Crows.net

Featured Reports from the Crows.net Project.

horizontal divider

To return to the table of contents, click here. Site Contents

Crows.net Featured Reports

The Daily Crow

Crow on a snowy branch. 12/21/08. M. Westerfield photo.

From time to time - as often as something of unusual interest is submitted to the crows.net website, hopefully at least once a week - we will post a "Featured Report" on this page. We'll also be posting some of the most interesting reports of the past several years. So check back often! You might also wish to visit our "A Crow's Year" page where we detail the activity going on in the crow community at each season of the year.

Submit your crow observation reports, as well as any questions, comments, etc. to: crows.net@gmail.com

PLEASE NOTE: All observation reports should contain the location (Town/City/County, State/Province, Country) at which the observations were made and the date of the observations.

The Language of Crows: The crows.net book of the American crow

Available Now!

The Language of Crows: The crows.net Book of the American Crow.

Includes the CD, "An Introduction to the Language of the American Crow."

For more information and/or to order, click here: The Language of Crows

The crows.net bookstore is back with a good selection of books about corvids. More books from a variety of sources will be added in the near future. To browse the bookstore use the following link: Crows.net Book Store

POSTED: April 14, 2014. A Raven Cam at Wellesley College

A pair of ravens has very conveniently chosen to nest on a fire escape at Science Center at Wellesley College in Massachussets. A web cam has been set up and it is broadcasting very high quality pictures, with sound, of the nest. As of this morning at 7:00 a.m. there was one very recently hatched chick and one unhatched egg in the nest. This is a very rare opportunity to watch nesting ravens close up.

The Raven Camera at Wellesley College.

POSTED: March 31, 2014. A New Study Hopes to Find Answers to the Mystery of Crow Funerals. Crows have often been observed to gather and vocalize around dead members of their own species.. While the occurrence of these "funerals" is no longer in dispute, their function remains mysterious. Through both field and non-lethal lab techniques scientists hope to address if American Crows are using "funerals" to learn about dangerous places, people, and what areas of their brain are activated during these experiences. Click on the link below to find out more about this fascinating project and what you can do to help. And if you communicate with the project team, please tell them that you heard about them on crows.net.

The Crow Funeral Project.

POSTED: March 26, 2014: Crow Nesting Season Has Started. Crows have begun nesting in various parts of North America, Below are the nesting reports we have received to date.

February 27: Dunmore, Pennsylvania. I witnessed, on Thursday the 27th, a crow carrying a large “stick” from a tree to the top of our neighbor’s very-tall evergreen tree… Crows have been abundant in our area, but I’ve never seen them build a nest in plain view

March 13: Ventura, California. Two to four crows are busy building a nest, we weren't sure where the nest was till this morning. It is in the top of the tree on the right. Two flew in and there was no movement but it looks very heavily covered up there. We aren't sure as to which pair are the parents, but we have seen this for the past few years of them building a nest.

March 18: Manhattan Beach, California. Have just recently noticed what seems like two families of crows building nests in a large palm tree in my neighborhood in Manhattan Beach, California, USA. I have seen them taking nesting materials to both sides of the huge palm tree top, this is why I think there may be more than one nest. I have seen a crow twice now sitting on top of a phone pole with rather large twigs and small branches in their beaks. Then this crow has flown over to the nest. It is quite exciting...I will certainly be able to hear the new chicks after they hatch.

March 21: Irvine, California.Observed building nest near the intersection of Fitch and Cowan.

March 21: Neilsville, Wisconsin. I have a small 20 acre parcel of farm land with about 2 acres of tall pines next to the house that is used by a 15 to 17 members of a American Crow family. Every spring I notice them nesting. They started about two weeks ago building and I believe they are near or already have hatchlings. We still have about a foot of snow covering the woods floor and about 6 to 8 inches on the fields. I am well versed in their habits. They have 5 to 8 helpers constantly bringing food to the female. She calls them when she is ready for more. I have seen her fly over the house and yard a couple of times just to watch her return directly to the trees. Her verbalization is quickly answered by the others in this group. Soon they fly by silently over the yard and head for the nesting area in the pines. I have watched these 5 to 8 adults do this several times a day. I believe that there are two nests each on opposite ends of the pines. The fields near by have manure spread across them lengthwise that the birds feed from. They even drove a Bald Eagle away that had stopped to feed there in the field. The Eagle was here for three days.

March 22: Corona de la Mar, California. We have a crows nest in our backyard palm tree which they have been building for the last couple of weeks. There may now be eggs in the nest as the female is in the nest most of the time. It was interesting to read that there can be more crows involved that the male and female that have mated as there are quite a few birds always in the area.

March 23: Los Angeles, California.We have a nest with the first egg.

March 23. Tatum, New Mexico. My husband and I saw 4 pairs, each nesting on power polls just west of Tatum, New Mexico.

POSTED: February 27, 2014. A rather different sort of observation report.

OH, CROW

Oh, Crow, ubiquitous, raucous, rasping rake,
Whose raw exclaim arouses me from sleep,
In morning dreams, where I would rather stay,
I’m interrupted by your plotting pandemonium.
Oh, Crow, your tumbling, bumpy, black bonhomie
Challenges wide skies with wings of darkest daring,
Your flocking nests abound with family affair,
From whence you challenge me in cheeky indolence.
Oh, Crow, you dare to interdict the eagle’s aerie,
High avian echelon is vanquished in confrontation,
The golden lord is conquered with dark aplomb
And you rule supreme in your proud, brazen state.
Oh, Crow, villain and vagabond before man,
Your grace is more earthier pachyderm
Than dancing, prancing Pavlova.
Consistently you persist in your ebon daring,
And shiny gifts desert my home to garnish yours.
Oh, Crow, you coarsely mock my moseying mode,
I need your impudence to assure me of nature’s range,
Your blatant roguery implies there is subtle imagery
Lurking ‘neath the stark stealth of your darkling sheath.
Oh, Crow, prospering well in spite of man’s antipathy,
Do we share spirituality despite our antithesis?
Oh, Crow, you are as omnivorous as are we, and more!
You are fortunate we cannot eat your ghastly flesh.
But, given the occasion, you would consume us exquisitely.
Oh, Crow, Loki incarnate, did you design it that way?
Oh, Crow, in honesty, I’ve heard you yield a melody,
Depicting liquid laughter I translate as a finer soul,
Your evocative queries caress my ears with intrigue.
Oh, Crow, I know you have much complexity,
And I recognize the intricacy of you and I with God.

S. Paul Briggs, Duncan, British Columbia, Canada

POSTED 2/10/2014. Aggressive Crows?

I enjoy your website, but have not been able to find any information on a recent behavior of my supposed crow friends. I’ve been feeding them for years. It started quite accidentally when one day at Microsoft, I tossed a bit of my lunch to one. Some months later as I was walking on campus, a crow alighted in a small tree next to me, and as I walked down the sidewalk it followed me, jumping from tree to tree. I surmised it wanted food! So I got some roasted unsalted peanuts, and the next time I saw a crow, I tossed it a peanut. Now, five years later, they meet me every day and accompany me on my walk to my building as I give them peanuts. I’m not there every day, so there’s usually one or two stationed at the bus stop, when they see me they give a call, and the rest come. For the most part they are polite. They mostly light on the planters alongside the sidewalk, or on the ground next to me. (They know me whatever I am wearing, even if I’m under an umbrella, wearing a hat I’ve never worn before, etc. I don’t agree with that prof from UW who says they recognize faces, and thinks he proves it by wearing a mask. They obviously know who he and his cronies are, and that they are up to no good especially when they put on masks. I mean I’m sure they do recognize faces as well, but much more than that.)

Then I started leaving some peanuts and sometimes cat kibble on the porch rail of our house in Seattle, and over time the crows there have gotten to know me too. (They have a more aggressive, urban vibe than the Microsoft crows.) Most mornings there are 2 or 3 of them on the nearby phone wire, hoping for a handout. They got a little too familiar last summer (photo attached of one coming in the house and shaking the peanut bag). They don’t like the peanuts that only have one nut inside.

But the past year or so, I’ve noticed something different. Often when I am walking in the neighborhood or on campus, or this morning while I was going down the steps, a crow will swoop down on my head! They never exactly make contact – I’m sure they could hurt if they wanted to – but close enough so I feel their wings blow my hair, a fraction of an inch away. Also they are completely silent when they do this, they come from behind out of nowhere, and it startles and scares me. I yell angrily at them when they do this, and don’t give peanuts. I’ve even thrown pebbles at them after they do this (but my aim is poor). They don’t react, just light on a wire or tree nearby and look at me for a while, then leave. Mostly I am kind of hurt. I’m obviously their friend, so why do they do this to me? I used to think they were protecting a nest, or maybe they were young ones who just hadn’t learned manners yet, but this happens during all seasons of the year. I started to notice it at the end of last summer, after nesting season was well over. This has never happened to any of my family or anyone else I know, all of whom walk frequently outside and do not interact with the crows in any way. My daughter won’t even go walking with me anymore, because she’s afraid of crows attacking me. I feel that this is just a few individuals and most of them are nice, but now I walk around with peanuts in one pocket and pebbles in the other. Any idea why they are doing this to me, their supposed friend? (Theano, Seattle, Washington)

crows.net response: While it can be difficult to guess precisely why and particular crow engages in a specific behavior, because all crows are individuals and some are decidedly eccentric, I can make a stab at answering your question. Crows very frequently engage with each other in precisely the way you describe them "attacking" you. It isn't actually an attack,;it is part play and part "counting coup", a bit like kids playing tag and showing they are not afraid of the big kid. Really, you should be flattered. You are now considered part of crow society and worth interacting with as they would a fellow crow. It seems very unlikely that they will actually touch you and, even if they do, crows don't have the razor sharp talons and beaks of raptors and can do little harm on a fly-by. They probably enjoy being able to startle you and I suggest that you do your best to also enjoy this new aspect of tour crow friends' behavior. (Michael Westerfield)

Photo by Barb Evett.

POSTED February 5, 2014. The Crow on the Balcony

1/27/2014. I loved your book, The Language of Crows, and I thought I'd share my bizarre experience with you. I live in Long Beach, CA, on the 18th floor of a high rise condo building. We are the only high rise around in this historic district and are surrounded by old homes with large lots and lots of older trees. We have had peregrine falcons making nests and raising their young on the roof the one of the four towers for several years now--the crows all live down in the trees below.

My condo faces west, so I keep the levelors behind my computer closed at all times. To the left of my work area are the balcony doors, which I keep open several inches for air flow. One day, I was sitting at my computer and suddenly got up just to look outside at the ocean. When I got to the open door and turned my head, I was eye to eye with a large crow, who was sitting on the railing about 1 foot from the open door. Neither of us realized the other was there, so we found ourselves staring into each others' eyes--that crow just seemed to bore into me with those eyes!

He (I'm assuming) started to move towards me--I was scared, and started sliding the glass door closed. By the time he got to the threshold, the door was open only about 2 inches. Well, he stuck his bill in, as if to say--"open this door wider!" When I wouldn't do it, he started pounding on the glass with his beak! Gad! I was really spooked! Anyway, I would not open, and eventually he flew off. I thought that was the end of it, until supper time. My husband and I were in the kitchen having dinner (south-facing kitchen) when two crows flew by at our floor level, and proceeded to circle around, looking into the window!

We finally got up, and went back to the balcony door. I went out on the balcony, and the bird landed on the railing on the south side, farthest away, and started to walk around. Dennis came out behind me, and that spooked the bird off. We had several more fly-bys over the next few weeks. Finally, I got your book! I decided to put out some peanuts. At first they were ignored. Then I put some unshelled nuts next to some cracked open nuts, and he got it. He's a champ nutcracker now, and carries some of each handful off to his mate. Anyway, that whole series of incidents happened about a year ago--it was into the mating season when all the birds were looking for nest areas, and many assumed there were eaves on the condo tower they could nest in--they would fly under the balcony above to explore the possibilities, including the crows. Since then, I'd just been leaving roasted unsalted peanuts on the balcony table for him, in case he should pop by. (Note: I tried raw peanuts once--he opened one, dumped the lot on the balcony floor untouched, and flew off in apparent disgust---lesson learned!)

This Friday afternoon when I got home from work, I noticed someone had dug some dirt out of one of my flower pots on the balcony. I figured he'd come and gone, maybe had buried some nuts for later--but when I opened the curtains on the north end of the balcony, there he was, in his old spot! So this time I opened a little and talked to him. He was out of peanuts, so I got some and tried to put them on the railing--the railing tilts inward, so half of them fell off. I managed to get 2 to stick, and he opened and ate them right there. The next nut I slid towards him along the rail, holding the long end, and he grabbed it, so it wouldn't fall. We did that a couple of times, but on the 3rd time, he touched my finger with his bill, pulled back, and waited to see what I would do, like he was curious and/or testing me. I didn't do anything. So he decided to hang awhile--I decided to get some cheese and see if he liked that--he loved it! Like in the book, he took it, felt it, put down, ate a little tiny bit, then rushed over for more, until he had it all stacked up behind him on the corner of the railing--I assume this lot was going home. Anyway, after that, I had to go out, so I left.

He and his mate both came by this morning--she won't land, but she'll fly by and see what he's up to, and he always looks down to the trees when he's here, to keep contact with his friends while he's up here. He is quite comfortable now looking away from me, as well as preening his feathers, jumping down onto the little table, climbing on the patio chairs and even walking on the floor of this very crowded balcony. He's quite taken over, in other words! It is really great to get to know these wonderful wild birds! (M.W., Long Beach, CA)

POSTED 1/27/2014. Gull Proof Crow Feeders.

