that this gift is one of the most precious things in their lives — something that touches both their minds and their hearts.

Photo:  Lisa Mann

Photo: Lisa Mann

Please visit Katy Sewall’s amazing online show about Gabi and her generous friends the crows, at her website The Bittersweet Life.

JoanAvatar2Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”