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Gold: C.I.A. Corvid Intelligence Agency

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Click here to watch 11 min video segment



Entry Submission: Interpretation Canada Awards of Excellence
Entrant name:  Claudette Landry 
Title of entry:  C.I.A:  Corvid Intelligence Agency
Organization: Kananaskis Country:  Alberta Parks
Category: Personalized Interpretation- Public
 
Contains: Project Description, Script, and 3 Classroom Follow-up Activities (scroll down)
 

Project Description


This interpretive program was developed/written by Julie Burkitt with supervision by Daniella Rubeling (Interpretive Supervisor) in the spring of 2011. Julie Burkitt presented this solo musical interpretive theatre program in amphitheatres in Kananaskis Country in the summer as well as in Calgary area schools in the 2011-2012 school year. Goals and Learning objectives: 
 
1. Introduce the audience to our resident species of the Corvidae Family: raven, black-billed magpie, Clark's Nutcracker, the 3 jays (blue, gray and Steller's) and the migratory crow. How can they be identified in the field? Look at distinctive markings, coloration, shape, size, etc. Prominent, easily identifiable and bold, members of the crow family are an easy group to get to know for novice birders. 
 
2. What are the characteristic traits of this family of songbirds (believe it or not, they're songbirds)? What are their similarities? Differences? Look at the various niches these birds occupy in this harsh environment. What type of habitat does each species prefer? What are their food preferences? The success of these birds is due in large part to their opportunistic feeding behaviour: from insects, to roadkills for the raven, to seeds in other species. Delve into the various techniques used for acquiring food: from harassing coyotes and other birds by ravens, to food stashing by many. Look at specifics such as the specialized sublingual pouch in Clark's nutcracker for storing and transporting seeds and the food bollus made by gray jays. 
 
3. Discuss family life of certain species. For instance, what are their lifespans? When do they breed? Look at mating rituals. Delve into display flights during the mating period. Do they all mate for life? 
 
4. Which ones migrate and which don't? a. where do the migrators go? b. adaptations to winter survival of non-migrators (eg. food storage) 
 
5. Look at the many and fascinating relationships Corvids have with other creatures. 
 
6. So how smart is this family? Bring out examples that demonstrate these birds' intelligence. The whole family also exhibits excellent memory for food stashing. 
 
So What? Their relative abundance, curiosity and intelligence have meant the potential for conflict with members of the abundant, curious and intelligent human species. What is their relationship with humans now? As well, reiterate the role that these birds have to play in natural ecosystems and why they are important. Look at specifics such as keeping garbage down (carcasses), keeping bird populations and insect pests under control, the important role that Clark's Nutcrackers have in the reproduction of trees such as the Limber and White Bark Pine. 
 
Intended audience
Camping audiences (families) In Peter Lougheed Park, Bow Valley Park, and Mt. Kidd RV Park in the summer, and elementary schools in the fall/winter. 
 
Theme
The Corvidae family is an intelligent and highly adaptable family of birds which is extremely successful at surviving the rigours of the foothills and mountains of Kananaskis Country. How is our mandate fulfilled: This interpretive program fulfills Alberta Parks' vision "to inspire people to discover, value, protect, and enjoy the natural world and the benefits it provides for current and future generations". 
 
Background information about the asset being interpreted
Members of the crow family are often overlooked and even despised by many. This program helps park visitors and students in schools to learn about the important role various species have in our mountain ecosystem. It is also an important tool to teach all audiences about the plight of the threatened White Bark Pine tree populations that extend from the Canadian Rocky Mountains through to the Western United States and their dependent relationship with the Clark's Nutcracker – one of the Corvid species highlighted in the program. 
 
Demonstration of sustainable practices in interpretation
Many of the costumes were created by purchasing dresses at Value Village and sometimes adding components that would help to identify various features from each of the bird species. Props and costumes were made of durable fabrics or components that can be re-used year after year. All graphics are laminated so they can be re-used. This program was designed to be used both for our family camping audience as well as in Calgary and area elementary schools. It may also be remounted in future years in Kananaskis Country or in other Alberta provincial parks with only slight revisions to the script.
 
Demonstration of excellence and best practices in heritage interpretation
This musical interpretive theatre program demonstrates excellence and best practices in heritage interpretation by providing an inclusive interpretive experience that allows participants of different ages and with different needs and varying levels of ability to learn about the Corvidae Family. The writing in this program is an excellent example of "finding the story in the information". Throughout the program development audience learning styles were taken into account and incorporated to ensure that visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners were fully engaged in this program. The interpreter's stage presence and passion for the information, as well as her ability to differentiate between characters brought these species and their story to life for all audiences. A script was also made available from the interpreter at all presentations for the hearing impaired to follow during the program and this was advertised along with the program.
 
Program Participants
Julie Ryan – Park Interpreter: researched, wrote and presented this program. She constructed costumes, altered existing ones, and gathered educational images for graphics in the program. Daniella Rubeling – Interpretive supervisor: directly supervised Julie in the development of this program; brainstorming storyline and characters, editing script, construction of props, critiquing dress rehearsal. Claudette Landry – Interpretation Coordinator: Oversees entire Kananaskis Country Interpretive Program. Directly involved in brainstorming storyline and characters, critiquing dress rehearsal. Seasonal interpreters Kayla Vickers, Ali Cole, and Duncan Baker, and Quebec practicum student Mathilde Boisse assisted in brainstorming the storyline, and supported Julie in the construction of props and costumes, as well as critiquing the dress rehearsal. Audio technician (contractor), Mark Tierney compiled sound effects, voiceovers, and music onto a CD. 
 
