13

The girl who gets gifts from CROWS: Eight-year-old leaves food for birds and they bring her beads and pendants in return

Most little girls will exchange bracelets and gifts with their closest friends, but one eight-year-old has been receiving trinkets from a more unusual source - the birds in her garden.

Gabi Mann, from Seattle, Washington, feeds the crows that visit her home with peanuts and they bring her gifts in exchange.

The youngster has built up collection of more than 70 shiny beads, buttons, pieces of metal, brightly coloured plastic and foam - all left for her by her corvid companions.

Among her most prized presents from the neighbourhood crows is a pearl-coloured heart.

'It's showing me how much they love me,' Gabi told the podcast The BitterSweet Life and the BBC. 'They give me all the special stuff you could ever find.

'We know these are from the crows that sometimes they are rusted and dirty and nothing like what a person would carry around. Sometimes we find them on the bird feeder.'

Her strange relationship with the birds began in 2011 when as a four-year-old she would accidentally drop food.

Groups of crows began loitering around the family house hoping to pick up the scraps Gabi left behind. When she started going to school, Gabi began feeding them her lunch.

The birds then started lining up to wait for the youngster to get off her bus at the end of the school day.

Two years later Gabi and her mother Lisa began leaving food outside in their garden on a daily basis - filling the bird bath with water and leaving peanuts on feeders.

As Gabi throws the food for the birds, crowds of crows - known as a murder - gather on telephone lines and the nearby fence.

In return the crows now leave trinkets on the empty bird feeder - including a broken light bulb, earrings, pieces of Lego, rusted screws, polished rocks and glass beads.

Gabi keeps all of the bits in carefully labelled pots and ranks them according to her favourite.

She said: 'I think they know my favourite colour - blue. They know that I like Lego and shiny things. They are my type.'

Crows are known to be highly intelligent creatures - capable of solving complex puzzles and problems to obtain food.

Experts say they can often form strong bonds with people that feed them, but equally can mark out those that they consider a threat.

People who have thrown stones at crows or tried to help an injured chick can find themselves mobbed by the creatures for weeks or even years afterwards.

In perhaps the most astonishing story, however, Gabi's mother Lisa describes how the crows in their neighbourhood appear to keep watch over the family.