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Here's a pandemic pet you may not have considered: Rooftop crows


Many Americans have adopted pets over the past two years of the pandemic to ease the loneliness of isolation - Pandemic puppies, quarantine kittens. But one June day on a rooftop garden in New York City, Rita J. King unexpectedly came upon a more unusual companion.

RITA J KING: There was a gleaming, squawking crow in the garden.


KING: I think it scared me as much as I scared it. I had never seen a cow this close up before, much less in Manhattan.

SIMON: Rita King made a peace offering, some peanuts in the shell and chunks of cheese. Soon she had a murder of crows circling overhead - that's the poetic term for a flock of those scavenger avians - landing on the metal edge around her building's rooftop.

KING: Crows are unbelievably fun. And when you expose them to novelty, they get extremely emotional. If a crow gets frustrated, you can see the frustration. If a crow gets excited, you can see that they're excited.

SIMON: She started leaving puzzles for her winged visitors, like an overturned cup covering their food or novelties like a new glass container for their peanuts. And she set up cameras to capture their reactions.


KING: They started bringing me gifts after I would do something novel for them. One time they brought me a metal bottle cap from a nonalcoholic sangria. Another time they brought a severed crow talon...

SIMON: And a Lego, a rubber washer, a metal screw. She shares the high jinks with her own flock on, of course, Twitter at @RitaJKing - little daily joys like a young bird's first flight.

KING: I would watch as a pair of crows would teach it how to dive off the ledge and let itself just fall and then fly back up, teaching it how to fly around the building.

SIMON: Rita King has come to believe we can learn from the ways the birds include new and different personalities in their lives. When they first met last summer, the birds would hover cautiously over her head. Now every morning around 10, Rita King heads upstairs to feed them, and they spend a few minutes together - new Yorkers squawking over the city they love.


RANDY NEWMAN: (Singing) You've got a friend in me. You've got a friend in me. When the road looks rough ahead and you're miles and miles from your nice warm bed, from your nice warm bed. You just remember what your old pal said. Boy, you've got a friend in me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Ian (pronounced "yahn") Stewart is a producer and editor for Weekend Edition and Up First.
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