January 24, 2014. I wanted to address your query about gull proof feeders. Although crows prefer to eat off the ground, you know they will eat from an elevated feeder. I have sent a pic of my male crow lifting off from my feeder with a chicken wing. The feeder is a clay tray (glazed for better cleaning). It sits on a corner of my deck and is regularly used by the crows, squirrels and songbirds. The gulls, however, will not alight on this raised platform. So maybe a raised platform with a feeder in the centre would work for your reader. He didn't say if his food is placed on the ground or elevated. (Barb Evett, Peterborough, ON, Canada.)

Photo by Barb Evett.

POSTED: 1/14/14. Roost Location Reports Needed.

The 20123 – 2014 Winter Crow Roost Map is up on the Roost Location page at crows.net. For the past several years we have been plotting the location of as many communal winter crow roosts in North America as possible. If you know of a crow roost, we would greatly appreciate receiving information about its location, the approximate number of birds, and any other details you might care to send. The more precisely you can pinpoint the location – an intersection, street address, etc.- the better we will be able to track the movements of roosts throughout the winter. Reports should be sent to the email address above.

To learn more about winter crow roosts, check out the “Roosts” page link on our site index.

POSTED: 1/9/2014. Ideas for crow feeder designs needed. I started feeding crow the scraps out of the freezer last spring cleaning. I now feed about 50 crows a day. 3 pounds of hamburger mixed with 3 boxes of mac and cheese each day. The Seagulls are infiltrating badly. A few seagulls will eat the whole platter in a matter of minutes. The morning feeding now requires me standing guard while my crowation friends eat. Any ideas on a feeder design to keep the gulls out? I’m still scratching my head on a design as I watch the crows habits and contemplate a solution. (J. D.)

crows net Comment:Those seagulls are always a problem. Though seagulls and crows both prefer to feed on the ground, crows are capable of perching and clinging to things with their feet while sea gulls are not. I've seen crows hanging upside down on suet feeders, which seagulls definitely can't do. So I would think that any feeder design that required perching or clinging in order to feed, yet still gave crows enough space to feel comfortable would work nicely. Hmmmm. Now you've started me thinking about designs. I've never actually seen a feeder designed specifically for crows and to exclude gulls. Let me know if you come up with anything. Maybe I'll solicit designs on the website.

Anyone with a seagull proof crow feeder design that he/she would like to share, please send it to crows.net@gmail.com and we will post the best designs (or maybe all if there are not too many) here on the Featured Reports page.

POSTED: January 3, 2014. Crows.net looking forward to a busy New Year.

Time does fly by! I was distracted from working on the crows.net website by another project and several months seemed to pass in a flash, with no postings to the Featured Reports page. I am resolved to keep the website up to date this year, so please check back soon and keep the wonderful observation reports coming. (Michael Westerfield)

POSTED: January 3, 2014. Rolling Food in Snow

Put out leftover Christmas squares,cooked hamburger and old shredded cheese. The yummy squares went first, then the hamburger, lastly the cheese. The two adult crows carefully rolled each choice in the snow until well covered before flying away with it. The youngster didn't do so. Was it part of a caching technique or for moisture?? Wonder why? B. from New Brunswick ,Canada.

crows.net Response:Crows often dunk their food in birdbaths, puddles, etc., and I imagine rolling it in the snow is a variation of this behavior. Dunking helps soften food and provides water to drink. The moisture also helps activate the crows’ taste buds, which improves the taste of the food and also helps them to determine by the taste if new foods are safe to eat. Although crows may dunk food any time, it seems to be particularly associated with feeding young chicks in the nest, as many humans discover when, to their dismay, they find a variety of crow food items in their birdbaths in the Spring.

POSTED: April 24, 2013. Evading Eagles Shows Crow Intelligence

March 30, 2013. North east Oregon. I'm forwarding an observation report to you that further supports the concept that crows are without question the smartest birds alive. Had I not witnessed this event I would have questioned its veracity. I live in a very remote situation in north east Oregon. We have many predators here and a very large crow population. I've seen them do interesting and intelligent things before but not like this.

I was out early this morning looking to see what percentage of the elk in our neighborhood had lost their antlers while I was marveling at the spring time bird activity. Suddenly the crows rallied when a fully mature Golden Eagle came slowly cruising down our creek only about 50 feet off the water. They were hot on his trail and were about 15 in number. As the party moved down stream and out in a more open area I noticed a second very large Golden about 500 feet above this whole scene. In a very short moment the eagle soaring above dropped his wings and began a screaming dive that was unbelievable. He headed right for the pack of crows. I realized right then that those eagles were about to pull a hat trick and have a crow lunch. For once in my life I was sure the crows had been outsmarted and there was no way one of those black creatures wasn't going to die.

Well, I was wrong. I knew crows were smart but never would I have ever even considered their immediate unhesitating response to this situation. Think about it for a minute. The natural instinctual behavior of the pack of crows should have been to disperse in all directions and hope for a miscalculation by this nasty predator that was approaching at I'm sure more than 100 miles per hour. I personally would have never been smart enough to do what they did and they did it with no confusion and were able to turn the tables on the eagle. Mind you they had no radio communication with one another and they only had seconds to avoid death, with no time to fly into the wooded area about 70 yards away.

Acting together they suddenly all flew right under the lowest eagle in a pack that was so close together it almost looked like one big bird. About a second later the diving eagle had to swerve to miss his partner in crime and by so doing he lost his speed and missed all the crows. They then proceeded to mob both eagles due to their poor maneuverability as compared to that of a crow at equal altitude. Interestingly, before they left the canyon the eagles tried this once more and the crows response was the same. The big birds flew away hungry. Those black devils are way smarter than any other bird I'm aware of. Perhaps that's why we see so many crows out there in spite of the many predators not the least of which is man. These were all mature experienced crows. In the fall with the young birds on the wing the scenario might easily have been different. (J.T.)

HELP END CROW HUNTING

crows.net is beginning to organize a campaign to end all "sport" hunting of crows in America. During the next few weeks we will be posting actions which you can take to join the effort to end the senseless killing of these remarkable birds. If you would like to be kept informed about the campaign and how you can help, please email us at: end_crow_hunting@yahoo.com . Your email address will not be shared with any other person or organization. (Posted 3/2/13)

Sign the Petition to End Crow Hunting

crows.net has begun a petition to the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to repeal the regulations allowing states to have crow hunting seasons and to prohibit sport hunting of crows in the United States. Please use the link below to get to the petition on change.org. It only takes a minute or so to sign and ultimately it could help make the difference between life and death for America’s crows.

Petition to End Crow Hunting in America

POSTED: 2/1/13. A Series of Observations on Crow Recognition of Individual Humans, Crow Memory, and Use of Vocal Mimicry by Crows. (submitted by J.P.)

12/28/11. Olympia, Washington. I walk around Capitol Lake in Olympia, circumference about 1.6 miles, every day. Last fall I became interested in the crow populations that inhabit the large trees surrounding the lake park. I had seen the Seattle prof's Murder of Crows and was interested in his thesis that crows would pass on knowledge of a human who had annoyed them in some way. I wondered if they would also pass on knowledge of persons who were friendly to them. So I started feeding them bits of walnuts every day on my walk and they now wait for me every morning and follow me around the lake, picking up bits of walnuts and peanuts along the way. I wondered if they would recognize me if I walked clockwise, instead of my usual counter-clockwise perambulation, and they did. They also recognize me if I walk with or without my wife, in a different jacket, or with an umbrella covering my face. I think they even recognize our car when it pulls into the parking lot. I am waiting to see what happens this spring when the youngsters are brought out. I would like to see if they are instructed to come to the feedings of nuts. I wish I could distinguish the little fellows, for this would make the contacts more interesting, but alas they all look alike to me, except for one crow with a deformed foot! I will keep you posted on my observations. But it is certain, as many people have pointed out, that they do recognize me as an individual person--one who brings nuts every day and seems to be consistently non-threatening.

1/7/12. Some further observations about crow recognition of individual people, based upon observations of the crow population of Capitol Park and Lake in Olympia, Washington. My wife sometimes accompanies me on my daily walks around Capitol Lake and Park in Olympia, Washington. We now know that the crows recognize me, no matter when I arrive, what I wear, or the path I take, but we wondered if they would recognize my wife alone, even though she has never fed the birds their daily peanuts.

This morning, January 6, 2012, we drove down to the park. Instead of parking in our usual lot I parked farther down on the street and remained in the car. My wife walked alone back to our usual parking lot and started out on our usual path. Without hesitation the two crows that hang out in the parking lot flew down to my wife as they usually do to me or to both of us when we are together. And about 50 yards along the remainder of the flock of 25 or so crows lined up on the bridge railing to greet my wife, just as they usually do for me. Other walkers were present. So the crows not only recognize individuals who feed them, they also recognize the companions of such individuals. We were amazed that they would recognize my wife! What perceptive creatures!

Also, a comment on Professor Marzluff's experiments on facial recognition of humans through his use of masks. When I walk around the lake, crows on lawns over 100 yards away immediately recognize me and come flying to "greet" me at high speed. At this distance they cannot possibly recognize my face. They must recognize my gestalt, the total configuration of my size, characteristic walk, usual clothing, and so on. So it is not just by facial characteristics that crows recognize people: it is by their total gestalt. It stands to reason that they would recognize people in this way because that must be how they recognize the size, outline, and characteristic flight patterns of predators, for example, or anything thing else that it is in their interest to recognize.

Just thought I would supplement Professor Marzluff's work with my observations and conclusions. J.P.

2/17/12. More news from my observations of the Capitol Lake, Olympia crows. I walked around Capitol Lake this morning, February 17, 2012 with peanuts for crows in pocket. This time my wife and I were accompanied for the first time with our new 14 week old standard poodle puppy on leash. The two crow that usually meet us in the parking lot did not fly down to us for peanuts as they usually do. They remained high up in a tree emitting what sounded like a confused chatter, as if to say the peanut man and his wife are here but something is very different!

As we continued our walk, I tossed handfuls of peanuts on the ground and the crows started arriving from across the lake to eat. Then we heard and saw the most amazing thing: the watch crow in the tree over the peanuts greeted the arriving crows with a sound that we had never heard before: the bird was imitating a barking dog! My wife confirmed what I was hearing. This was apparently to warn the arriving crows that there was a dog present. My wife and I were stunned! What clever creatures our friend crows are!

Some thoughts about the wider significance of the barking crow that we saw this morning at Capitol Lake. The barking crow was clearly warning the other crows that there was, unexpectedly and counter to previous experience, a possibly dangerous dog now at the peanut feedings and that they should be aware of this and take precautions. The other crows did heed this warning. They landed far back from the five to six feet space they usually allotted to me. The widely recognized ability of crows and other Corvids to mimic is more than simple play or a cute ability that humans think as charming, but insignificant. The episode with the barking crow suggests that the ability to mimic dangerous creatures has survival value for crows and other Corvids and may have been a significant factor in their evolution.

January 26, 2013. It has been a year since I stopped walking around Capitol Lake in Olympia, WA. Over the previous year I had fed peanuts to the resident crows on daily walks around the lake.I was interested in knowing if the crows had remembered me after a year’s absence so as I was walking around the wintery lake park I spied a lone crow about thirty yards away on the grass. I then gave the usual whistle that I had used to announce my (and my peanuts’) presence a year ago. The crow looked up, cocked its head, and flew immediately over to me for peanuts. Within thirty seconds the whole lot of my feathered friends flew over. So, these little critters have an astounding memory: they can recognize a whistle after a year

POSTED: 1/11/2013: Experiences with Oregon Crows.

I live in Portland Oregon and have been feeding "my" crows for 3 years. I started with infrequent and random feedings here and there with whatever I had left over but felt bad about throwing out. Stale chips, stale bread, left overs of any kind. I have grown to love them more and more, which made my feedings a daily habit. Every morning when leaving for work, I give them their treats. It's a mixture of oats, raisins, maple syrup, granola made into a bar. Sticky soft and most loved by my crows.

Over the years I have seen the generations grow up, seen the flock numbers grow in the winter, had them follow me a half mile away from my home on my frequent walks, ( with me throwing out treats along the way, ) had them follow me in the car, had them recognize me from unimaginable distances, with hood and umbrella. They have come into my yard and eat my suet left out for the other birds. I have watched them teach their fledglings all kinds of habits and lessons, and one special morning at dawn, witnessed an incredible meeting. I guesstimate 50 crows, all in one pine tree, chatting and squawking and carrying on how they do for about 30 minutes. Then they all hushed down to a murmur and flew away in pairs together. Each pair in a different direction, and each pair on their own. The next would not leave until the previous two were almost out of sight. This act took over an hour to complete. Until finally all had left. An amazing and magical thug to witness.

They brighten my days and they always make me laugh. Watching them cache their treats under leaves and in gutters hoping to be so secretive about it. Watching them play in the wind when they fly and seeing them raise hell if a red tail is perched near-by. All of their acts and all of their intelligence is mysterious and wonderful to me. I love them to pieces and recommend forming relationships with these incredible birds to anyone and everyone. They always make me more aware. (Laurie, Portland Oregon)

POSTED: 1/1/13. Roost Location Reports Needed.

The 2012 – 2013 Winter Crow Roost Map is up on the Roost Location page at crows.net. For the past several years we have been plotting the location of as many communal winter crow roosts in North America as possible. If you know of a crow roost, we would greatly appreciate receiving information about it’s location, the approximate number of birds, and any other details you might care to send. The more precisely you can pinpoint the location – an intersection, street address, etc.- the better we will be able to track the movements of roosts throughout the winter. Reports should be sent to the email address above.