Project plan
The program planning form (shown above) was prepared/revised over the winter months and given to Julie on May 1st. Coincidentally, a talk was presented by Alberta Park's senior ecologist Joyce Gould on research that she was undertaking regarding the relationship between Clark's Nutcracker and the White Bark Pine during the pre-season interpreter training workshop. This talk provided inspiration and a focus for this interpretive program which was brainstormed by the interpretation team the following week. Research, scriptwriting and scene edits occurred in May with the final script and lyrics being completed for June 1st. Current Alberta Education curricula were also incorporated during the writing process to ensure the program met the needs of Grades 1-3 teaching goals. Props and costumes were bought and/or constructed/gathered/altered in June. Existing graphics were gathered and new ones constructed. During the writing process, Julie selected songs from the Kananaskis Country interpretive song library to write interpretive lyrics to. In June, the program sound effect CD was put together. Dress rehearsal was scheduled for the end of June. The interpretive program was presented for the first time to the camping public on July 6th. The video submitted for judges was filmed on August 3rd. The small classroom follow-up was developed by Julie in August to complement the gymnasium presentation in schools. Script revisions were made for school presentations in the fall. The first school program occurred on October 3rd, 2011. 
 
Budget  under $15,000
 
Program Length: 50 minutes segment of program video (11.5 minutes) submitted
 

Script


For elementary school program presentations, this script was condensed and classroom activities were added (scroll down for activities). 
 
INTRO Julie: Good evening everyone, how is everyone doing tonight? Fantastic! Welcome to the show, my name is Julie and I am a park interpreter with Alberta Provincial Parks right here in beautiful Kananaskis Country! Tonight's show is all about the Corvid family or 'Corvidae,' (graphic) more commonly referred to as the "Crow Family." This is a family I'm sure you're all well acquainted with, as you can find Corvids on every continent except Antarctica and in every country except New Zealand. They are in fact songbirds, in the same group as some of the most beloved birds like robins… 
 
CUE 1a 
 
SFX: Robin Song 
 
…and chickadees; 
 
CUE 1b 
 
SFX: Chickadee Song 
 
…however, they are not known for their singing. 
 
CUE 1c 
 
SFX: Crow song 
 
What Corvids are known for is their extreme intelligence, which is what makes them so appealing. Corvids have the largest brains relative to body size of all birds and are believed to be the most intelligent of all birds. The Corvids you may see in Alberta are the Black-Billed Magpie, and the Blue Jay (graphics) – but since we don't have many of these birds here in Kananaskis Country - they will not be featured in tonight's show. But some of the Corvids you will see in K-Country are the Gray Jay (graphic), Stellar's Jay (graphic), the Clark's Nutcracker (graphic), the American Crow (graphic), and my personal favorite – the Common Raven (graphic). 
 
The Common Raven has quite a reputation, as it has been featured in many mythical stories throughout history! For example, Ravens were often an emblem in battles that symbolized and predicted death, which makes sense since wherever death occurs in nature, a raven is more often than not, first to arrive, or waiting for something to die in anticipation of a meal soon to come. Closer to home here in Canada, the Haida, and other First Nations people of the BC coast believe Raven (Graphic) is the most powerful of all mythical creatures – like a God, Raven created the world and, by a very involved piece of trickery, gave it the sun, moon and stars. The myths and mysteries surrounding these birds are plentiful. And with good reason! Have you ever looked at a raven and thought "he looks as if he knows something that I don't…" Like they have a secret they are protecting. Well what if they were!? What if they did have secrets? What if there was a secret Corvid agency? It would make sense considering how smart they all are! What if there was something like the CIA: the Corvid Intelligence Agency…that would so cool! They could be watching us right now…. 
 
(interp exits) 
 
SCENE 1 CUE 2a 
 
SFX: Mission Impossible Music 
 
(Enter Raven flying through audience, scoping out area, sees pile of garbage and stops to eat it) 
 
CUE 2b 
 
VO Chief: Raven. Agent Raven do you copy? 
 
(Raven is a Maxell Smart-type character – confident, but a little bumbly) 
 
R: Raven here, sorry Chief, I came across something on my scouting flight that required my…uh…attention. 
 
VO Chief: Agent Raven… were you eating garbage again? That was not your assignment. 
 
R: (Clears throat) I was just trying to be thorough chief. I had to make sure there was no...uh…evidence in here…right, evidence. Crucial part of being in the CIA you know. Leave no slope un-scoured, no rock unturned, no carcass un-eaten, no garbage bag un- opened. You never know what you might find in one of these things…like leftovers… I mean…evidence. And those humans make it so darn easy too! They leave one of these black garbage bags lying around and I can't wait to rip it open! Or those backpacks always have good stuff in them too and lucky for me, zippers are not Raven proof! It's so easy! 
 
CUE 3 
 
VO Chief: Agent Raven, we have to focus on the task at hand. What did you find on your scouting flight… other than garbage? 
 
R: Well, I don't quite know what it means, but as I was flying high in the mountains, just below the tree line, you know the part on the mountain where the trees can't grow anymore? I saw these trees… I think they were pine trees…yeah pine trees. But they were dead chief, dead and white… I would almost say, ghostly. Curious… and curiouser. Something funny is going on here chief… I just have a hunch. 
 
CUE 4 
 
VO Chief: A hunch? That's not very hard data agent. 
 
R: Believe me chief, something just isn't right. But if you don't trust my hunch, you can trust this (taps on his head). 
 
VO Chief: Your hat…? 
 
R: No. What's under the hat chief! My brain! I am the smartest of all the Corvids, not to mention the biggest. The part of my brain responsible for learning and intelligence is more enlarged than my fellow Corvidae. That is why you made me first in command remember? That, and I am the oldest, I do live the longest out of my fellow - Corvids – up to to 30 years. You wouldn't really want a team leader who lives only 7 years, like a Jay. The turnover is so quick which makes succession planning a nightmare and we just don't have the budget for that kind of re-organizing. Hmm, I think we need to look into this Ghost Tree thing Chief…we can call it… Operation "Ghost Tree." 
 
CUE 5 
 
VO Chief: So Agent Raven, which members of the CIA do you think we should call in to further investigate this "Ghost Tree" operation? 
 
R: Hmmm… well there's me of course, the raven….oh. You mean other than myself? Well…ummm…; and I think maybe uh… oh right! The Jay's will be helpful, I mean looks have got to be good for something right? The humans love these guys! And gals, they do all look the same. Just look at that Stellar's Jay…(graphic) talk about a looker! 
 
