National Geographic : 2018 Feb
112 backyard. “ This is the second dead fish they’ve brought me. I don’t know why,” Gabi says as she tucks the stickleback’s silvery remains in a plastic bag, affixes a dated label, and places the bag in the freezer. “ They aren’t my favorites. But this one’s in better shape; the other one had its head cut off.” Babyface also once left her the head of a baby bird. “Kind of gross.” He brought a different—and from Gabi’s viewpoint, more appropriate—gift that afternoon. She and her brother had dashed to the backyard to replenish the bird feeders. She filled one tray with pea- nuts in the shell and another with dog food. Two crows flew into the conifers. One was Babyface, and he was holding an orange object in his beak. He moved to an overhead cable, perched above BY VIRGINIA MORELL PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHARLIE HAMILTON JAMES CELEBRATING THE YEAR OF THE BIRD Offering Gifts Young Gabi Mann befriended crows in her Seattle neighborhood, setting out nuts and dog food. In exchange they brought her gifts, including a pearlescent plastic heart, one of her favorites. Each small compartment holds a treasure, a gift, that the crows have given her: a gold bead, a pearl earring, a screw, a red Lego piece, colored and clear glass chips, a chicken bone, a pebble, a quartz crystal, and many more. Though slightly soiled, all are stored as care- fully as rare artifacts, dated, and categorized. Gabi selects two that she calls her First Favor- ites, and holds them up for me to admire. One is a pearly-pink heart charm, the other a tiny, silver rectangle with the word “BEST” engraved on one side. “It’s because they love me,” she says about the seemingly thoughtful objects, adding that she expects the birds will leave her a “FRIEND” charm one day. “ They know everything I like— toys and shiny things—because they watch me. They’re like spies.” Already that morning a crow—likely one Gabi’s brother named Babyface, who has a recognizable patch of gray feathers—has brought her a dead stickleback fish, placing it where it couldn’t be missed: on the stairs leading to the family’s ABOVE: CROW PHOTOGRAPHED BY JOEL SARTORE AT GEORGE MIKSCH SUTTON AVIAN RESEARCH CENTER, BARTLESVILLE, OKLAHOMA The American crows in Gabriella Mann’s Seattle neighborhood love her, and the eight-year- old girl has the goods to prove it. She places a plastic jewelry box on a kitchen counter and lifts the lid.