To learn more about winter crow roosts, check out the “Roosts” page link on our site index.

POSTED: October 19, 2012. Crows Fighting?

I'm sharing a "behavior" of my wild neighborhood crows.

A few weeks ago, one crow who I call 'OhBoy' was on the ground waiting for a peanut. I threw it out the window and walked away. A few seconds later, I heard loud, panic squawking and ran to the window. OhBoy was "fighting" on the ground with a smaller crow. OhBoy had the small crow pinned down on his back while the small crow squawked and flapped around. I thought OhBoy was going to kill the bird! I yelled at them and the small crow flew away, and up on the roof next door. I felt terrible! I yelled at OhBoy as he stood in the alley, and looked up at me waiting for more nuts. I've been giving peanuts (unsalted, in the shell) for 10 years and have never seen this before.

Well, today I saw another "attack" by OhBoy - but this time I saw the entire "attack" which maybe wasn't an attack, after all.

I threw some peanuts down to the ground where 4 or 5 crows were waiting. This time I kept my eye on OhBoy to see what he was going to do. He seemed preoccupied, and was busy looking at the crows and just had that "look"! Sure enough, suddenly he jumped on the crow next to him with his talons - but mid-stream in his smack-down leap, the small crow didn't fly away or bite back, it just flipped over on its back with its wings spread and feet up, squawking and flapping loudly, trying to "hold up" OhBoy with his feet. Why didn't you fly away?! And OhBoy pinned him down with his talons but did not poke, bite or squawk loudly back. But OhBoy was squashing him and looking straight down on him. I yelled "Stop it!!" and OhBoy just casually "walked" off the small crow and scooted over like 5 feet away...but never flew away.

Do the crows know each other, you think? (U.J., El Segundo, CA)

crows.net response

I suspect very strongly that the crows do indeed know each other and that quite probably they are close family members. I wrote the following "crowlog entry" a few days ago. I think that what you observed was simply a rougher version of an etiquette lesson, possibly because the youngster was too forward and did not assume the proper submissive posture.

10/13/12: 8:10 a.m. A few days ago I resumed feeding crows on the rooftop. This morning I heard a crow calling from nearby and went to the window, which has a piece of one-way mirrored glass installed so I can see without being seen. First to come was a young, very nervous crow who approached the food bowl warily and kept constantly looking up at the sky and in all directions. The crow who had been calling first remained out sight, but called periodically from a nearby location while the nervous crow ate. When the nervous crow departed the calling crow landed and fed.

For the next fifteen minutes or so, several crows – between 4 and 6 came to feed, loading up on kibbled then flying off and returning, presumably after caching the food nearby. The nervous crow seemed to always appear in the company a larger more experienced appearing crow. Finally after several minutes of taking and caching food, the larger crow seemed to become less tolerant of the nervous crow and kept forcing him/her away from the food bowl, by moving into his/her space and making pecking motions, while allowing another older crow to take food. The younger crow responded with rattle calls and crouching down and spreading his/her wings in a juvenile begging position. The bigger crow kept him/her away until it completed taking food and left. The smaller crow then also took food and followed in the direction taken by the first bird.

I strongly suspect that the larger bird was either the father or mother of the smaller crow, or possibly an older sibling from a previous year’s nest, and that the interaction was a lesson in feeding etiquette. (Michael Westerfield)

POSTED 10/10/12: Looking for Local “Captive” Crows for Recording Sessions.

As part of our study of the language of crows, crows.net would like to make recordings of the vocalizations of a number of “known” crows, crows that are residents in zoos, wildlife facilities, children’s museums, rehab facilities, private care, etc. within a reasonable distance of the northeastern corner of Connecticut. The object is to build up a library of vocalizations for comparison of similarities and differences among different vocalizations an individual crow and similar vocalizations produced by two or more crows. This would obviously be easier using known captive birds than birds in the wild, since wild crows are both difficult to tell apart and notoriously bad at keeping scheduled recording dates.

If have access to, or know of, a captive crow which we might be able to record, we would greatly appreciate knowing about it. Please email: crows.net@gmail.com .

POSTED: September 22, 2012. Help make a documentary on a winter crow roost!

As The Crow Flies: An Actuality Documentary About Communal Crow Roosts. "We'll chronicle the movements of a massive communal crow roost and share the experience with others who find beauty & wonder in the mysterious nature of crows."

The folks at Cicada Music, an audio services studio just outside New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, are trying to raise funds to produce a documentary film on the winter communal crow roost in their neighborhood. If you would like to help them in their effort, take a look at their fundraising page at:

Crow Roost Documentary

Your donation of as little at $1.00 will help them get the ball rolling. Their initial goal is only $500.00. Don’t worry, there’s no obligation and you won’t get trapped on the website. I’m going over there to donate myself right now. (Michael Westerfield)

POSTED: September 18, 2012. Crow Nonverbal Communication

I'm a bird trainer and wanted to report an observation on a behavior with a crow I had the other day.

I am training a young American crow with a wing injury that came to me from a local wildlife rehabilitation center. They want the crow trained to be used as an educational ambassador. The crow is living in my living room. I had her out running around the living room the other night. I was sitting in a chair working on the computer. She brought an empty walnut shell and dropped it at my feet. I didn't notice it until she pecked my leg. I leaned forward to see what she was trying to tell me. When I leaned forward she picked up the empty walnut shell and held it in her beak and looked up at me. I was curious if she was trying to tell me she wanted a walnut or that she was hungry. I went to the kitchen and grabbed a walnut and gave it to her. She grabbed it with her beak and went to her perch and began banging on it to crack the shell and ate it all.

crows.net asked: Had you fed her walnuts before? Had she seen you opening them?

She gets at least one walnut daily and she is very familiar with them. Sometimes I crack them for her and yes, she has seen me do this. (Lara Joseph, Toledo, Ohio.)

POSTED: September 4, 2012. Crows Mourning.

August 9, 2012. Delaware County, New York. I wasn't always a fan of the Crow. Living in a isolated wooded area for over 20 years now the crow has always been here.

I’ve lived in an isolated wooded area for over 20 years now and crows have always been here, but I wasn’t always a fan of the crow. They were here first, and they stayed even after we built a home so near theirs. I adjusted to their wake up calls in the early morning and to their evening returns. We live together. But now I have a new found love, respect, and appreciation of the bird.

It was 6:30 am, and I was standing at the kitchen sink looking out over the yard when I noticed what appeared to be a dead crow. Thinking “no way,” I turned to get the binoculars, at which point my husband , seeing the look of disbelief on my face, said “I already saw it and walked down to take a look." I was in shock. Very rarely do you see a dead crow, only occasionally by the roadside.

Not believing what had happened, I reached for the binoculars for a closer look. At that very moment the rest of the crows spotted their comrade on the lawn—and then it began. i find it very difficult to put into words what we witnessed next. For several minutes (at least 10) the crows carried on. Their reaction was deliberate, concise. They "screamed" "wailed" "circled" . A couple landed near the body, but only briefly. A few more circled. All landed in the trees nearby an mourned ! The call sounds varied from loud and deliberate to a wailing. At two different times I saw a set of two or three fly in and as they did the noise got louder. I wanted so badly to know what they were saying. As quick as it started it ended. I am guessing that it lasted about 15 minutes.

I still tear at the thought of what I had witnessed. I am glad my husband was here to witness it with me. It really is not anything that can be described—AND the emotion that I felt. We buried that crow near the flag pole and marked the spot. Our 7.5 acres is now known as the "Crow's Nest". For 20 years I toyed with different names to call our place. It was decided that day! A day I will never forget. Though I have always been an animal/nature lover, that experience was life changing for me. Now my quest to learn more about the Crow has begun! I admire them every morning as they fan out across the lawn looking for food. I hope they know I am a friend. (K. Meszler Delhi, NY)

Posted: August 12. 2012. Conversation with a Crow

San Bernardino County, CA. 8/1/12. I went to our local cemetery to visit my daughter's gravesite. Across the street from the cemetery is a large stand of tall pines. A crow was perched on the tallest of the trees and called out a few times, with no enthusiasm, sounding lonely and bored. I shaped my hands into a tunnel in front of my lips (vibrating them like a horn player) and shot bursts of air making a sound as close to a crow call as I can muster. I have done this often when I am alone with a crow (a little embarrassed to be seen doing it by anyone else). This time was very different. The crow began by calling out a few times and I would repeat in kind, the same number of caws. He began to mix up the number of caws (4,2,3,5,6,&7) at random for several minutes. By now a family in the cemetery was watching and listening to us exchange caws. I have never had a crow converse with me in the past in the way this bird then did with me. He next mixed up the number and timing of the caws, as if it were a Morse code (dash dash dot dot dot) and that went on for several minutes with varying patterns and timings between caws. It was hard to keep up with the exact timing and I was nervous as others were watching (six riders off a bus that stops at the cemetery). I didn't mess up very often and the payoff was tremendous. The crow now varied his tone of voice from angry screeches to happy calls, then soft sweet intimate calls, nearly whispers. I responded the same way each time. The whole conversation lasted half an hour. This is by far the longest I have ever had a crow participate and the richest in range of expression and emotion. By now my teeth were cutting into my upper lip which was beginning to swell. The number of people watching may have been too many for the lone crow to tolerate. It took flight and passed over me with one last parting caw, and went its way. (P.C.)

Posted: June 13, 2012. Invasion of the Fish Crows. (Michael Westerfield)

Last evening, as the sun was going down, I was delighted to hear a lengthy group conversation between Fish Crows, just outside my living room window. As I watched a dozen or so of the birds assembled noisily in the large oak tree across the street, then flew off together without a pause in their chatter. It was a noteworthy occurrence, since prior to perhaps five years ago there were no Fish Crows in the Northeast “Quiet Corner” of Connecticut, and now there appears to be a significant breeding population established in the area. It seems as if this might be a perfect example of how even a temporary decline in one species, the American Crow, gives another, the Fish Crow, an opportunity to expand its range into an area vacated by the other.

The Fish Crow, Corvus ossifragus , is a slightly smaller bird than the American Crow and, although the two species differ from each other anatomically in a number of small ways, it can be almost impossible to distinguish the species visually, unless they happen to be standing next to each other and you’ve been told that there is one of each present. The main way in which they can be told apart is by their voices, which are distinctly different. To some extent they can also be told apart by their group behavior. Fish Crows tend to be more social and more talkative than American Crows, hanging out in groups perhaps twice or more larger than the normal family groups of three to seven birds for the American Crow and vocalizing almost constantly much of the time.

Back at the end of the last Millennium, American Crows seemed to have a large and very stable population in the Northeast corner of Connecticut, with families occupying virtually all suitable territories, and a large winter roost, containing thousands of birds, in Norwich. Then the West Nile virus struck.

In 2003, towards the beginning of summer, my local crow family disappeared and a neighbor reported finding two dead crows in her yard and said she had been told of two others elsewhere. Suddenly there were no crows to be seen anywhere in my area. I suspect that not all died, but those that didn’t seem to have left the area where the unexplained deaths occurred, much like mediaeval peasants fleeing before the plague. Come winter, the Norwich roost was nowhere to be found. Without crows, our corner of Connecticut was quiet indeed.”

Yet the quiet did not last forever. Within two or three years crows began reappearing in the area, reoccupying their former territory. In Norwich, crows began to roost together in winter, but in not nearly as large numbers as formerly. Soon the crow population seemed to have largely recovered although not yet at the same population density as before the virus struck. Then in late summer of 2009, I chanced upon a group of crows that I later realized were the advance guard of a major invasion of strangers.

I had left my car for repairs at a garage near the banks of the Natchaug River in Willimantic and was walking home, when I became aware of a group of perhaps two dozen crows behaving atypically - for our local birds - and calling to each other in a distinctly foreign sounding dialect. Their behavior was unusual in that crows in my area seldom hung out during the afternoon in groups much larger than five or six and those small groups generally behaved rather sedately. The crows I was watching were flitting about through the trees, interacting in a very social manner, and vocalizing much more frequently and in a more nasal tone than the crow population with which I was familiar. It was a minute or two before I realized that their voices and behavior were the same as those of Fish Crows I had observed in Florida. I returned to the same location on several subsequent days, but never again spotted that same group of crows there or anywhere else in the area that summer.

About the same time the following summer (2010), I chanced to pull off the road near the local reservoir, which receives the water of three rivers which flow out united as the Natchaug River. This was about two miles upstream of where I spotted the Fish Crows the previous year. There in a few small trees in the parking lot of an empty store was a similar sized group of crows behaving and sounding very much like fish crows. I watched from the car for several minutes before the group drifted off elsewhere. Again, that was the only time I saw or heard the birds that year.

In January of 2011, I made several visits to the now reestablished, but still significantly smaller, Norwich crow roost. Amidst the raucous cawing of hundreds of American Crows, I could very distinctly hear the voices of a small number of Fish Crows. Later in the spring, I both saw and heard the Fish Crows in my neighborhood in Willimantic, first as a moderate sized group, and then as what appeared to be a mated pair calling to each other incessantly in the mornings and evenings. They remained in the area through spring, summer and fall, sometimes accompanied by other Fish Crows that might or might not have been their offspring. Visits to the Norwich roost that winter were rewarded with the same mixed chorus of Fish and American Crow voices, with the natives still making up the majority, but with a somewhat greater representation of the invading species’ voices than the previous year.

