It's 6:30 in the morning. I'm out of bed at the insistence of my 20-month old toddler, squawking in the next room.
He demands a glass of milk. We both shuffle into the kitchen. As I'm rooting in the fridge, another part of my brain is registering the raucous cries of our resident horde of crows. I think to myself, "Gee, the crows and hawks are squabbling awfully early this morning."
Suddenly my boy, at the picture window, shouts "Fox!". I'm a little skeptical; as far as I know he only has one picture book with a fox. But then again he does have a lot of Richard Scarry books that have foxes in their cast of characters. And what about that racket from the crows?
Sure enough, I look out the window in time to see an orange fox trotting along the edge of our yard with the crows haranguing him!
This isn't the first time the crows have helped us spot predators. Earlier this year I spotted a coyote crossing through our woods, again because the crows were harassing him.
So why do crows track and harass foxes and coyotes? I would think that most of the time they don't pose much threat to crows. I haven't been able to find a definitive answer, but perhaps it's because they compete over carrion. I imagine it's even possible, though unlikely, that a canid could catch and kill an unwary crow feeding on a deer carcass. I also suspect that their divebombing might cause a fox to drop any dinner he might be carrying in his mouth, resulting in a free lunch for the crows.
In any event, I'm certainly not the first to learn the trick of following the crows to spot foxes. Courtesy of Google, here's an article from a 1906 Washington newspaper that mentions it.