THEY'RE the crows that keep on giving.

An amazing article in the online BBC News Magazine tells the story of eight-year-old Gabi Mann, who feeds the crows in her Seattle garden - and is given gifts by the birds in return.

It started when Gabi was four and frequently dropped food, as one does at that age (and, indeed, at my current age; I usually budget for at least a 20 per cent loss). Crows - rooks by the looks - came down to inhale the free nosh and soon learned to look out for the unwittingly generous infant.

And Gabi soon learned to look out for them, putting out peanuts and dogfood for their delectation. Without going all anthropomorphic on you, it seems the birds appreciated this largesse.

In return, they started leaving shiny trinkets on the food tray. They didn't purchase these down the mall. This is real life, not a cartoon, more's the pity.

The gewgaws were discovered by the crows during their routine poking aboot in the surrounding area. Decent pickings too: an earring, a hinge, buttons, paper clips, beads, Lego piece, screw, a polished rock and, best of all, a heart-shaped knickknack.

"It's showing how much they love me," said Gabi, in a way that reminds you that kids are magic.

Really makes you wonder, though, doesn't it? Recently, working in my garden, I took a break and, though I felt a berk, decided to try the meditation I'd learned at evening class. I got into a deep, dream state - mainly about Hibs and food - and when I awoke, a robin was sitting at my feet.

Mark this: he looked all fluffed up and happy. True, I'd put food out nearby. But still I conclude: whether from peaceful vibes or food, birds are capable of joy.

I think they, or crows in particular, are also capable of having a laugh. On both Arthur's Seat and Blackford Hill, in Edinburgh, I've seen rooks taunting bumptious mutts, edging up close and cawing in their coupons. I like, too, the way they harass horrible hawks, never giving them a minute's peace on their murderous missions.

Crows kill too. I've seen it, and magpies are deplorable. But nobody's perfect, and we need to focus on what we and other species have in common.

I never thought birds did gift-giving, right enough, and would even concede that some of their presents are better than the Fred Dibnah's Industrial Chimneys DVD set I gave to an ex-girlfriend (she wasn't ex at the time but became so soon after).

The story of Gabi and the crows gives us food for thought. Just as the crows give thoughtful gifts for food.