As I am writing this piece, in June 2012, it seems as if the Fish Crow has become established as a resident, and probable breeder, as far north as Willimantic, in Connecticut’s Northeast “Quiet Corner”. They are regular visitors to the feeder in my yard and they provide a lengthy serenade each evening as darkness falls. It seems fairly clear that this formerly non-resident species took advantage of the temporary decline in the population of the resident American Crow to establish a foothold in an area previously too crowded for newcomers to squeeze in. It will be interesting to see if they are here to stay.

POSTED: May 18, 2012. Crow with a problem

May 12. 2012 Lemoyne, PA Last fall, I noticed several crows, probably a pair with one younger crow, in the area behind my office. The office has several windows and a glass door that look out onto a grassy area at the back of the building. There is a dumpster surrounded by a fence and a short distance beyond that is a small wooded area where the crows probably roost.

I started feeding the crows and have enjoyed their antics. One especially cold morning, as I came out with their bird seed and peanuts, they landed on the fence and waited for me. One cawed his happiness and the other crooned at me as I put out their food. They are well aware of the location of my office and caw for me to come out. Sometimes I will look up from my desk to see a black form zooming past the glass door as they buzz the building to see if I am in.

On Thursday, May 10, I went out with the food and the male crow came down, ate and left. Shortly afterwards, I noticed that he was back and had a plastic baggie that he was pecking at. He would peck for a bit, then pick it up, put it down and peck some more, all the while facing me so that I could see him. I finally went outside to see what he had. He dropped the baggie and flew to the branch above my head. The baggie had a large piece of chocolate candy inside it which I removed and broke up for him. He must have found it in the dumpster and carried the bag to where I feed them, knowing that I would notice and open it for him. I was amazed by the thought process involved as I went back inside, though, I hope he didn't eat the whole thing! (Barbara Roth)

POSTED: April 2, 2012. Crow couple version of canoodling?

Two crows were waiting, ever hopeful, on the patio where I was having lunch. I had noticed them before because they stay very close together, and had watched them, on another day, grooming each other's neck feathers. On this day the smaller of the two began to run its beak tip around each eye of the other bird, underneath the upper and lower lid. The membrane would flick across during this process. This continued for some time, first one eye and then the other; the act was not reciprocated. I have never seen this before. Cleansing, I imagine. ( Karen Skowron, Victoria BC )

POSTED: April 1, 2012. There is Intelligent Life Out There

March 30, 2012. Portland, Oregon. For years now we have watched our crow family grow, but this is the first year that I have gotten to watch as they build a nest. I am always fascinated by just the everyday things that crows do, but to watch as they build a nest is simply amazing. They are helping each other as they weave the twigs and branches together, actually holding them for each other while the other situates, pushing and tugging, it properly. All the while there are two others lit on a nearby wire watching them, watching out for others and grooming. Truly an awesome sight, this nest is being built slowly, well seemingly slow to me, but being as this is the first time watching them in the act, I am not sure what “fast” would be. This nest is being built in a somewhat distant tree but I can catch glimpses of it when I am outside in one particular part of the yard. Unfortunately for me, the nest is too high and far for me to get a really good picture.

We have set up a feeding area that is raised in a way that our dogs, neighbor cats, and squirrels cannot get to. Once or twice a day we place goodies out there for their consumption and our entertainment. They watch us just as much as we watch them. One in particular has been named “Micro”- started out as just a little guy but is now has taken on his own mate. I am hoping that it is him and his lady that are building the nest. He greets me every morning as I head to work, cawing at me, like he is saying thanks for the breakfast. And is there in the evening when I get home from work, reminding me to not forget that he is there and would like to eat when I am ready. Sometimes they are not within sight and I make a little clicking sound and he assumes his perch, and caws at me. Inevitably making me smile. Do they smile? He looks to be smiling back at me, maybe it is just wishful thinking.

One day not so long ago, the hubby and I were snacking on some pistachios, and inevitably Micro came around, watching and waiting. We always share with him, he is getting quite used to it. However because we are human, and not all pistachios open during the roasting, we found ourselves collecting the ones that we could not easily open. Micro showed us that he is smarter than we are, though we could have gone and got something to pry the sealed nuts open, he took it upon himself to show us how the more intelligent ones do it. He scooped up a few, went to the bird bath, and dropped the unopened nuts into the water. As the shell softened, they opened and he plucked out the meat of the nut. I told you he was smart! Now if we could just teach him to clean the shells out of the bird bath!

Though we have “named” the family of regulars that we see, Micro never gets too close, nor do we try to get him to become a pet, but we consider him as part of the neighborhood family to which we all look out for each other. Even the neighbors have started placing “scraps” out also. We also watch the antics of Gus; he is believed to be the father of Micro. Much larger, older and wiser. And being as there is a church with a huge court of large trees, we have a good number of crows that make up this family. But I have my favorites, or should I say they have me? I do have a question though, what kind of fruit do they like to eat? I have tried grapes, plums and cantaloupe, and they much prefer the dog kibble to the fruit. And they love a good rib bone with a little extra meat left on it. (D.P. in SE)

crow.net response: In regards to fruit, my local crows love to steal the cherries off the tree in my yard, but in general they don't seem to be big on most other types of fruit. I've heard of them stealing olives off trees and they love all sorts of nuts. I believe that some crows might like grapes, but they all have their dietary likes and dislikes.

POSTED: January 17, 2012: Winter Crow Roosts

The large communal winter crow roosts are now fully formed in various locations around North America. We have received many roost reports and have posted them on the “North American Crow Roost Maps” on our “Roost Location” page. If you have current information on a crow roost, please send it to us for posting. You can find the roost location map at: Roost Locations

POSTED: January 13, 2012. A Snow Boarding Crow ! The link below will take you to an amazing YouTube video of a crow in Russia using a jar lid to snowboard down a roof. It appears to be both an example of tool use and creative play.

Video of a crow snow boarding on a roof top.

POSTED: January 7, 2012. The Ability of Crows to Recognize Individual Humans.

12/28/11. I walk around Capitol Lake in Olympia, Washington, circumference about 1.6 miles, every day. Last fall I became interested in the crow populations that inhabit the large trees surrounding the lake park. I had seen the Seattle prof's Murder of Crows and was interested in his thesis that crows would pass on knowledge of a human who had annoyed them in some way. I wondered if they would also pass on knowledge of persons who were friendly to them. So I started feeding them bits of walnuts every day on my walk and they now wait for me every morning and follow me around the lake, picking up bits of walnuts and peanuts along the way. I wondered if they would recognize me if I walked clockwise, instead of my usual counter-clockwise perambulation, and they did. They also recognize me if I walk with or without my wife, in a different jacket, or with an umbrella covering my face. I think they even recognize our car when it pulls into the parking lot. I am waiting to see what happens this spring when the youngsters are brought out. I would like to see if they are instructed to come to the feedings of nuts.

I wish I could distinguish the little fellows, for this would make the contacts more interesting, but alas they all look alike to me, except for one crow with a deformed foot! I will keep you posted on my observations. But it is certain, as many people have pointed out, that they do recognize me as an individual person--one who brings nuts every day and seems to be consistently non-threatening.

1/7/12. Some further observations about crow recognition of individual people, based upon observations of the crow population of Capitol Park and Lake in Olympia, Washington. My wife sometimes accompanies me on my daily walks around Capitol Lake and Park in Olympia, Washington. We now know that the crows recognize me, no matter when I arrive, what I wear, or the path I take, but we wondered if they would recognize my wife alone, even though she has never fed the birds their daily peanuts.

This morning, January 6, 2012, we drove down to the park. Instead of parking in our usual lot I parked farther down on the street and remained in the car. My wife walked alone back to our usual parking lot and started out on our usual path. Without hesitation the two crows that hang out in the parking lot flew down to my wife as they usually do to me or to both of us when we are together. And about 50 yards along the remainder of the flock of 25 or so crows lined up on the bridge railing to greet my wife, just as they usually do for me. Other walkers were present.

So the crows not only recognize individuals who feed them, they also recognize the companions of such individuals. We were amazed that they would recognize my wife! What perceptive creatures!

Also, a comment on Professor Marzluff's experiments on facial recognition of humans through his use of masks. When I walk around the lake, crows on lawns over 100 yards away immediately recognize me and come flying to "greet" me at high speed. At this distance they cannot possibly recognize my face. They must recognize my gestalt, the total configuration of my size, characteristic walk, usual clothing, and so on. So it is not just by facial characteristics that crows recognize people: it is by their total gestalt. It stands to reason that they would recognize people in this way because that must be how they recognize the size, outline, and characteristic flight patterns of predators, for example, or anything thing else that it is in their interest to recognize.

Just thought I would supplement Professor Marzluff's work with my observations and conclusions. (Jack Potter, Olympia, Washington)

POSTED December 21, 2011. A Crow Funeral

December 18, 2011, Howell, Michigan. My wife and I have put out peanuts, sunflower seeds, and thistle for the squirrels and birds for years at our home in Howell, Michigan. Crows soon became a part of this mix particularly during the winter months. One night after returning (9:30 pm) from dinner my wife noticed a big black shape on our sidewalk. I walked over and saw a full grown crow that apparently had been hit by a car. I picked the crow up noticing that it had not been dead for very long. I put the crow on a brush pile located toward the back of a shed at the side of our house.

The next morning, about 8:00 am. I got up and made my usual rounds of putting out peanuts and filling my feeders and went back inside. At about 8:45 I heard an unusual cawing from the trees branches above the brush pile. I looked out a window and saw about a dozen crows all calling in an unusually higher pitched call. This went on for about 5 minutes. More began to show up and join in. I walked outside to observe the "ritual" better. One by one they left the tree and began circling the yard still calling in that same caw. A few of them came back back to the tree branches above the site of their fallen friend but they no longer called. They were still visible when we left for breakfast at 9:45. It was an amazing display that we will never forget. It will forever change the way we look at these big black beauties. (Jeff and Daria Devantier)

POSTED: November 8, 2011. Just Published. Highly recommended for young readers and adults.

Our Land is the Sky: The Adventures of Jimmy Fastwing by Frank J. Croskerry. 2011. Soft Cover. 88 pages.

The first book in a proposed trilogy about the life and adventures of the crow, Jimmy Fastwing. The story of Jimmy’s first year is filled with learning experiences and adventures as he tries to survive and take his place as a valued member of his crow clan. This is an excellent book aimed primarily at younger readers, but which crow loving adults will enjoy as well. It hits exactly the right “crowish” tone in the conversations between the characters and their names for the various other species with whom they share their territory. The details of crow life and behavior are also quite accurate.

http://www.croskerry.com  The Author’s website with ordering information forOur Land is the Sky.

POSTED: August 27, 2011. Swinging crow video! The link below will take you to a really great YouTube video submitted 8/18/2011, of a group of crows enjoying themselves by swinging on a hanging branch, oftentimes upside down.

Video of crows in Merrimac, MA, swinging on a branch.

POSTED: August 27, 2011. Giving a helping wing.

My husband and I live in the woods on the Long Beach, Pacific County, Washington peninsula. I believe we are in the middle of a traditional crow roosting area. At times there have been several hundred crows in the trees around our house.

I started "cawing" for the crows and leaving peanuts, bread and other delights on my deck railing for them. We recently built a custom crow feeder for them since we both enjoy watching the flock that lives around us. Now when I "caw" the crows come in numbers waiting for me to supply them with their morning meal. If I'm late they let me know. They also watch me through our windows and follow me about the yard while we work or our daily chore of picking up our dog's "leavings".

Last month when I went out to feed the crows there on the deck railing were some rather large dog "specimens". They had been neatly placed on the railings for me. I believe that the crows had surmised that since I picked these items up each day they were important to me so they gave me a helping "wing"...... (Peggy Frye)

POSTED: August 11, 2011. Australian crows rescue a flockmate.

I'd like to share an experience I had 8 years ago whilst driving along a quiet country road. It was late afternoon and I noticed a shimmering black object covering part of the road ahead and not knowing what it was I began to slow down as a precaution. Once I was close enough I was able to see a large gathering of crows had landed on the road. I slowed to a crawl and then came to a complete stop as the birds showed no sign of leaving the road and at this time a large number of the crows were looking in my direction and vocalizing in a way I'd describe as frantically.

It was then I noticed a small group of 3 or 4 birds dragging a single injured crow, which I assume had been hit by a vehicle, to the side of the road and out of the way to safety. There was no doubt from the birds behaviour that they were intentionally blocking the way until their injured group member had been dragged clear, as once they had accomplished this the group stopped crowing, moved off the road and allowed me to pass.

I have told very few people of this experience and must mention these were Australian species of Crow. What amazed me was the group’s determination to stand their ground in the face of oncoming danger in an effort to save one of their own kind. At the time I was working as professional skydiver and am also an experienced hunter and have seen many extraordinary events, but the day the crows blocked the road stands out as one of the most amazing, and with it came the realization of this birds capacity for rational thought. (Name withheld by request.)

POSTED: August 8, 2011. A crow who understands painted traffic lines.

Tulsa, OK. Larger than average crow was in the drive thru lane as I was leaving a bank parking lot. As I slowly approached in the car, it noticed me and moved slightly out of the way by flying about a foot off of the ground to the median between driving rows to "get out of the way". However, interestingly there IS no median there, only a painted oval shape on the ground representing where a median "would be". It very specifically landed in the middle of this painted oval as though it understood the purpose of the painted lines. I was the only car in the lot, but in this fashion it positioned itself to be able to eat what it was carrying without any further attention needed to any future cars. That's it! (Cory Jones)

Posted: 7/27/11. Protector Crows

There is a tribe of crows near where I live that I have been observing, feeding and interacting with for about eight years. They identify me when I walk to their area and often follow me for a mile or so.

