Richard Crowson: A New Kind Of Airport Scanner

Jan 8, 2010

It’s crow time in Wichita. Driving my daughter to school this morning we noticed the thousands of crows roosting in the trees along Grove Street. She took the same perspective on the sight that anyone who’s ever seen Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds, would take, and she pronounced it “creepy.”

Creepy indeed. All those oversized, inky-black cawing birds, their shoulders hunched up like they’ve hatched some devious plan and when their leader gives the signal they’ll swoop down peck our brains out and take possession of our wide-screen TVs and our brand new Christmas present iPods.

In the interest of “knowing your enemy,” when I returned home I did a little research on crows. I found out that they mate for life, sometimes six or seven seasons of nestlings hanging together for years as a family. They’re considered among the most intelligent of all bird species. They can be taught to speak. And they were here in Kansas for hundreds of years before flocks of European settlers starting roosting here.

Especially intriguing is the fact that it has recently been discovered that crows can recognize people’s faces, even from a great distance, and sometimes call out to warn one another when a person who has proven to be dangerous to the crows in the past is spotted.

I know what you’re thinking. Same thing I am: For crying out loud, somebody tell the Transportation Security Administration about these birds. Put them in the airports. Get ‘em looking at the passengers and telling us which ones have exploding underwear on. Teach them to say things like “Jokes will be taken seriously” and “Please tell your grandmother to assume the position.”

Crows have been flying a lot longer than us. They probably have the security thing down by now. And what’s more, they seem to be a bit smarter than we are. Especially when it comes to recognizing dangerous people.