Unique Friendship with Crow - Meet Naveen Khanna: An Indian Crow Man

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

Celebrating friendship day on a particular day may be commercial outlook of the friendship band and the friendship card sellers. Friendship is always treated as a very pious thing. According to an English proverb, “A Friend in Need is the Friend Indeed”. This friendship may be among human beings, countries or with the environment.

Planting a tree, saving water is the unique way of expressing friendship. Having friendship with the plants is not using agrochemical for their protection but adopting the organic way of cultivation.

The animals and birds are the acquaintances with respect to the evolution of the earth. Evolution of human beings and cultivating the friendship with the animals and birds secure both in this world, environment and the nature.

As we recently celebrated the friendship day, it reminded me of the unique friendship of the crow and the man. In our childhood we read a popular story of the thirsty crow, which used small stones to raise the water level in the vessel to quench his thirst. Similarly the story of pigeons that were used to send messages to far off places, even to the lovers also. During war the eagle was also used as a messenger.

Let me introduce you to the person called Naveen Khanna, who was a mining engineer by profession and developed a hobby of cultivating friendship with the crow.

Naveen was born in Firozpur in Indian Punjab on the 8th February 1945. He did his Masters in Hindi from Delhi University and Diploma in mining engineering from Dhanbad University. His life is noteworthy because he made a deep impact on the society in not one, but four very diverse fields.

He had an uncanny ability to attract birds and would feed and interact with a flock of birds every day. With time, one of the crows became quite close to him and would not only feed from his hands but also play games such as cards games with him. Naveen also observed the behavior of the birds closely, and was able to predict natural phenomena such as rains, thunderstorms and even earthquakes by looking at their flight patterns.

It must be noted however that phenomena such as earthquakes are thankfully rare, and hence do not lend themselves easily to the scientific process.

Naveen says that observing the fighting behavior of the crow, one can predict the shower of rain or thunderstorm as crows are the natural Metrological department of the Nature and they can help the farmer to predict rainfall.

“A crow is a wild animal and by feeding it you encourages an unnatural dependence and with most wildlife, this is an excellent philosophy. But crows and humans have been living side-by-side for centuries now, and researchers like Marzluff and Angell, who wrote In the Company of Crows and Ravens, point to many instances of cultural co evolution between us. It's been an arguably symbiotic relationship for quite awhile now.”

“Certainly, after all this time together, humans' and crows' lives and histories have become closely intertwined. Since crows have territories they pass on to their children. The crows in my neighborhood may have descended from birds that lived here for more than a hundred years. They've watched people come and go for years’, people who may have watched them right back.”

“Although the crows you see in your neighborhood "own" that territory and are very territorial, that doesn't mean they never leave. For most of the year, before the sun goes down, crows fly to a communal roost. They may fly for miles to get there, stopping here and there along the way to chat with other crows until they reach the roost, where they'll all sleep together, perhaps as many as a thousand in one place. (I've never seen a roost myself; one report says up to 40,000 crows may roost in one spot, another says that a roost may be a few hundred to two million.)”

The only time crows build individual nests in their territory is during spring, when they become quite secretive to protect their young from predation. You may spy them from afar, carrying nest-building materials in their beaks. During this time, after the eggs are laid and when they're newly hatched, crows become even more skittish and standoffish than usual.

Navin Khanna, has been intimately interacting with crows and has been studying their behaviour for the past 45 years. 

This friendship was given lead coverage under the heading 'Nature' by Limca Book of Records in 2002. Here are the excerpts from the 'Limca Book of Records' 1995, 2002 and 2009 and other media and also a film made on this by channel 'Nine' Australia.

"Navin Khanna's relationship with these highly intelligent birds goes back to 45 years. In these years he has not only developed a special bond with them but also made some remarkable observations. Currently he has 29 crow friends and each one has been given a special name that reflects the character of the bird. Navin calls out "Kauva, Kauva, they respond and come flying to his terrace or the district park. Once they arrive, while some literally eat out of his hand, others hold a couple of playing cards in their beaks and proceed to have an informal game with him.

Khanna continues his association with crows and they with him, signifying a trust which is rare." 

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