Look at this shiny blue plumage. And get a load of his crest! You won't see any other bird with head gear like that in the Rockies. An essential part of the team, yes sir! Let's see, who else can I call in… there is another Jay that's around here, I just can't remember her name…she's gray, and she's a jay. A jay that's gray… A gray…jay. Now what is her name?? (Looks at graphics) Oh of course! The Gray Jay! (graphic) No wonder he's a favorite with the people, cute….very cute…. 
 
Now let's see what other agents do we have here (looking at graphics)… Wait a second…(Sees picture of a Nutcracker) Isn't that the Gray Jay? No, it's gray but he's got these flashy black and white wings and a longer bill. That's a sturdy bill too, almost like you could "crack nuts" with that thing… Looks like he'd be a good "Nut-cracker." (Thinking) Aha! It's a nutcracker! A Clark's Nutcracker; of course! Boy. I – am – good. 
 
Now, the other member of the CIA I think we should definitely call in for this operation is the Crow. He's one smart cookie, I mean, he's almost as smart as me. I like the crows, I even do a great imitation of one, listen (makes crow sound, or use sfx?). You might hear me from time to time pretending to be a crow (slaps knee) ah I am a trickster (pauses – reflecting on how tricky he is)… Anyway, it can be pretty easy to get crows and ravens mixed up, especially when I'm imitating them! Ha! But we can be easy to tell apart if you take the time to look. 
 
(AUD Crow flies by the stage – kid) 
 
Hey you there, crow! Come up here. How convenient a crow was flying by just as I was about to expand on the differences between crows and ravens… Curious…(pause). Ok, now as you can see, ravens are bigger than crows – up to 3 times bigger; big (points to himself) small (points to crow). I also have a heavier, thicker bill than my friend here (turn to the side). Now let's shake our tail-feathers; my tail is wedge-shaped and pointed, while his is flat or slightly rounded (turn and shake tail feathers). And I have a little more shag around my neck then my not-so-shaggy little pal here. Fly with me. (Two birds start to fly around the audience) Now as you can see, my little crow buddy here is constantly flapping his wings, well I'll do that too, but I can soar! Great job, how about a round of applause for my Corvid brother from another mother here. (Kid goes back to seat – Raven soars back to stage) I'll just soar back to the ground – that's why my code name is "black hawk" because of my superb soaring capability. (Does some fancy barrel roll and twisting around) Yup, I'm a pro at taking advantage of these wind currents up here, I can do somersaults, barrel rolls even fly upside-down. I don't mean to toot my own horn but… caw caw! 
 
CUE 6 
 
VO Chief: Ahem, Raven… the assignments. 
 
R: Oh right, sorry chief. I think we should call in our "Corvid Profiler." He can talk to the members of the team, and calculate whose skills may be best for this white-tree mystery. You can send him his assignment first. 
 
(Starts to exit and notices an orange garbage bag at the side of stage on the ground) 
 
Oh! An orange garbage bag…but there won't be tasty in there. (Notices something hanging out of it) Or is there? (Looks in bag) Aha, the old, "put your garbage in an orange garbage bag instead of a black one so the ravens won't get into it…trick." Well that may work sometimes, but not with this bird brain. 
 
(exits with bag) 
 
CUE 7a 
 
SFX: Putting tape in machine and pressing play 
 
CUE 7b 
 
VO Chief: (Sounds as he would on a recording) Agent Crow, this is the Chief, there are white trees being spotted in Kananaskis Country and other parts of Alberta, we don't yet know the cause. The CIA is looking into it further. This is your assignment: assemble the team of CIA agents and create a profile on each Corvid based on their individual skills. Once you have completed your task, I can then hand out more assignments for this "Ghost Tree" operation. Good luck. This recording will self-destruct in 2 seconds 
 
CUE 7c 
 
SFX: Small exploding sound 
 
SCENE 2 (Enter Crow – Nerdy – slightly stuttering character) 
 
C: Good evening. Allow myself to introduce… myself. I am Dr. Crow, Special Agent for the CIA. I have my doctorate in bird brain psychology which is why I was called in for this "Ghost Tree" operation, to create a profile on each and every one of you - agents of the CIA: Corvid Intelligence Agency. Aptly named I would say; as Corvids are indeed extremely intelligent. Our brain -to-body size ratio equals that of dolphins and nearly matches that of humans. Impressive I know… (Notices a bucket on the side of the stage) Ooo look a shiny bucket! (Looks inside) Ooo yummy. I could go for some of whatever that is…looks tasty! (Tries to put head in bucket but can't reach) I…ugh…can't…reach! (Spots a coat-hanger on ground) Hmmm, a discarded hot-dog roaster apparatus…this could work. (Tries to fish out item with straight hanger) Ugh…not…quite. If only it was hooked…Hey, I know! I'll bend it with my beak! (Turns around and bends hanger into a hook) Excellent. (Reaches into bucket and pulls out item) Mmm that'll be an excellent snack later (tucks it behind wing (the stage wing…not my wing)). See you ravens out there may be the 'smartest' (a little bitter) of the Corvidae, but we crows excel at using and creating tools! (Aside) Once when my cousin Harold got a little testy, he ripped off a stick from a bush and use as a weapon against another bird! Yeah, he's in anger management now. It's only a matter of time before I'm first in command (Puffs up chest). That little demonstration you just witnessed was also performed by my cousin Betty, who performed this exact display of intelligence for British zoologists in 2002. You can see her on the youtube on the internest. 
 
Indeed, all of us Corvidae have spectacular skills, but we are also part of a delicate group of birds. As you all know, we are all songbirds. (Clears throat and starts to sing – horribly) Our songs may not be as 'pretty' as some of our songbird friends out there; but we have other uses for our complex vocal chords. We are masters of mimicry. It is thought that we can produce a greater variety of sounds than any other animal, apart from humans of course. (Looks into audience and sees a raven) Yes, you there! Raven. Would you be so kind as to do a little demonstration for us? (AUD: Yes) You can mimic up to 300 different sounds isn't that correct? (AUD: Yes) Of course it's correct, because I am never wrong. Let's have a listen. 
 