One Sunday evening about four years ago, I was walking alone in an isolated are near Juvenile Detention in Tumwater, Washington. As I turned to head back, it was inevitable to walk past a large group of young males (humans) that had suddenly appeared and who looked pretty scary. No one else was around anywhere. They were standing directly in my path. As I began to walk through the throng, several crows gathered, some on a lamp post right over the males heads, some in trees above them, some on a pole across from the lamp post. All those crows above these, now puzzled males, screamed and swooped over them until I had walked through and was past them. The crows all then flew away. (Sue Cummings)

POSTED: June 27, 2011. A Problem Solving Crow

I've given our Crows an occasional raw egg, medium size usually. The bold Crow always seems pleased and picks it up and flies away with it.

This morning I had a foam egg carton with four jumbo eggs firmly cemented in place from one of the four which was cracked and had leaked. Despite a good effort I was unable to extricate any of the eggs and was on the verge of dumping the carton when it occurred to me that the Crows might enjoy it. So I cut off the lid and, when the Crow family arrived to feed, laid the bottom half of the carton with the four eggs cemented in place out in the usual feeding spot. Then I threw out the dog food around it.

The Crows were initially cautious and avoided the egg carton, sticking to the dog food. After the dog food was pretty well cleaned up our bold Crow, the head of the clan, approached the egg carton. He approached carefully, took an exploratory peck and leaped backwards a couple of feet. After a few repetitions of that he decided the carton was safe and pecked open the cracked egg and ate the insides, then tried for a long time to extricate a cemented egg from the carton without success. He ended by pecking one of the remaining cemented eggs open and ate the contents. (I think he was sharing some of the goodies with the fledglings but not sure about that.) Then the Crow family left, leaving the carton with two eggs still cemented in it.

Now the story gets interesting. About a half hour later the bold Crow returned and with an air that he had decided exactly what to do, he deftly and quickly ripped away pieces of the foam carton until one of the eggs, with foam still attached, was separated. He then rolled the egg over and removed the pieces of foam sticking to the egg until it was bare, picked the big jumbo egg up and flew off with it. Not long after he returned and repeated the process with the last egg. His behavior clearly indicated he had thought of a solution while he was gone. I was astonished!(John Pitman)

crows.net response:Wow! Your report is very interesting indeed. There are all sorts of implications in the actions of the crow when he returned to tear apart the carton. Not the least of these is the obvious one that he had thought the situation over while he was away and arrived at a solution by a process of reasoning, while he was not in the same location as the egg carton. If crows can do that (and I certainly believe that they are capable of it), then our understanding of their intelligence must jump up several levels. I myself would think that solving a problem by reasoning, without experimentation, is a greater accomplishment than making a simple tool with which to grab food .

Site Visitors, we would love to hear your comments on this report and will post a selection of them here. Email comments to crows.net@gmail.com and please indicate whether you want your full name, initials, or other identifier posted.

POSTED JUNE 16, 2011. CROW FUNERALS. At this time of year, when young crows are first leaving the nest and learning to fly, they are sometimes hit by cars and killed. When this happens the parent crows, their family and flockmates, often react very strongly to the death, engaging in behavior often called “crow funerals”. Here are two recent observation reports describing the behavior of crows in the presence of the death of a (presumed) fledgling.

June 8, 2011. This afternoon I noticed a crow had been hit and killed in the intersection outside my office window (Ferndale, WA.) which is unusual and I assumed it was one of the young that are recently out of the nests in the area. A short while later, hearing crows cawing, I looked out to see one crow sitting on a phone pole at the corner, and two more flying over and around the body in the intersection. The two briefly lit on the wires, calling the whole time, then all three took to the sky swooping around the area and calling. Soon I could see other crows coming in from the distance until there were a dozen or more flying around the intersection over the dead bird. (at this I called two of my co-workers over to the window to see this.)

The group of crows lit on the overhead wires and sat for a short while cawing, then settled down and were very quiet. After a few minutes, they all, except for three, (I'm assuming the original three) flew off, then a couple more minutes later the two left, leaving one still sitting on the pole, that was now cawing constantly. She (mother?) was still out there cawing when I left work about half an hour later.

I have read of "crow funerals" but thought that was a myth. Now I know different, and feel I've witnessed something amazing. They actually seemed to be gathering in mourning for their departed...maybe family member? (Ronaye Tylor, Ferndale, WA)

On May 29, 2011, I was driving down the street when I passed a crow lying in the road, so immediately pulled over. It wasn't run over, so I imagine it was probably a young one that had either flown into a car or fallen out of the trees directly above. What got my attention was a group of maybe 3-5 crows in the immediately surrounding trees all frantically cawing in a way I hadn't heard before. Instead of being the exuberant ringing caws I usually hear, these seemed to descend slightly in pitch at the end of each rasping caw. One crow tried dive-bombing the dead crow a couple of times, probably attempting to either shock or startle it awake. However, it never moved. I decided against picking it up in the heat of the moment because I knew they would wrongly associate me with the death of the crow and harass me every time they saw me. (Another group of crows did exactly that to my friend when he tried to rescue their downed family member--they still follow him loudly all the way down the street, even though several months have passed.) (DSK, Mountain View, CA, USA)

Click here to listen to the vocalization described in the above report

POSTED: June 13, 2011. NO MORE ORDERING FROM AMAZON.COM

For years now, almost from the beginning of the crows.net website, we have had a link to Amazon.com which allowed visitors to our website to order crow related books and other things from Amazon.com while in return crows.net received a small percentage of the sale price. We saw this as a convenience for our visitors and also as a way of covering some of the costs of maintaining the site. Last week, however, Amazon.com informed us, along with all their other “Associates” in Connecticut that they were “terminating the relationship” since the recently passed Connecticut budget contained a requirement that companies like Amazon pay sales tax for goods sold to Connecticut residents. Amazon doesn’t want to pay the tax and therefore it dumped all the folks in the state who had been funneling business to them. We believe that this is an example of very poor corporate citizenship on Amazon.com’s part. In a world where online merchants have distinct marketing advantages over “brick and mortar” local stores, it is only appropriate that they pay the same taxes for selling to the same folks as the local merchants with which they are competing.

The links to Amazon.com will be (or already have been) removed from the crows.net website. We would like to thank all the folks who utilized our Amazon.com link to purchase through our website and encourage you to think about using a company other than Amazon.com, if possible, for your online purchases.

POSTED: May 18, 2011. Papa crow meets a skunk and other observations. (Michael Westerfield)

With crows, new information generally comes along when you least expect it.

I had been off on vacation for two weeks, during which time no one was feeding the crows in my yard. On my return this past Sunday afternoon, I spread some peanuts and kibble around and rang the feeding bell, but without much hope of an immediate response, both since it was raining and because the crows often would take a day or two to return to their routine after I had been away.

It continued raining the rest of the day, letting up just before dawn. When I walked into the yard around 7:30 a.m. with more food, a lovely young skunk, with the entirely white back and tail that is common in these parts, was feeding happily upon the sodden remains of last night’s feeding. I spoke quietly to him and he moved slowly off. It was quite unusual to see a skunk out in broad daylight, but he appeared healthy. I assumed he had been kept under shelter by the rain and was having a quick bite before bedding down.

I put peanuts in the shell in the raised feeding tray and scattered more, along with kibbled dog food on the ground. By the time I got inside to my observation window, I heard crow vocalizations unlike any I had heard before. The local territory owning male crow had landed in the wild cherry tree immediately outside the window and appeared to be “cussing out” the skunk who had returned and was happily eating the new food supply. The vocalizations were neither scolding nor alarm calls. They were sequences of six or seven caws, and were not as rapid, were deeper in pitch, and had a more “gravelly” quality than those which he generally used in the presence of predators. He gave several of these calls while watching the skunk intently, then flew off, passing rapidly through the area several times until the skunk wandered off. I rushed for my sound recorder when he began making the vocalizations, but unfortunately I was only able to capture two call sequences from too great a distance for good sound quality.

I wondered how the crow had acquired his knowledge of the unique nature of skunks, since it was unlikely that they often met, given the nocturnal habits of one and the diurnal habits of the other. I was also interested to note that all the other denizens of the yard, squirrels, sparrows, starlings, and blue jays all avoided being on the ground in the proximity of the skunk, although the jays did continue to take peanuts from the raised feeder.

Click here to listen to the “skunk in the feeding area” vocalization

The following day I made sure that there was plenty of food available, since it seemed likely that Papa crow was busy supplying food to his mate and a nest full of youngsters. The day after that I set out two of the crows’ favorite nesting season treats, a hardboiled egg in the shell, and several of those cocktail franks which are about the size of a peanut in the shell. I assumed that the crows would address these with caution, since they are always wary of new items in the environment.

How wrong I was. Papa crow landed as soon as I got inside, walked right up to the egg, punched a hole in it, picked it up and flew with it to the birdbath. Shell and egg white flew left and right as he dug for the yolk. Then he took two franks that I had left on the rim of the birdbath and headed off. Yep, I thought. Papa has youngsters in the nest, and he certainly can remember choice food items from one year to the next.

POSTED: April 22, 2011. Crows and Bald Eagles. A Puzzling Encounter.

Yesterday, while on the eastern shore of Commencement Bay in Puget Sound (Tacoma, Washington), I saw crows behaving in a most interesting and surprising way. I thought you might want to hear about it, and I'd like to know if you know of any other observations of this kind.

My attention was attracted by the loud vocalizations of two very large birds flying within a hundred feet of me, and not more than 60 feet high. It was two bald eagles, one immature, the other an adult. The adult was attacking the juvenile vigorously. This was no mere showing an unwelcome visitor the door--the adult seemed to be intent on inflicting injury. The youngster was calling loudly and performing violent evasive maneuvers, but the adult was still getting in some pretty good licks. When I first noticed them they were over the water, but flying toward the shore. At that place there is a mostly treeless level area that extends about 150' from the waterline to the base of a steep, heavily forested hill.

As the eagles approached the hill, I heard a large number of crow vocalizations. Then about ten crows emerged from the woods on the hill in a group, and proceeded to mob the adult eagle. It soon abandoned its attack on the juvenile eagle and fled, hotly pursued out of sight by several of the crows. No crows harassed the young eagle, which quickly took refuge in a tree near the bottom of the hill, huddling against the trunk of the tree well below the top of it and calling loudly for another minute or so. Through my binoculars it appeared to be physically unharmed but very distressed and agitated.

The crows who had not gone in chase of the fleeing eagle perched in trees near trees near the young eagle, surrounding its position on all sides and facing away from it, scanning the surroundings with even more vigilance than usual. They all remained there until the young eagle regained its composure and flew slowly away, whereupon they calmly dispersed.

What it looked like to me was that the crows came to the rescue of the young eagle, driving its attacker away and standing guard over it while it recovered. I was astonished; in my experience crows hold birds of prey in very low esteem and their behavior toward them is usually anything but solicitous.

I'd be very interested in knowing whether you are aware of any similar instances, or can offer an alternative interpretation of the incident I've described. (Charles Pregaldin)

Posted: April 5, 2011. Fish Crows in Northeast Connecticut

Last Spring, as I was walking by our local river, I was surprised to see a group of a dozen or more crows in the trees acting in a way not typical of our local birds. They seemed to be interacting with each other more, flitting from branch to branch more freely and vocalizing in a manner reminiscent of the fish crows I have heard in Florida. Fish crows, Corvus ossifragus had been reported to be expanding its territory in this direction , but had not yet to my knowledge been reported on the Natchaug River in Willimantic. I looked for this group of birds several times that Spring, but without any further luck.

In the fall of 2010, once again by chance, I was driving by the Willimantic Reservoir, perhaps a mile upstream from my last sighting, when I spotted a similar group of birds, again acting atypically for local crows, feeding in the trees and on the ground in a parking lot by the side of the road. Unlike local crows, they did not immediately take wing when I pulled into the lot and stopped. They continued their activity and again their vocalizations were unlike those of the local American crows. The caws were a bit shorter and a bit lower in pitch, with the sound somewhat reminiscent of a duck quacking, that I associated with fish crows. This was the only sighting which I had of the birds that fall.

This year, on April 12, 2011, a group of about two dozen crows appeared on the edge of the University campus about a block from my house. They remained in the vicinity for about three days and two remained after the others departed. They have been almost constantly in the vicinity of my house, often “dueting”, cawing back and forth in turn, and feeding in the yard, usually at times when the local crows are not present. At this point I am relatively certain that these two are fish crows and that the species seems well on its way to establishing itself in this area.

Click here to listen to two fish crows (?) dueting.

Click here for a much longer version of the duet. It will take some time to load.

POSTED: April 2, 2011. Nest building is in progress in a number of locations.

Yesterday, shortly after 5:00 p.m., I observed two crows engaging in nest building activities in northeastern Connecticut. The crows were carrying straw into the upper branches of a tall evergreen tree growing beside the street in a residential neighborhood. I watched as they several times carried material to the tree and disappeared within the dense branches at the top. A little later I observed one of the pair breaking off small branches from a large maple while the other crow watched from a branch higher up in the tree. (Michael Westerfield)

Please report any nesting activity to crows.net@gmail.com . Shortly we’ll be posting all reports on the crows.net website. The map for the 2010 nesting season is currently posted on the Nesting Season page on the website.

