Food and Feeding Habits of the American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos.
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FOOD AND FEEDING HABITS
Crows are remarkably adaptable birds that will feed on a wide variety of foods, both natural and manmade, although some foods are favored over others and individual crows may have individual preferences. Some of the foods they have been observed to eat are as follows.
All of the following are listed in various publications quoted in "The Life Histories of North American Jays, crows, and Titmice", Brent 1946: Insects (primarily beetles and their larvae and grasshoppers, locusts and crickets), spiders, millipeds, crustaceans, snails, reptiles, amphibians, wild birds and their eggs, poultry and their eggs, small mammals and carrion,May beetles, wireworms, caterpillars, grubs, cutworms, earthworms, clams, scallops, mussels, sea urchins, dead fish, marine invertebrates, dead seal, dead trout, , garbage, road kills (including dogs, cats, chickens, opossums, pigs and skunks) snakes, slaughter house waste, corn, sorghums, wheat, apples, almonds, beans, peas, figs, grapes, cherries, various wild fruits (including sumach, poison-ivy, poison-oak, bayberry, dogwood, sour gum, wild cherries, wild grapes, Virginia creeper, and pokeberry), meadow mice, star-nosed moles, short-tailed shrews, cranberry, juniper berries, smilax winterberry, nightshade berries, barley, corn, buckwheat, pumpkin or squash seeds.
More recently, urban crows will enjoy feeding at garbage dumps, dumpsters at fast food restaurants, picnic areas, and any place where human food waste is available. I have personally observed a crow flying by overhead with an entire slice of pizza in its beak. (MJW)
Crows are most comfortable feeding on the ground and generally, if you want to attract them, all you have to do is scatter food around in an open location. Itís helpful if it is highly visible food that crows will recognize, and the simplest and most easily obtainable item is peanuts in the shell. If you scatter these around, if there are crows in the neighborhood, sooner or later they will arrive to feed on them.
The most likely scenario is, that before crows show up, blue jays (or other local jays) will discover the peanuts and will quickly carry off them off. Jays are much less cautions than crows and will zoom in to snatch up food long before crows make their appearance known. You may have to throw out peanuts for a few days before the crows are attracted by all the jay activity, check out the area for hidden hazards, and finally, carefully approach the food supply. Once they have decided the area is safe, you should have regular visits from crows whenever you put out food.
A regular schedule of feeding helps. Crows seem to most actively feed early in the morning and then again in the afternoon, with a kind of casual foraging in between. The other thing to note is that crows love water. They need to drink a lot and they love dunking food in shallow water and bathing in it in good weather. If you locate a birdbath near your feeding station, you are likely to see a lot more crow (and other bird) activity, particularly if there is no other water source in the immediate vicinity.
There a few things you will soon notice once you begin feeding crows. One is that they can eat an amazing amount of food and, what they canít eat, they will carry off and cache (hide). Its best if you set a limit on how much you are going to feed the crows each day and stick to itÖwhich, of course, you wonít. The next thing youíll notice is that no matter what you choose to feed the crows, something else will come along to join in the feast. Blue jays will rob you blind of peanuts and other seeds. Squirrels will join in the party. Cats will show up if you put out kibbled cat or dog food, which is one of the best and cheapest of crow foods. And small birds of all sorts will also get in the act.
Although itís not their first choice, crows will take food from a raised, open platform. Iíve found that a thin, smooth, round metal pole will generally frustrate squirrels and cats, particularly if you grease the pole! Currently I am using a 13 inch round feeding tray made by ďDroll YankeeĒ, mounted about six feet off the ground. I have one of those old style concrete birdbaths set just a few feet away. Iíve found that its wise to have a very heavy saucer part on the bath, because cats will like to jump up on it for a drink and fat urban kitties can easily upset light ceramic baths.
Itís particularly important to keep your birdbath ice free in winter, particularly in long cold dry spells without snow on the ground. There are birdbath heaters that you can buy or you can defrost the bath in the morning with a watering can filled with hot water. If you keep a consistent supply of water available throughout the winter, the birds will thank you with their presence.
As for what you should feed crows, thatís the easiest part of the whole business. As I mentioned, kibbled cat or dog food (pea sized chunks) is cheap and provides complete nutrition for the omnivorous crows. Meat scraps are always a hit as is cheese and egg yolk. Sunflower seeds, peanuts, in or out of the shell, and just about anything that a teenage boy would love. Unless you provide so much food that the crows donít ever have to forage for themselves, you really donít have to worry about ruining their diet. Oh, and some folks will call the crows in one way or another, a crow call or whistle or bell or whatever, when they feed them. The crows generally become quickly accustomed to the feeding signal and quickly appear when they are called.
In the spring, however, when the crows are laying their eggs and have young in the nest, you might want to be more particular about providing nutritious foods, particularly egg yolk and dog or cat food, to help ensure healthy fledglings.
And thatís about it. Weíd be happy to hear your experiences with crow feeding or answer any questions you might have at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In early May 2000, I personally observed a crow flying overhead carrying a garter snake that was about a foot long in its beak.
A resident of an assisted living facility reported (May 2000) that the crows were eating all the fish out of their pond. Exactly how they did their fishing was not reported.
YOUR OBSERVATIONS OF CROW FOOD CHOICES AND FEEDING BEHAVIOR ARE VERY WELCOME. Please sent observations to email@example.com. Unless you indicate otherwise, your observations will be published on the website with your name included.
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