(Audience member opens mouth and a variety of sounds come out – ) 
 
CUE 8a 
 
SFX: Frog 
 
CUE 8b 
 
SFX: Cat meow 
 
CUE 8c 
 
SFX: Dog barking 
 
Impressive raven, quite impressive! That may just come in handy for this operation…And your size may be helpful too (thinking). I've read in my research and read some tweets on the forest twitter that you have even attacked foxes feeding on a carcass that you wanted! Is that true? (AUd: Yes) We're lucky to have that kind of muscle in the agency! (Raven flexes) (Round of applause) 
 
CUE 9 
 
SFX: Red-Tailed Hawk 
 
A Red-Tailed hawk? Where? Does anyone see it? (Looking up) Wait a minute…is there a Stellar's Jay here? Ok, you cheeky bird, where are you? Aha! (Sees Stellar's Jay and walks over) Haha, you got me! I thought it might be you. You're so good at that Red- Tailed Hawk impression. Was there somebody feeding on a carcass you wanted to eat? (Aud: Yes) Did your impression of the hawk scare them off? Excellent work agent, excellent! But yes, imitation of other birds is a great skill to have in the agency. Perhaps with your talent at imitation, you can keep the other nosy birds at bay until we complete this operation. We'll keep in touch agent. (round of applause) 
 
Alright we've got the use of tools, the muscle, someone to handle the paparazzi, but we need to gather evidence. Who would be valuable at gathering evidence…? Aha! I know. Where is Agent Clark's Nutracker? (Clark's Nutcracker stands up). Perfect! You will be responsible for gathering evidence. Your great for the job, what with that sublingual pouch; the opening on the floor of your mouth beneath your tongue. (Graphic) But why am I telling you what a sublingual pouch is? You're the only one of us who has one! Hey can I ask you a question? (Aud: nods) I mean, you can hold over 150 seeds in that pouch of yours; and I don't mean little itsy bitsy seeds, I mean big seeds, like seeds the size of a kernel of corn! Doesn't it get in the way of eating and drinking? Or even singing? (Aud: shakes head) Really? So you would be ok with gathering evidence in that practical pouch of yours. (Aud: nods) Perfect! 
 
Our team is almost complete… but what about the humans? This "ghost tree" thing could very well be human related. We need to get closer to them and find out what they know…I certainly can't get close to them, what with my reputation of being a pest and this constant sinister look I tend to have (makes a sinister look). Hmmm, of course! The Gray Jay! She's always hanging around campsites. The humans love her. She can certainly get close enough to them for an interview. I'll tell the chief to call her in. According to my calculations, our team will soon be assembled and we'll solve this "ghost tree" mystery. We're sure to, what with all these great skills the CIA has. (Totally breaks out of nerdy character for song to break it down) 
 
CUE 10 
 
SONG – Flying Nerds (Formerly "Preen and Puff" Harry Squawker 2007) 
 
CHORUS Corvidae are special birds Easily seen and often heard We got special skills That we know how to use Corvidae rest assured Have the biggest the brain of all the birds Smartest – birds on wing. A bunch of flying nerds 
 
Corvidae are commonly seen But don't just look right past We have different adaptations We can complete complex tasks 
 
The Nutcracker uses its pouch To store 150 seeds And our vocal repertoire Makes us master of mimicry 
 
CHORUS 
 
Biggest brain to body size Next to a human's brain We use our smarts to problem solve Our intelligence will never fade 
 
But when it comes to using our head More productively, We crows will create tools Using our creativity 
 
CHORUS 
 
Ahem, back to the task at hand. So you see agents, we all have our skills that will help with this operation. I believe the next logical step would be to find Gray Jay and instruct her to interview some of the humans…her talents of 'cuteness' will certainly be an asset to her assignment. However my assignment is coming to an end. Unfortunately I won't be able to stay to see this operation to its completion. It's starting to get a little chilly and I do believe winter will be approaching soon. Unlike the rest of you my fellow Corvids, we crows take off south and west for the winter months, I mean sometimes I only as far as Golden B.C, but my other colleagues may travel further. So I bid you farewell. Good luck my fellow agents! 
 
(Exits) 
 
CUE 11a 
 
SFX: Tape being put in player and pressing play 
 
CUE 11b 
 
VO Chief: Gray Jay, your assignment for operation "Ghost Tree" is as follows: We may have reason to believe the cause of these white trees could possibly be human-related. Find the humans and get any information they may have regarding these "ghost trees." You are the only one who can get close enough to them Gray Jay, but remember, not too close… Good luck. This recording will self-destruct in 2 seconds… 
 
CUE 11c 
 
SFX: Slightly larger explosion 
 
SCENE 3 (Enter Gray Jay - -super cute, little girl character, soft spoken and delicate) 
 
GJ: Gee, the chief needs me for an assignment. Golly that's sure exciting. Hi, I'm Gray Jay. If you would like, you can also call me Whisky Jack, but I like Gray Jay, it's cuter, and slightly more feminine. Hee hee. It makes sense the chief called me in I guess. I mean you humans do tend to favor me over the other Corvids. I mean I am one of the smallest, and I'm pretty cute too, look at my thick fluffy feathers (twirls) weee. And you know what else? Even though I'm not as vocal as some of my cousins, I think I have the prettiest song! 
 
CUE 12 
 
SFX: Gray Jay 
 
GJ: Giggle. Pretty huh? (Aud: yes) Gee thanks, you're swell. So yeah, I kinda need to interview some of you if you don't mind. There's these white pine trees that Agent Raven saw, and I just wanted to see if any of you knew anything about it. (Goes up to Aud volunteer) 
 
GJ: Hi, um…would you mind telling me what you know about these "ghost trees" that are appearing up near the tree line? 
 
AUD: Aww look kids, a little bird. Look how cute it is with its puffy feathers! 
 
GJ: Oh thanks. Yeah, my feathers sure come in handy in the winter, I can puff them up real big to trap my body heat. But I'm actually here to ask you some serious questions. Have you noticed any dead pine trees around? If so, what kind of pine trees were they? 
 
AUD: Oh listen, it's chirping! Cute! I wonder what its saying? 
 
GJ: Oh, I thought I was being quite clear. Umm, actually, I just wanted to ask you about these white pine trees and… 
 
AUD: Are you hungry little fella? Do you want some sunflower seeds? 
 