Posted: March 15, 2011. The mating season has begun

Crows are among the earliest in North America to begin mating and nesting. As the buds begin to swell on trees and bushes, you might hear female crows making a begging call very similar to that of nestlings begging to be fed. This is sometimes made while the female is crouching down, spreading her wings slightly and vibrating them, apparently to show her eagerness to breed. Please click the link below to hear a sample of this begging call recorded in North eastern Connecticut on March 14, 2011. You'll also hear another crow cawing and background traffic noise.The sound file may take several seconds to load.

Begging call of a female crow in mating season.

POSTED March 1, 2011. Parking under roosting crows in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

This morning over coffee we heard more crows than we ever thought possible in one place. At the time, it was too dark to really discern crows in the trees, but this is the state in which we found our car this morning. (B.G.)

The result of being parked under roosting crows.  Photo by B.G. of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

POSTED FEBRUARY 23, 2011. The Portland Maine Crow Roost (Michael Westerfield)

On February 19, 2011, I went up to Portland, Maine, hoping to get some sound recordings of the vocalizations of crows in the communal roost at night. I had received several reports that a large roost was located in the area of Deering Oaks Park, so I headed in that direction around 4:30 p.m. Crows were spotted flying near the corner of Park and Deering Avenues and, following them, I observed a few hundred birds gathered on the ice and snow on the Portland Stadium the football field. For the most part they seemed to be just standing on the ground passively, the great majority of them facing to the north.

Crows on the Ice in Portland, Maine.  Photo by Michael Westerfield.

The Portland Stadium is right by Route 295, a major highway, and crows were roosting in the trees on both sides of the road, mostly in fairly inaccessible locations. Following Deering Avenue north across a bridge over 295, and turning left onto the first road past the highway, I found many crows roosting in mature trees in an old neighborhood on Washburn Street. Interestingly, these crows did not seem to be disturbed by several young men playing ball in the street immediately next to their roosting trees. I recoded sound there for several minutes then drove to the next street up, Granite Street, where there seemed to be a greater number of crows and less noise from the traffic on the highway.

Portland, Maine Crow Roost at Sunset.  Photo by Michael Westerfield.

By great good fortune, I parked next to a dense growth of evergreen bushes and, from no more than fifteen feet away, was able to record the vocalizations of a number of crows as darkness fell. At first the sounds consisted largely of the familiar loud caws, but gradually they became less frequent and were replaced by a whole range of quieter vocalizations, which could not have been heard by anyone much further away that I was. I was able to record these using a shotgun microphone for several minutes before the birds moved off just before complete darkness set in. The vocalizations consisted of a whole range of sounds, quiet caws, juvenile begging type sounds, rattles and clicks, growls, squawks, coos, and other unusual sounds, punctuated occasionally by loud caws. It was difficult to escape the impression that a spirited discussion was going on among the crows in the nearby evergreen bushes.

Click on the link below to hear the roost sounds.

Sounds of the Portland, Maine Roost at Twilight, 2/19/11.

An investigation of the low volume vocalizations of crows in roosts and staging areas is clearly needed. It is unfortunate that getting close to roosting crows in relatively inaccessible areas on nights in the dead of winter is neither the easiest nor most pleasant of tasks. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that roosts shift location constantly, often only slightly, but enough so that it is generally not possible to set up a blind (or parked car) in a location where it is guaranteed that the crows will roost in close enough proximity to record very quiet vocalizations. In any case, I think it is safe to assume that these roost sounds represent a class of vocalization very distinct from the long range communication carried out through the “crow calls” with which everyone is familiar. Whether or not such low volume communication also routinely goes on between crow family members and flockmates outside the roost and whether it, in fact, represents a more sophisticated medium of communication than long distant calls, also needs investigation.

POSTED February 21, 2011: The Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Crow Roost. Linda Anthony took the photos below of the roost containing tens of thousands of crows. The stacks of the Bethlehem Steel Plant are in the background.

Bethlehem Roost..  Photo by Linda Anthony.

New Year’s Eve Panic at the Bethlehem Roost On New Years Eve the city set off fireworks and the crows were so startled that they panicked and thousands of them hit the sky at the same time. It was midnight and they were so quiet we thought they were not there. But the panic that ensued was very disturbing. The sky was filled with so many crows after the fireworks started that they were literally flying into each other and we watched some of them fall to the ground. They came so close to us in their panic that we had to stoop down in order not to be hit. They continued to fly back and forth for a long time even after the fireworks came to an end. The next day there were a few dead birds on the RR tracks. I can't say for sure that it was from the midnight panic. (Linda Anthony)

Panic in the Bethlehem Roost.  Photo by Linda Anthony

Posted February 18, 2011: Thousands of Crows Gather Each Night at Moorpark Mobile Home Park.

A nice article from the Ventura County Star about a crow roost near the Villa Del Arroyo mobile home part on the east end of Moorpark, California. Click the link below to read the article.

Moorpark Crows Roost...

POSTED: January 28, 2011. Talking Crows and Split Tongues. I’m a state & federally licensed wild bird rehabilitator, and I would like to add a note about splitting crows’ tongues “to make them talk”.

I address this in every talk I give on crows. Let’s go back to Aristotle – syllogism provides the proof:

All talking crows have split tongues.

That’s because ALL CROWS have split tongues.

Crows’ tongues split naturally.

I’ve raised many baby crows (some, since before their eyes open). At 3-5 months of age, their tongues split slightly on the end – there’s a little bit of cartilage attached to end of the tongue, and this is the bit that splits. The cartilage bit is slightly transparent.

Crow tongues are also interesting for another reason – they get as black as the outside of the crow. There begins to be black spotting inside the mouth and tongue of black as the crow goes from nestling to juvenile, and in 2-4 years, mouth and tongue – even throat - are entirely black.

I raised four nestling crows (all from one nest) and only one of them developed the ability – or was interested in – talking. Jack can speak plainly, but usually he just mumbles in my voice, as though hearing someone familiar talking in the next room.

He sounded like me TO me, an ability I can’t figure out – when we hear ourselves talk on recordings, we’re usually surprised and/or annoyed by the sound of our own voices – that’s not how they sound to US. But Jack sounds like what I hear – so much so, that his mumbling in my ear gave me the “I’m hearing voices” impression.

He used to enjoy yelling “Bows! Bows!” his interpretation of me saying “Crows! Crows!” when I fed them as babies. They didn’t recognize my voice for a while as a feeding call (before their eyes would open) so to get them to gape, I would have to yell in a deeper voice, “Crows! Crows!”

Jack also tells what I can only call a “crow joke” – he would imitate me saying “Ow! Ow! Ow!” when small birds would bite my fingers (sparrows can really, really pinch – and they love to grab that sensitive skin between the thumb and forefinger) – and then laugh uproariously in my voice, as though he found it terribly funny. “Ow! Ow! Ow! Hahahaha!”

Hilary Richrod, Director
Small Wild Bird Clinic of Aberdeen
Washington State Wildlife Rehabilitation License : WR6-042
Federal Fish & Wildlife Rehabilitation License : PRT718556

POSTED: January 12, 2011. A Giant Crow Roost in Maryland The link below will take you to a really great YouTube video of a winter communal crow roost in Lanham, Maryland. The video was taken by “Haberuvi”, who estimates the roost holds a million crows. While the number of crows in a roost is extremely difficult to estimate, since many of the birds are in constant motion, there certainly are a lot of crows in the Lanham roost.

Video of Lanham, MD Crow Roost by Haberuvi.

POSTED January 10, 2011: Snow Crow. A young crow was surprised on landing in deep snow for the first time. He left the crow equivalent of a “snow angel” behind him. (Photo by Michael Westerfield 1/9/11)

Snow Crow.  Photo by Michael Westerfield.

Posted January 10, 2011: Piebald Crow The piebald or Luecistic crow reported here back in March by Susan Boucher Ohmann was still visiting her area as of late December. Although she hasn’t seen it for the past few days, hopefully it is still alive and eating as well as it seems to be doing in the photo below.

Pirbald Crow.  Photo by Susan Boucher Ohmann

POSTED: January 5, 2011. Roost Locations.

We have been receiving quite a few roost location reports and these have been posted on the "North American Crow Roost Map" on the Roost Location Page. Click on the link below to view Roost Location page.

Roost Locations

POSTED: November 28, 2010. A Family of Crows and Two Strangers

November 25, 2010. North Chelmsford, Massachusetts. I thought I would share the drama that happened during my little family of crows’ morning feeding today. They come every morning at 6:30. Originally there were 4, all of whom got along quite happily, eating the kibble, peanuts and scraps I put out for them every morning. Lately, there has been a fifth crow that sort of sneaks in around the edges, snagging an odd bite here and there between being chased off by the others. The others mostly cawed at him and nipped at him when he got too bold, or chased him off on occasion. Nevertheless, he has appeared with the others every day for a week or so now.

This morning, there was a great deal of cawing going on and, when I looked out, there were 6 crows! This clearly upset the 4 in the original group; they were ruffling their feathers and quite vigorously pecking at the interlopers. One interloper flew off with a peanut and, as the other interloper hopped in to grab something, one crow (I think from the core group, though I am only supposing based on the behavior of the group) went after him. He was much more aggressive and got hold of the interloper this time, at which point two of the others joined him in holding the interloper down and attacking him. When the outsider managed to get away, the group followed after him, cawing loudly throughout.

I heard distant and animated cawing for a time, then it was quiet. In time, cawing came from several directions, distant at first, then growing closer. Two crows alighted on the wires above their feeding spot, calling loudly. One of them moved about a good deal, fluffing her feathers and bobbing up and down calling. In time, a third crow flew in to a treetop near these two, and then a fourth into a treetop next to that one. They all sat quietly for a few minutes, then one dropped from the tree and grabbed a snack, flying off over the top of the house. The other three flew after him. I have waited for 20 minutes now and they've not returned, though there is still a good deal of food there. I do see one sitting atop the mill building across the street from me. I thought at first she was eating a peanut, but she is moving about quite a bit, maybe worrying at her leg or something. I can't quite tell, really. She is alone, though, and I neither see nor hear any of the other crows at all.

I have never seen anything quite like this. I have wondered just what was up with that 5th crow and how long he would keep sneaking around the edges...whether they would scare him off or accept him. I wonder now just what happened, how he and his friend have fared, whether they will be back, why the original 4 have not come back to finish eating. Too upset by the fight, perhaps? i can only wonder. Anyway, I wanted to share the drama. (P.J.L.)

Posted: November 23, 2010. Roosting Season is Beginning With the passing of fall into winter, the large communal crow roosts are starting to form in many locations around the continent. If you know the location of a crow roost, please email us the information at crows.net@gmail.com and we will post it on our “Roost Locations” page. There’s also a map there that shows the locations of all roosts that have been reported. Click on the link below.

Roost Locations

POSTED November 3, 2010. Three Amazing Crow Videos. YouTube is turning into an interesting source of material on crow behavior. You’ll find links below to three remarkable videos. The first two are from Patrick Payne from High Ridge, Missouri and show his crow friend Shadow reading the paper and interacting with his dog Murphy. One really nice feature of these videos is the sound tracks, which present good examples of the type of sounds made by juvenile crows when they are “babbling”, conducting monologues of a sort in what is probably the crow equivalent of human “baby talk”.

The third video shows a fascinating sequence of a crow fight. It starts with the two crows lying on their backs on the ground next to each other. Each seems to have one foot gripped tightly by one foot of the other crow. In all likelihood, they had been fighting in the air, gripped feet and tumbled to earth. As the video progresses, they continue their struggle. Unfortunately, not much information is given about the video, but it seems likely that these are two males fighting, possibly over a female in the mating season.

Crow Shadow Reads the Newspaper.

Crow Shadow and Dog Murphy.

Crow Fight.

POSTED November 2, 2010. Learning to Like Those Remarkable Crows.

From 1988 through 2000 I worked in a medical office on Doyle Park Drive (near Memorial Hospital) in Santa Rosa. We would frequently observe the neighborhood crows going about their interesting lives. Up until that time, I hadn't been much interested in them as I thought of them as predatory pests. I had lived in a rural area and was upset to see them kill the babies of the field birds. Now I feel differently. They are remarkable.

My fascination began when one night I notice that there were cracked walnuts all over the parking lot, but mostly in the area where the cars parked. These walnuts were in their green husks and are difficult to get into. I started observing that the walnuts were placed in a strategic manner so that the cars would drive over them when they exited their parking spots. The crows would place the nuts almost directly behind the tires and "hang about" waiting for the cars to drive out and crush the nuts. They would then fly down and have a meal.

One of the most amusing events was noting that they like to entertain themselves. On several occasions I would note the crows milling around in front of a covered drainage ditch in the street. They would make various sounds and seemed to react to the echo effects that came out...almost as if it was a kids game. I have even seen them toss walnuts from the trees and other small objects down the culvert to make sounds...at least that was my impression. I found them to be quite amazing. There was no end of objects that seemed to fascinate them...from string, gum wrappers, broken toys,to other animals nothing seemed off limits to their curiosity. (C.G., Redding, CA)

POSTED October 29, 2010: Crow and Turkey Vulture. Here's a picture I took on October 13, 2010 in Oakland, CA, of a single crow that separated itself from the local murder to run off a puzzled Turkey Vulture from its rest high atop a pylon. I guess they know them to compete for carrion food (Verne Nelson).

Crow and Turkey Vulture.  Photo by Verne Nelson, Oakland, CA.

Posted 10/19/10: Hanging Crow Saturday, October 16, 2010, Fargo, ND. I have a regular group of crows that come to my backyard for the birdbath. The crows were walking around in the grass when this one flew up and grabbed a small hanging branch of the silver maple tree. The branch couldn't bear its weight so the crow hung upside down, swinging in the wind, for quite a while. It did this 3 times before the rest of the crows flew away, then it left the yard with them. I figured it enjoyed the sensation of swinging in the breeze. (K.L.)