GJ: Oh, thank you, but I told the chief I wouldn't get too close…I've been known to get a little too close to you humans….I shouldn't…but if you really really want to give me some…ok sure! (Takes food) So, I guess you don't know anything about the pine trees? 
 
AUD: Awww, look it's eating right out of my hand! You want some more little fella? (Gives GJ more) 
 
GJ: Oh…Well….Why not?! Thanks! I guess I'll just go interview someone else! (Round of applause) 
 
Those sure were some nice folks. Even though I didn't get much information, I still got some easy food. I mean, I know the Chief said not to get too close, but I just couldn't help myself! No Corvid would resist the chance at free and easy food! We are all "opportunists" (graphic) so we'll take advantage of any and all food we can get our bills on! You name it, berries, seeds, insects, birds eggs and little bird nestlings, giggle, and rotting dead animal carcasses! We're not very picky. (Looks at food people gave her) 
 
But gee I'm pretty full… I don't know if I want to eat this just yet. Maybe I'll just save it for later. (Pops food in mouth and pretends to roll it around with a bunch of spit then spits it out) Mmm, that's sure is a big ball of spit! Hee hee. I have these neat extra large saliva glands so it's easy for me to make spit! (Spits some more into hand) This way I can stick my food under tree bark and stuff and it will stay put! (Sticks food to tree) My spit may even help preserve my food, because it can last for up to half a year on a tree! And I'm pretty special I think, because none of my Corvid cousins use their spit! 
 
Yeah, I'm always collecting food! I spend about 95% of my day collecting food! (Finds another piece of food and spits it and stores it) And since I can't eat ALL the things I collect at once, I store my food in caches. (graphic of word) All Corvids do! They're sort of like big insurance policies. A "just in case" we're not be able to find food when winter comes. We'll hide our food in all sorts of places! I like to hide my food under bark, in old woodpecker holes, in branches or any other little nook and cranny. 
 
(Making a mental note-to-self) Ok… so I'm at the big tree, beside the little building and the benches… Sorry, I'm just making a mental note where this cache is. That's what we do you know! Hee hee. It's pretty neat! We Corvids don't have the best sense of smell, so we rely on our memory and our sight to find our caches. We can remember the exact angles between the caches and landmarks; so we triangulate! Hee hee. (Sees something else to eat and rolls it in her mouth and spits it out, finds another place to hide it). We need to have good memories because we can have a lot of caches! Lots! Tons! My cousin Gray Jay who lives near the arctic circle, where they have really long days in the summer, can make like, up to 1000 caches per day! And around here, the Clark's Nutcracker, who mostly eats whitebark pine seeds, may cache as many as 98 000 seeds in over 30 000 caches in one season! (Finds another piece of food and stores it). 
 
(Spots someone in the audience who has some 'food') Ooo golly! Look, more easy food! (Goes up to AUD) Um..hee hee, hi there, do you think maybe I could have some of that (bats eyelashes) pretty please? 
 
AUD: Ok kids remember what the amazingly talented interpreter said at the wonderful amphitheatre show we went to…Don't feed the wildlife because they could get used to humans. 
 
GJ: It's ok really, you can give me some if you like. Some nice people over there gave me some and it was really swell! 
 
AUD: And if they get used to getting food from people, they may have a hard time finding food when there are no people around! So we're not going to feed the bird ok? 
 
GJ: (Get's a little scary) Ummm…well…actually….JUST GIVE ME THE FOOD!!! (Grabs it) Hee hee, how about a round of applause. See, that's why you shouldn't feed the wildlife, because we can get aggressive. Gee, (Rolls up food in spit and stores it) what are those interpreter people telling you campers!? To like, not feed the wildlife and put food in your hard-sided trailer or vehicle when you're not around? Sigh, I guess it makes sense. Especially to keep away those bigger animals too, like the bears. They DO have a great sense of smell and can find ANYTHING! Even the food in our caches! 
 
GJ: Uh oh. I was supposed to report back to the Chief 5 minutes ago. (Takes out cell phone – and dials). Ummm…hi chief? 
 
CUE 13a 
 
VO Chief: Agent Gray Jay, what were you able to find out from the humans? 
 
GJ: Uh…gee Agent Raven not much, I uh, kinda got distracted…some of them had some real yummy food and… 
 
VO Chief: Not again Agent! 
 
GJ: Sorry Sir (sniff) 
 
VO Chief: Oh (melting) that's alright. Now get out of here you little rascal! 
 
(Exit Gray Jay) 
 
VO Chief: Hmmm… I'll have to call in another Agent. 
 
CUE 13b 
 
SFX: Putting tape in player and pressing play 
 
CUE 13c 
 
VO Chief: Agent Stellar's Jay. As you may know, operation "Ghost Tree" is a sensitive matter. We need to know more about these ghost trees. We don't want wrong information leaking out to the public. We need to keep other nosy birds out of this until we know more. They never have anything good to say about our family anyway…could be because we keep eating their nestlings…anyway, I need you to keep them at bay. Use your red-tailed hawk impression to scare them off if need-be. Good luck. This recording will self destruct in 2 seconds. 
 
CUE 13d 
 
SFX: Larger explosion 
 
SCENE 4 (Enter Female Stellar's on the phone – Mate of the Agent Stellar's – angry Brooklyn mother-type) 
 
SJ: What?! Again? Stelllarrr!! Can't they get some other agent to do the red-tailed hawk impression? What about the Chief? He could get off his tail feathers once and a while you know! I mean, I could be the chief too if all I had to do was pass out exploding recorded messages! Or what about Crow? Heaven forbid he stick around for the winter and actually do some work! I know, I know, important assignment, your red-tailed hawk impression is flawless, dead pine trees, your duty blah blah blah. Well when will you be home? Fine! (hangs up – looks at audience) 
 
Awww, are my little Stellar chicks hungry? Get it…Stellar chicks…Stellar's Jay (laughs at her own joke)…You want mommy to feed you? Ok open up! (Makes gross regurgitating sound and 'throws up' into some audience members mouth) Is that better!? Ugh, well kids daddy's not going to be home for a while…again! I mean I know he's your father and you love him, but sometimes I want to whack him over his crested head! Be picky when choosing a mate kids, because we Corvids mate for life, which is a long time. If you choose poorly, you have to live with the consequences. Sigh (composes herself) I'm sorry kids, I'm just upset. He's a very good mate. I just want him home, in the nest we built together out of sticks and mud. And he is a very good provider; why when I was sitting of top of you while you were still in your little eggs (Pulls out folder labeled 'photo album' (graphic) look how cute you were, he brought me food every day; which is a long time you know, almost 2 and half weeks until you hatched! So I guess I am lucky to have him. And vice versa! Girls (go up to little female chicks) when you get older remember to eat up and put on a few (refers to big hips), because Corvid males like their females with a little… or a lot… of extra insulation. Haha! 
 
CUE 14 
 
SFX: Clark's Nutcracker 
 
(Waves to stage right) Oh hi Nancy! Nice morning isn't it? (To her chicks) Wave to Aunty Nutcracker kids! Oh would you look at that, her chicks are so big already, they must almost be ready to leave the nest. Well I guess they would be big by now, The Nutcrackers – and the Gray Jays – (graphics) are the earliest of our family to lay eggs. I can't imagine, laying eggs as early as February! March or April is early enough for me! But I guess it is smart, it gives the chicks more time to gain weight for winter and time to get some experience finding their own food. Not that it matters, nutcracker chicks will hound their parents for food to no end after they leave the nest at 22 days or so. I mean, you will all beg for some food too, to an extent - after you leave in a few weeks, but not as bad as the nutcracker kids do! I guess some chicks just have a hard time leaving the nest! But her chicks (looks around if anyone is listening) are the least of her worries. Aunty Nutcracker is always sooo busy storing food. Her chicks certainly won't starve. I mean, she collects 2 or 3 times more than she needs! Talk about paranoid! But I'm not going to say another word about it, my bill is sealed! 
 
CUE 15 
 
SFX: Phone Ringing 
 
Hello? Raven! How are you? No I didn't hear! They hatched? Congratulations! Yes, of course, I'd love to come over and see them sometime. Sure, alright bu bye! 
 
Pppf, right have me over to the nest someday! Ha! I'll believe it when I see it; those Ravens are so secretive about their nesting sites that I used to think they were nestless! But then I heard that they nest on cliff-sides or in trees, so I guess they do nest somewhere! They gotta have some place to lay their eggs right? Well chicks you got some new cousins in the family, Aunt Raven's eggs hatched. 
 
Now I'm not one to gossip but your Aunty Raven was so worried this season, what with it being her first season mating and all. I mean she and her mate has been together since their first fall as adults, but didn't start breeding until now… 4 years lata! Talk about building up expectations! Oh kids, you should've seen the display Uncle Raven put on for her. I'm talkin' barrel rolls, somersaults, power dives, even flying upside down for a short period. Now that's what I call a courtship display! Your father never did anything as elaborate as Uncle Raven - for me! Sigh, chicks, the family life of us Corvidae can be a complicated and wonderful thing… 
 
CUE 16 
 
SONG – Family Life of Corvidae (Formerly 'Up on My Big Rock' (Bovid and Butthead - 1998)) 
 
The family life of Corvids, is a special thing We all mate for life, it's not a one time fling It starts with the courtship, males showin' off for us We'll choose based on performance, and males like us gals robust 
 
Family life, family l-i-i-i-i-ife of Corvidae 
 
Our nests are all quite similar, made of mud, sticks and twigs We'll nest in early spring, and lay from 3 to 6 eggs Us females lay on top of them, keeping warm and snug And the father will help out too, bringing berries, seeds and bugs 
 
Family life, family l-i-i-i-i-ife of Corvidae 
 
When the eggs hatch, out of their greenish-bluey shell The chicks need some food, straight from their mother's bill I'll feed them for several weeks, what are parents for? But after they leave the nest, they keep coming back for more 
 
Family life, family l-i-i-i-i-ife of Corvidae 
 
Oh! That song really made me miss your father! (Fanning herself) I'm a little veclempt. Talk amongst yourselves (turns away to cry). 
 
CUE 17 
 
SFX: Phone Ringing 
 
Gasp! Maybe that's your father! Hello? Oh honey hi, I was just thinking about you. You're done!? You did? Oh really? They're whitebark pine trees? That's interesting… So will you be home soon then? Ok, then you'll be home? Oh great honey. Bye! Oh wait, honey pick up some grubs for dinner? Ok bye! 
 
Kids, your father is just going to report to headquarters and is coming home. You stay here and I'm going to go get preened up! 
 
(Exits) 
 
CUE 18 
 
VO Raven: Agent Stellar's, thank you for standing watch and keeping other birds unaware of the situation VO SJ: No problem Agent Raven. You may also be interested to know, that there was a rumor flying around that these 'white pine trees' are actually whitebark pine trees! And they're all dead! So I asked around, and turns out, there's a survivor! There's a whitebark pine tree in a meadow just below tree line! Sounds like she's quite distraught. VO Raven: A whitebark pine eh…? Distraught eh? What about? VO SJ: I don't know, but I think it would be worth looking into! VO Raven: Thank you Agent Stellar's. You're dismissed. Hmmmm, a whitebark pine eh? I better fly over to that meadow and check it out! 
 
SCENE 5 (Enter whitebark pine – hypochondriac character- talking to herself) 
 