A hanging crow.  Photo by K.L. of Fargo, ND

POSTED: October 18, 2010. The ‘alala, or Hawaiian crow, is the most endangered crow in the world. It is believed to be extinct in the wild and the species had been reduced to around twenty individuals by the 1990s. There is considerable hope these days for the species, however, since the captive breeding program run on the Big Island of Hawaii by the San Diego Zoological Society has succeeded in increasing the number of ‘alala to 77 individuals. All of these birds are still in captivity but the ‘Alala Recovery Team is working on ambitious plans to eventually reintroduce the Hawaiian crow back into its native habitat. To find out more about the ‘alala and the recovery efforts, check out the crows.net “Hawaiian crow” page using the link below.

The Hawaiian crow

POSTED: October 1, 2010: Teaching Fledglings to Forage for Themselves

9/30/2010. From J.P. in Richland, Washington. We always had a few Crows around here and treated them with respect. The local breeding pair decided we were safe enough to fledge their chicks in the pine tree above our patio. One day when the young ones were getting big I felt sorry for the hard working parents, attracted their attention and tossed a half handful of dog kibble on a patch of bare ground. The pair flew to a telephone wire above the feeding spot and surveyed the situation. One flew down and flew back up to the wire. Then they both flew over to the chicks in the pine tree and brought them back to the wire above the feeding spot. An adult flew down and got a kibble and ate it in front of the begging chicks. After perhaps five minutes of distressed begging one of the chicks flew down to feed, followed shortly by the other.

My expectation had been that the Crows would take the food back to the chicks. I found it remarkable that the parents had assessed the situation and decided that the dog food represented an opportunity for teaching the chicks to forage for themselves.

In 10 years here I'd never been approached by one of the local Crows. But after the chick feeding class was over, one of the parents lit on a low wire immediately above my head where I was working in the garden and sat for awhile, making gurgling (but more than that!) approving sounds. I reciprocated and then went on with my work. And the Crow went on about his business.

The incident was a revelation to me.

Sentience!

Posted 9/04/10: He’s Back! The caramel crow which fledged last year in Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, Washington, USA, (see pictures posted here 7/13/2009) has returned as a yearling. Kate and Felipe Garcia sent us this picture. While we cannot absolutely swear that it is the same bird, it would be an incredible coincidence if it were not.

The caramel crow, one year later.  Photo by Kate and Felipe Garcia

POSTED: September 1, 2010. The Story of an Injured Crow

August 30, 2010. Powell River BC, Canada. I live near the water and back onto the woods. I am blessed with an abundance of wildlife and particularly feathered ones. For 2 summers in a row I have had "crow babies" born on my property, and they become quite used to me and I throw them the odd bit of left over dog kibble.

About the end of June 2010, there was an aerial fight between crows and an eagle. One crow had his wing broken. It was probably one of my regulars as he shortly after hopped into my yard dragging this poor wing. I was unable to catch him, and after a couple of attempts he disappeared into the woods. I honestly figured that because he would not be able to fly into a tree, that he would soon be a goner. Imagine my surprise about 3 days later to see him drag himself across the road from the waterside and come back into my yard. He was weak and could not get to my bird bath, so I set up a water tray at ground level and scattered some dog kibble.

Fully 2 months later, we have a routine. He/she is hopping up into a neighbour's rhododendron to sleep and hide. The rest of the time he hops around my yard. He has lost a lot of feathers from his wing but today I notice that he has some new ones. When he got quite bald you could see where the break was. It has now healed in that position, still dragging but he seems to do exercise and spreads it and flaps both wings out vigorously. If this is an attempt to fly it doesn't work, but gives him a quick kind of flapping hop.

CROW is much stronger now, comes every morning and late afternoon, drinks lots of water, can jump up into the bird bath and bath itself. I scatter cat kibble, left over vegetables, and apple slices and anything left in the dog's dish. It used to scamper back to it's rhodo bush when I came out to give it food or water--far more skittish than the able bodied crows. I have started softly calling "food, food" when I come out the door now--not emphasizing the "d", it sounds more like FOO, FOO. Crow will now only back up a bit. If I put food or water down, and then walk a couple of steps away and turn my back, he seems to feel safe and will return immediately. If I am looking at him, he will wait until I am back on the porch before he eats or drinks.

A new observation. A little dog from next door has started coming over every day and eating the cat kibble I have thrown around. Crow started yesterday, hopping onto my picnic table and looking in the window. He just sits there until I come out. When he did it again this morning, I smartened up and put his food in a dish on top of the table, out of the way of opportunistic canines.

This bird is one of a pair. It's mate was very solicitous when it was first hurt and keeps a close eye on him. I do not know if they were defending a nest when the eagle attack took place, but there have not been babies in my yard this year. The mate has only once brought it some seafood, to much joyous squawking, that I have observed but will often join in for a bit of water or a little snack and they will sit close to each other on my split rail fence and groom each other.

This has been a real pleasure to watch. (Liane)

POSTED: 8/28/10. Another use by crows of cars as tools.

August 22, 2010. Outside of Albany, NY. This past winter we watched one of our crows pull a dead chipmunk out in the road to let the cars run over it then bring it back to our lawn where it was able to have a nice meal.

Posted August 27, 2010: Murder City. Once targeted for destruction, and still vilified by some, the common crow maintains a unique place in our ecosystem thanks to a high IQ and strong family values.

A new feature story about the Northwestern crows of Greater Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, by Sandra Thomas, Staff writer for the Vancouver Courier. This gives a great overview of many facets of the lives of crows and the reasons why trying to control them by murdering them is both cruel and futile. Features comments by Michael Westerfield, of crows.net. To read it, click on the link below.

Murder City..

8/24/10: Alarms and Excursions.(Michael Westerfield Daily Log.)

Dawn broke gray, cool, and windy, about 60 degrees with rain threatening. It had rained the previous two days, a nice garden drenching rain after a period of near drought. A few crows were contact calling not too far away, but went I went out at 7:30 a.m. to fill the feeding tray and spread peanuts in the shell and kibble on the ground, no birds of any sort were visible in the yard, though I knew at least the nearest family of blue jays was watching intently.

After setting out the food, I walked about fifteen feet away to the car where I keep the “feeding bell”, a small Tibetan singing bowl, and rang the morning chimes: BooongBoooongBooong (Pause) Bong Bong. With the first Booong the most daring among the blue jays swooped down and snatched away a peanut, barely pausing in his flight. Immediately blue jays began swirling into the yard, a few snatching up peanuts in my presence, but the majority jumping around in the nearby shrubbery. I don’t know if anyone can count a rapid and erratically moving flock of jays, but I would estimate that at least twenty were gathered by the time I went back into the house.

It took less than a minute to get up to my second floor observation window but by the time I did the local crow family, which I call simply the Family, had all arrived. Generally they are not so prompt, but on my first glance I saw five of them had already landed on the ground and begun feeding, while a sixth sat on a branch of the tall wild cherry tree near the window repeatedly making juvenile begging calls.

By this time of year all the young of this year’s nest are quite capable of feeding themselves, but it seems that often there is one of the brood, perhaps the youngest or perhaps just the most demanding, who continues to drive his family to distraction by begging. If you hear repeated high pitched and very annoying caaaaaa caaaaaaa caaaaaaaa calls from a crow, accompanied by it crouching down and vibrating its wings rapidly while they are held slightly away from its body, this is the crow often characterized as “the bratty baby”. In this case when no one paid it any attention, it flew to the feeding platform and alternated eating and begging pitifully for food. Eventually one of the older crows flew up and knocked it off the platform and, when it flew over and landed in the pear tree, followed and jammed a beakful of food down its maw. After that the beggar returned to the feeding platform and ate steadily, only occasionally emitting a quiet complaint.

The Family began to disperse and immediately very high volume caws rang out that were similar to alarm calls, but fall into a different category that, for want of a better term, I refer to as “mock outrage calls”. Though sounding like alarm calls, they do not produce the results of those calls. When they were made today, no other crows appeared in response and two members of the Family that were feeding on the ground, continued eating without the least sign of alarm. These calls, which are very loud and long drawn out on a rising pitch, are given by older Family members at this time of year when they sight members of the neighboring crow family which holds territory on the University campus a block away from my yard. Typically they first appear on a neighboring roof towards the campus, often several at a time. “Mock outrage calls” are made by Family members and a wild game of dodge and pursuit follows. These are particularly wonderful to watch on windy days like today, as the birds take advantage of every gust to swoop towards or away from their adversaries.

I characterize these aerobatic displays as mock combats and the calls as showing mock outrage because I believe that the two crow families are very closely related, and throughout much of the year will feed side by side, keeping just a little bit more distance between them than members of the same family. During the nesting season they will alternate feeding in my yard, with a slight bit of precedence given to Family members. My yard is within the Family’s territory, but only barely. That of the College crows appears to start one block away at the road separating the campus from the residential section.

The final challenge of the morning took place on the neighbor’s roof probably between two juvenile crows. One of the College gang was perched on the ridge pole and one of the Family flew down and perched beside him, perhaps three feet away. He then began to sidle over towards the College crow, who watched him nervously, then walked down the roof, circled around the other crow and returned to the roof ridge on the opposite side. This action was repeated two more times before the College crow flew away into its territory on campus.

This one morning’s activities highlight the fact that this is a period of intense learning in the lives of young crows, when they must learn many of the skills needed to survive in crow society. These will be added to as summer turns into fall and families begin to gather together to roost at night. The youngsters will then meet many new crows from their immediate area and learn the etiquette of dealing with strangers before they join up with the great communal roosts where they will spend their nights throughout the coming cold months.

Posted 8/20/10: Rare "Twin" Albino Crow Fledglings, photographed by Kathleen Bernz, of Saanichton Bay Park, Victoria, BC, Canada, June 20, 2010.

Two albino crow fledglings.  Photo by Kathleen Bernz.

Close-up of one of the "Twin" Albino Crow Fledglings, photographed by Kathleen Bernz.

Close-up of one of the young albino crows.  Photo by Kathleen Bernz.

A Leucistic crow. Photo by Meris Brown.

POSTED: August 15, 2010

Meris Brown, of Portland, Oregon, took this photo of a decidedly different colored crow this Spring.

She noted: "This crow seems to be sort of an outcast. I see him always near a group of 3 crows, but he/she never seems to be included. I've seen him again recently, but he does not look healthy. Seems to have very bony looking wings and some difficulty flying. I hope he/she will be ok."

The survival rate in the wild of "differently" colored crows is not known, though at least one is reported to have done well in captivity.

POSTED: August 9, 2010

No, you don’t have to split a crow’s tongue to make him talk. crows.net commentary

Sometimes the most absurd beliefs get passed from generation to generation, or even millennium to millennium, despite the fact that they have absolutely no basis in reality. The belief that “splitting” the tongue of a captive crow will facilitate teaching it to speak human words is surely one of the oldest and most persistent, not to mention cruelest, of these groundless folk ideas. At crows.net we receive a steady trickle of questions about splitting crows’ tongues, usually mentioning that the practice was related to them by an aged relative who once had a talking crow.

As far as I can determine, the earliest reference to splitting crow tongues appears in Pliny the Elder’s “Natural History”, written a few decades after the death of Christ. I am not sure that I would consider the old Roman Pliny to be a reliable source in this regard since he also suggests that beating parrots on the head with iron rods will assist them to speak and that eating crows’ brains with your food will help your eyelashes grow long. Reliable or not, Pliny’s work was extremely influential for centuries and may still be found in print today.

Ancient Romans and elderly relatives aside, the fact of the matter is that a crow’s tongue, has nothing to do with the production or shaping of sounds. Passerine birds, the group that includes the crow, have a very well developed syrinx, a sound producing structure analogous to the human larynx, or “voice box”. Dwight Chamberlain, who also studied and catalogued crow vocalizations, dissected the crow syrinx and studied its sound producing mechanism. Basically there is a fairly complex system of membranes controlled by several muscles. During sound production the muscles bring the membranes close together and the rapid passage of air causes them to vibrate and produce sound. This mechanism is much more sophisticated than the human larynx and allows the birds to produce a very wide range of sounds without the necessity of shaping them with lips and tongues as humans do. They simply open their bills and the sounds pour forth from the syrinx.

Crows can be taught to vocalize human words by the same techniques used to teach parrots and other birds, always remembering that some individual crows are more talented (or perhaps more interested) in this regard than others. In general, the younger the crow the more easily they will learn any sort of vocalizations. Patient, enthusiastic, repetition of words or phrases is the key, though many captive crows will pick up commonly heard words or sounds, like “hello” or even the barking of dogs or cackling of chickens on their own.

If you are one of those humans who likes to explore a subject in depth there are several books you might find useful, including Teaching Your Bird to Talk, by Diane Grindol and Tom Roudybush. Parrots are the primary subject of this book, but much of the information is of universal application and there are sections on crows and most other “talking birds”. The link to this book at Amazon.com is given below.

Teaching Your Bird to Talk

Posted August 6, 2010: Cull too cruel for cawing friends.

Sandra Thomas, a staff writer for the Vancouver Courier and obvious "Friend of Crows", sent us a link to her excellent piece which appeared in the August 4th edition of the Courier.

Cull too cruel for cawing friends..

POSTED: July 28, 2010. A Quiet, Noisy Time for Crows. crows.net commentary

This time of year, crows.net tends to receive very few observation reports. Nesting season is over and crow families tend to be foraging together in small groups as the juveniles from this year’s nests learn the ways of crow society. Although not much dramatic seems to be going on, there may well be a lot of crow vocalizations as parents and offspring communicate noisily about food and predators and generally keep each other informed of their whereabouts and doings.