WBP: Ok, deep breaths, you can do this. You've been building up to this moment your whole life. 50 years, 50 years of waiting and now it's finally time for you to produce cones. Don't worry, don't worry at all. You'll be able to spread your seeds. Don't worry that every other whitebark pine around you is dead, don't worry that you are the only living tree, surrounded by creepy…dead white, 'ghostly' trees. You absolutely should not worry about the fact that whitebark pine trees are an endangered species. Doesn't mean you're going to die, it does not mean you are going to die. You've done everything right. You started your life as a little seed in the ground on this beautiful sunny mountain-side just below tree line. So why is everyone around you dead? They are started off the same way. (Started to doubt herself) They didn't do anything wrong. (Notices something on her arm) Gasp! Is that blister rust!? No no no no, is that blister rust!?(graphic of tree with blister rust?) Oh my gosh, what does this look like to you (runs up to somebody in the audience) does it look like a little canker? Do you think it looks like it's going to start at my needles, and quickly make it's way into my trunk where it's going to cut off my nutrient supply? I mean blister rust is the reason every other whitebark pine is dead, because of this blister rust, is that what this looks like to you!?!?!? No, no. Calm down whitebark, you've been through this before; it's just a little growth on your branch. You went and got it checked out at the hospital tree-r remember? The doctor said you're probably resistant to blister rust like some of those whitebark pines in the United States. Yes, some trees are probably resistant here in Alberta. But probably isn't certainty…(Deep breath). No, no you're ok. Something is going to come to help spread your seeds, and you will help to re-populate the forest with other whitebark pines, no pressure. No pressure. You shouldn't worry about the fact that your seeds are 'wingless' and can't spread on the wind like spruce and fir cones can. (graphic of spruce seeds compared to whitebark pine seed). You shouldn't worry that pretty much the only way to spread your seeds, is if somebody else does it for you… Don't worry that there are all these huge fir trees taking up most of your sunlight. It's not like you need sunlight to grow or anything (sarcastic)! You shouldn't worry about the fact that there are mountain pine beetles (graphic) just waiting to bore into your bark, (building up) slowly shut down your immune system, and slowly kill you over the span of a year. After all they don't just attack Lodgepole pine trees, they attack pine trees, you are a whitebark pine! (Breaks down) Yes, yes, you should worry! Look around! I am the living dead! I am definitely going to die! All the cards are stacked against you. No body is going to come and spread your seeds! I'm doomed! DOOOOOMED! WAAAAAA! 
 
(Up comes little squirrel to take some seeds) 
 
Oh hi. Squirrel! Yes! A squirrel! Do you want some cones? (Squirrel nods) Here you go! (Gives squirrel some seeds) Ok, now are you going to go spread my seeds around in a bunch of different little caches? (Squirrels shakes head) No? You're just going to put them in one spot? (Squirrel nods – and exits). Wait! Sigh, I guess I shouldn't rely too much on the squirrels anyway. They rely mostly on spruce and fir cones, and cache their food in one big spot; I need someone who's going to spread my seeds around all over the place. Sigh. 
 
(Up comes little bear) 
 
Oh hi, Bear. Have you come for some of my cones too? (Bear nods) Makes sense I guess - my seeds are 21% protein and 52% fat. But don't eat too much ok!? (round of applause) Bears are great and everything, but unlike birds, they don’t cache my seeds, 
and they’ll eat my entire cone and then digest my seeds, which doesn’t do me much 
good. Thanks anyways though. (Gives him a couple – starts to lose hope).  
 
 It’s hopeless! I’m never going to spread my seeds! All I want is a nice little Clark’s 
Nutcracker to spread my seeds and it will all be ok! Is that too much to ask? Is that too 
much to ask!?!? 
 
CUE 19 
 
VO Raven: Ahem. Excuse me Miss Whitebark. 
 
 Gasp! Who are you? Where are you? 
 
VO Raven: I am Agent Raven, I’m up in this tree. (WBP looks up to a tree). Are you saying 
you need a Clark’s Nutcracker to spread your seeds? 
 
 The nutcrackers will collect tens of thousands of whitebark pine seeds every year and 
those seeds are stored in tens of thousands of caches.  Since those birds will only come 
back to about half of their caches, the seeds that get left behind will eventually sprout 
and grow into new whitebark pine trees! 
 
CUE 20 
 
VO Raven: So what you’re saying is you need the Clark’s Nutcracker to survive and he 
needs you to survive as well…Curious…and Curiouser. 
 
 Yes we have what’s called a mutually beneficial relationship! 
 
VO Raven: Miss Whitebark Pine, you’re in luck! I am a member of the CIA: Corvid 
Intelligence Agency. The Clark’s Nutcracker just happens to be a member of 
the CIA and I can call him in for you. 
 
 Really!? Oh wow! Thank you thank you thank you! 
 
(Up comes Clark’s Nutcracker with sublingual pouch and holds it out for Pine) 
 
 Oh thank you so much Agent Nutcracker! (Loads up pouch with seeds!) And this is 
great because you don’t take my cones, you only take my seeds! Here you go! 150 
seeds!  Wow!  Your sublingual pouch sure can hold a lot! How about a huge round of 
applause for this wonderful Clark’s Nutcracker! Thank you! And thank you to the CIA! 
 
CUE 21 
 
SFX: Cheesy Music 
 
 (Cue awfully cheesy music) 
 
 So… I will be ok. I will! As long as Clark’s Nutcrackers have a home and keep spreading 
my seeds. As long as people are protecting the habitat and the forests of the 
whitebark pine, and promoting and supporting the research being done to help 
protect us endangered species. And…(picks up donation bucket) giving lots of money 
to organizations like the Friends of Kananaskis Country, a non-profit, charitable 
organization who help support a wide variety of initiatives being done in the park, 
(funded bear displays for bear days…) . As long as people are doing all these things, 
everything will be….Ok! 
 
(Exits) 
 
CUE 22 
 
VO Raven: Well, I think Operation Ghost Tree is complete! We found out that the “Ghost 
Trees” were actually dead whitebark pine trees.  But thanks to the CIA the 
whitebark pine seeds are going to be spread in thousands of caches by Agent 
Nutcracker, which as a result will hopefully repopulate the forest. A job well 
done! 
 
(Enter Interpreter with tape player) 
 
J: Well there’s just one more message from the Chief (press play) 
 
CUE 23a 
 
VO Chief: Hello everyone, a much bigger, important mission is about to begin. A mission 
bigger than all of us, a mission for animal and human alike! We all play a role 
in the forest; it’s up to everyone to protect the environment we live in. That 
includes you all sitting out there in the audience. This is everyone’s never- 
ending mission.  This message will self-destruct in 2 seconds. 
 
(Interpreter throws tape player back stage and plugs ears) 
 
CUE 23b 
 
SFX: HUGE explosions (marks the beginning of the song) 
 
CUE 23c 
 
SONG – Give Corvidae Credit! (Written to “Hard to Handle” karaoke version) 
 
Corvidae is the family, which we all know quite well 
Some folks see them just as pests, lookin for last night’s meal 
But they can do more than that 
They keep the forest floor clean 
When an animal is dead, they’re the first ones on the scene  
 
The Corvidae got a reputation 
But that is nothing but mis- information 
Corvidae play a role in the forest 
And it’s time we give ‘em credit for it, yes it is 
 
Staying here all year round, all except the crow 
Others got to have food stored up, for when it gets too cold 
So they cache food all year round 
Then find it underneath the snow 
Some seeds will get left behind, causing brand new trees to grow 
 
The Corvidae got a reputation 
But that is nothing but mis-information 
Corvidae play a role in the forest 
And it’s time we give ‘em credit for it, yes it is 
 
Actions speak louder than words, 
Keep your garbage stored up tight 
Keep your food to yourself, feeding wildlife just ain’t right 
Saving trees will help the Corvids, it’ll give them habitat 
Make sure that you do your part, protecting the forest is where it’s at 
 
The Corvidae got a reputation 
But that is nothing but mis-information 
Corvidae play a role in the forest 
And it’s time we give ‘em credit for it, yes it is 
 
CONCLUSION – Talk over music 
Although sometimes viewed as pests, Corvids play a big role in the forest. They are great 
scavengers, ridding the forest floor and ditches of left over carcasses and road kill. They help to 
keep insect and bird populations under control, and without the Clark’s Nutcracker, the 
endangered whitebark pine, would not be able to spread its seeds and reproduce.  
 
The Corvidae got a reputation 
But that is nothing but mis-information 
Corvidae play a role in the forest 
And it’s time we give ‘em credit for it, yes it is 
 
(talk over music) 
So next time you see a crow, or raven or gray jay, just remember all the great things they do for 
the forest, and remember to do your part by keeping your campsites clean, and keeping the 
forest protected so these amazingly intelligent birds can do their part. Tomorrow night show is 
called ________at 8:00 sharp! Show up a little early get a good seat. Once again, my name is 
Julie, I’m an interpreter for Alberta Provincial Parks right here in Kananaskis Country, have a 
great night! 
 

Classroom Follow-up Activities


45 minutes): Div 1 (Grades 1 (needs of plants and animals), 2 (small crawling and flying animals) and 3 (life cycles)
 
Word to the bird (5-10min) 
 Materials: 
• Poster board with graphics of 7 Corvids (Gray Jay, Blue Jay, Stellar’s Jay, 
Clark’s Nutcracker, Crow, Raven and Magpie) 
• Removable labels of names 
- Ask students to come up and place the proper name/label of the Corvid to 
the proper picture 
- Play ‘Eye Spy’ to explain the differences between all the Corvids (i.e. ‘eye spy 
with my little eye, a Corvid that has black and white wings and a grey head’ 
(Nutcracker). Or ‘eye spy with my little eye a Corvid with a big crest on its 
head’ (Stellar’s)) 
 
Crow or Raven? (5 min) 
 Materials: 
• Graphic of a raven and a crow 
• Removable labels explaining the differences (bigger body vs. smaller 
body, bigger beak vs. smaller beak, shaggy neck vs. sleek neck, soars vs. 
flaps) 
- Read out labels, and ask students to ‘show’ you if it’s a characteristic of a 
crow or raven. If it’s something that a crow has/does, flap your wings. If it’s 
something that a raven does, soar. (i.e. ‘which Corvid has a bigger beak?’ the 
kids would soar around. Or, ‘which Corvid has a smaller body?’ the kids 
would flap. 
 
Nestling Game (5 min) 
- This is an acting game. When the presenter yells out actions, the kids should 
act them out 
o Egg (curl up in a little ball) 
o Hatch (peck your way out of your shell) 
o Ask for food (from presenter or teacher) (chirp chirp chirp) 
o Grow adult feathers  (Shimmy, shimmy shimmy) 
o Learn to fly (fly and fall/stumble) 
o Leave the nest (fly, fly, fly) 
o Build a nest (collect materials) 
o Come back for food from parents (chirp chirp chirp) 
- You can do each action a few times, getting faster each time 
 
Nutcrackers and Whitebark Pine Trees Discussion and game 
- Show picture of actual size of Clark’s nutcracker, then show bag of 150  (store 
bought when allowed in the school; if not have students visualize popcorn 
kernal) pine nuts (comparable to the size of whitebark pine seeds). This is 
how big the seeds are and how many seeds they can fit in their sublingual 
pouch (that was talked aboutg in the show)! 
- Why do whitebark pine trees need clark’s nutcrackers and vise versa? Seed 
dispersal etc (discussion). 
o Show picture of whitebark pine seeds (no wings) vs spruce seeds 
(with wings). 
Game 
Materials - small card-size pictures of the following: 
• Clark’s Nutcrackers (2) 
• Whitebark Pine seeds (8) 
• Pine Marten (2) 
• Weasel (2) 
• Ghost Tree (dead whitebark pine) (5) 
• Spruce Tree (3) 
• Fir Tree (3) 
• Person (2) 
• Bear (2) 
• Gray Jay (3) 
- Give each student a card, and ask them to spread around the room. Choose 2 
students to be ‘Clark’s nutcrackers.’ The nutcrackers go up to other students 
and ask to see their cards, if they are NOT a whitebark pine cone they “fly” 
the other way, if they are a whitebark pine cone they take them by the hand 
and try and find another one. 
- Each nutcracker must find TWO whitebark pine cones. Once they have found 
their 2, they bring them to the presenter, where he/she will give them new 
cards for the next round. 
- Play two more rounds, choosing new nutcrackers each time 
- By the third round, the nutcrackers will not be able to find any more 
whitebark pine cones (since the nutcrackers from previous rounds would 
have eaten them all!) 
- DISCUSS how whitebark pine trees are an endangered species, which, in-turn 
could cause a problem for the nutcrackers. And if there are no nutcrackers, 
how will it affect the whitebark pines? 
 
End Discussion 
- How can we make sure the nutcrackers don’t run out of whitebark pine 
cones? 
o Protect the forest 
o Protect the whitebark pine trees 
o Respect wildlife 
o Give wildlife their space 
o etc 
 
END.