One of the more common vocalizations you may hear is a short, relatively quiet caw, given every few seconds, usually from an unseen crow situated in a tallish tree. These calls are made by juvenile crows and, I believe, are made simply to keep the rest of the family members posted on their whereabouts. The young crows are, in effect, told to “stay put” while older family members are out and about scouting or foraging. You may also still hear begging calls from young crows who are pretty well capable of feeding themselves but still may demand food from their parents. They will also perform the classic begging motions, crouched down with beak open and wings partially spread and vibrating, while they make the high pitched, drawn out caw. They may also pursue older birds, or their siblings, who have food in their beaks and attempt to snatch it from them. The older birds may show clear annoyance and try to avoid the pesky juveniles. Sometimes they will even knock them over and tread on them or peck them briefly to show their displeasure.

This period of time following the nesting season is actually exceptionally good for observing the interrelationships of the individual crows within the small family groups. The young of this year’s nests will often be on the ground feeding together under the watchful eye of parents or older siblings. Sometimes all of the family members will be together as a group and sometimes they will take turns feeding and keeping watch, or making quick trips to cache surplus food. You may be able to observe the individual personalities of the birds. It often seems like one family member is more adventurous than the others, landing first, fiddling with new items in the environment, spending a long time manipulating objects in a birdbath. The juveniles often hang together and from their interactions you might be able to see the start of a pecking order developing among them. All in all, it’s a great time to get to know your local crow families.

POSTED 7/13/2010. A Conversation with a Crow

My grandfather taught me to "speak" to the crows by making a tunnel over my mouth with my hands and making short powerful bursts of vibrating air through tightly pursed lips. I do this often when I see crows and they will gather if more than one is nearby to check me out. But I got a most memorable reaction from a crow (7 July, early evening, San Bernardino National Forest, Running Springs California). The bird was alone on the top of a light pole where he was keeping watch over a pair of dumpsters with closed lids. He appeared bored with his duties and watched me watching him. I tried my call, 3 short bursts. He cawed back 3 times. I cawed to him again 3 times. He again repeated the same. I stood silent. He cawed twice. I cawed back twice. He cawed three times. I cawed back three times. He cawed four times. I cawed back four times. He then cawed three times and changed the timing, cawing twice quickly and then delaying the third by a second. I repeated his pattern. He cawed twice quickly, paused a second followed by two more quick caws. I repeated the same way. He looked at me silently. I cawed twice quickly followed by a delayed third. He repeated the same way then took flight on his way. It was the longest "conversation" I have had with a crow, and the most complex. (P.C.)

POSTED: 7/10/2010. 'Alala population up to 78 birds as of July 2, 2010. See an 'alala hatch.

The 'alala, the Hawaiian crow, is one of the most endangered birds on earth. All known 'alala are in captivity and an intensive captive breeding program is in progress. Read the latest update from the 'alala captive breeding program. A video of an 'alala hatching has been added to this blog. There is a link to it in the text of the blog. It may take a very long time to download, but please be patient. Very few persons have ever witnessed this event.(There is also a dedicated Hawaiian crow page on the crows.net website.)

Hawaiian Bird Project Blog.

Posted July 9, 2010: Clever Crows. A nice video from National Geographic about the intelligence of crows. It‘s all old news, but very well presented.

Nat Geo Amazing: Clever Crows.

POSTED: June 13, 2010. Caching a Mouse and a Crow Convention

6/13/2010. Last summer my wife and I observed interesting crow behavior. We live in Eugene, Oregon, a little above the valley floor, in a suburban area. We have chickens, and feed, and thus lots of mice. Prior to subcontracting the job to kitties, I used to trap mice. Faced with disposal of their bodies (once out of the traps), it occurred to me to try putting them on top of a fence (with a flat 2x6), to see if any flying creatures would dispose of them. I first put one up, expecting perhaps several days before it would disappear, if ever. About 5 minutes later, I went upstairs, looked down on the fence, and it was gone. (Evidently, we are under constant aerial surveillance.)

A crow specific occurrence is this: I put two mice out, on the fence top. This was in late summer, and a large sunflower had keeled over, with the head on the ground. My wife called for me to look out an upstairs window. What we saw was a crow, holding one mouse down with a claw, and tearing it up and eating it. However, immediately next to it, the other mouse had been completely covered with yellow sunflower petals, hiding it from view of other birds that may have swooped down and tried to take it, before this crow could get to it. The crow had obviously assessed the situation, identified a solution, looked around and found an easily available material (sunflower petals), harvested them, spread them over the one mouse, then went about eating the other, saving the second for later.

We periodically observe what we refer to as "crow conventions", wherein many hundreds, possibly over a thousand, crows converge on one or two large fir trees next to our house, and vocalize and sort of swarm. We see crows (from our elevated position), flying in from all directions to attend these events. We have lived here 23 years, and have probably seen about a dozen of these events. (Gordon Anslow)

Posted: June 12, 2010. Murderous Crows.

I have always maintained that the term “Murder of Crows” was particularly inappropriate for birds that seldom engage in any serious physical conflict with members of their own species, other that the occasional dominance fights common among males of many species. If asked, I would have stated pretty firmly that crows never engage in “gratuitous” mobbing and killing of other crows, despite all their noisy territorial disputes. The following two reports, that came in within several days of each other this spring, may call for at least a partial revision of that opinion. It should be noted that both of these reports come from the Pacific Northwest and may involve Northwest crows rather than American crows, or possibly both.(Michael Westerfield)

May 31, 2010. I have lived in my current home in Prince George, British Columbia for 4 years. There has always been a family of crows living in a big spruce tree in my front yard. We have co-existed very well and have many other kinds of birds in the neighbourhood. This year crows started killing all the other birds. Last night about 15 crows came and attacked the crows who lived in my tree with their 5 offspring. One of them (I think the mother) fell out of the tree with its legs almost chewed off and the rest of it was untouched. My child was upset as the crow was dragging itself around by it wings. I was appalled and couldn’t stand to see it suffer so I killed it and removed the body. This morning the other crow’s body, mostly eaten was found under the tree. No sign of the young, but lots of feathers. The noise has been deafening. I enjoyed having the other crows around but these terrorists I want nothing to do with. (J.E.)

June 7, 2010. Downtown Seattle, Washington. We have a crow’s nest outside our office window and observed some really strange behavior this morning. There are two fledglings in the nest and this morning 4 adult crows (not the parents) showed up and swooped into the nest with the parents fighting them off and both fledglings were knocked out of the nest. One ended up on a ledge and the other on a branch where they could return to the nest when the parents got rid of the attackers. We are wondering why the adult crows were attacking and if they were attacking at all. Two keep returning to branches near the nest as the parents swoop and shoe them away. (L.S.)

*********************************

Posted: May 31, 2010. Crow in a Wood Duck Nesting Box

May 30, 2010. I was happy to find your website when I was researching some crow information. I live in Camp Hill PA along the Conodoguinet Creek. This spring, my old wood duck box blew down in a storm and broke apart. I built a new one, hung it up, and almost immediately had wood ducks in it. They fledged several weeks ago.

I was standing near the box maybe 10 days ago when a crow flew to the box and dove inside! At first I was concerned that there might still be ducklings inside, so I banged on the box, but the crow did not leave. I watched for several minutes. This afternoon, I saw the same thing, the crow entering the box. It barely lands at the opening, almost flies directly inside. I haven't seen anything on the net about crows being cavity nesters. Is it possible that the crow is nesting in the duck box?

Screech owls use this box in late winter as well. It's like a birdie time share!

I would be interested to know if this behavior has been observed by others. (Wendy Smith)

crows.net response. As far as I know, crows do not breed in cavities - but then individual crows might do just about anything. Crows will reach into nesting boxes to snatch nestlings, but actually entering a box would be very unusual, crows being very wary of enclosed spaces.

Wendy Smith response to crows.net response. I would say that this crow was not looking in the box for nestlings - I know they do that since they got a fledgling screech owl that way several years ago. As I mentioned, this crow dove straight into the box, no looking in first, no hesitating. It's an amazing sight. I have not seen the crow leave the box either time, so it seems to stay there for some time once it enters. The only other thing I can think of is that it's eating leftovers from the wood duck nest, but as far as I know, the ducklings leave the nest shortly after they hatch so there shouldn't be much in there, plus it's a brand new box so there wouldn't be anything in there from previous owl nests? There is only a layer of sawdust in the bottom of the box. I'm afraid I don't have a video camera, but even if I did, it happens so suddenly and unexpectedly, the chances of catching it on film are slim.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted: May 31, 2010. Crow Deaths

May 30, 2010. After reading the post about a crow's death and the reaction of the other crows in the area, it reminded me of deaths in our crow family in 2006.

At the time, our local crow family had 7 members and it was a beautiful summer's day and they were walking on my asphalt driveway looking for bugs to eat. Out of the blue a large raven swept down, clutched the back of one crow and without breaking it's wing stride lifted off with the crow and the rest of the family pursuing. I had never seen this happen before or since.

Another death was during the winter months. One of the babies from the summer broke it's wing and it was locked in a straight position. We called him Broken Wing. The poor baby couldn't fly but learned to hop up fir tree branches in a circular patter (like a stairway) until it reached a tree top. From there it learned to glide down to it's target. Against all odds, and with the help of all the family members, it survived and thrived until the middle of winter. The snow was about 3 feet deep and Broken Wing had to hop and crawl through the snow to reach the cover of the trees so he could climb up and glide down again. As I watched him crawl through the snow one afternoon a large Great Horned Owl swooped down on him, killing him instantly. The rest of the family went nuts! They screamed and dived at the owl but it just lifted off the snow with the bird in tow. They followed that owl and looked for Broken Wing for over a day, calling and screaming in their grief.

This was a family only funeral because all the other crows in the area migrated south for the winter. My crows ate out of the compost pile every day and had no reason to migrate, so they stayed all year round. (P.D.)

crows.net response I have never heard of ravens preying upon crows. Generally they seem to more or less peacefully co-exist, even when feeding together. I wonder if anyone else has observed such behavior on the part of ravens? If so, please let us know about it. (Michael Westerfield)

Posted: May 28, 2010. Crow Death or Mobbing?

The other day, about May 21, my wife was out walking in New Denver, our mountain village in southeastern BC. She noticed a huge commotion among the crows in treetops near Carpenter Creek, the stream that bisects our town on the way to glacier-fed Slocan Lake. She said the sounds were quite alarming in tone and she saw an injured crow drop to the ground. It twitched once or twice with the last effort to snatch back life in its final breaths and then died. She said a silent word of commiseration to the crows but then it occurred to her: Had this crow been killed by a hawk, or mobbed by other crows for some reason? I've read that this can happen on occasion, though no one seems to know for what reason. Had it trespassed some crow law, poaching another family's eggs? Or was there some other 'law' it had broken to deserve being executed by the other crows? Or in fact, had it simply been killed by a hawk, and the other crows gathered in raging grief to watch its final moments? Either way, it was, by her account, a moving experience to have stumbled upon. (A.J.)

crows.net response It is often very hard to understand exactly what has happened in these cases where a crow death and a large gathering of crows are observed, because generally the person observing the incident has been alerted by the crow vocalizations and doesn't get to see how the action actually began. Crows do, on occasion, have dominance fights for territorial or other reasons, but these appear very distinct from "mobbing". Like dominance fighting in many other species, these sometimes, but not usually, can result in death. Other crows might be present as "spectators" at these fights, but do not generally take part. I do not believe that crows ever, as a group, mob another crow, as they do raptors and, I don't think, that they ever "execute" a member of their own group, since all of those would normally be closely related and crows are very protective of group members.

I suspect, that the most likely explanation is that the crow was killed by a raptor, as you suggested, and what you observed was a "crow funeral". Gatherings of crows reacting to the death of one of their flock members are frequently reported. Sometimes these gatherings are very noise, with crows flying overhead vocalizing in a manner similar to, but distinct from, the calls of a group mobbing a predator. Generally these gatherings last for a short time, after which the birds quietly disperse. (Michael Westerfield)

Posted May 22, 2010: Feeding Time at the Corvid Ranch. Regardless of what we may think of raising exotic corvids to sell as pets, this video from the Corvid Ranch is certainly worth watching, as nestlings of various corvid species get a hearty meal.

Feeding Time at the Corvid Ranch.

Posted 5/18/2010: Birdman Calls in Crow Conspirators to Close Airport. This might be the oddest crow story we’ve ever read – and watched. It includes a video of Nepalese bird call expert Gautam Saptoka demonstrating crow calls, along with a strange story about how his quest to be in the Guinness Book of World Records led him to threaten a bizarre act of bird terrorism. The interview is in, I assume, Nepalese, as well as crow, but there are subtitles for the crow calls.

Birdman of Hetauda.

Posted: 5/14/10: A fantastic Crow Cam. The following link is to a camera focused on a crows nest on what looks like a fire escape in Portland, Oregon. There are chicks in the nest, just a couple of days old at this point.

Crow Cam: Babies in the nest.

Posted 5/13/10: Poo Parcels. Nestling crows, along with the young of many other birds, dispose of their bodily wastes in a “fecal sac”, a sort of white, membrane covered packet. Parent birds keep the nest clean by picking up these sacs in their beaks and depositing them some distance from the nest, where their presence won’t alert predators to the location of their young. Frequently, it seems that crows deposit these in or near water, and each spring we receive a number of reports and questions about “white stuff” or “poo(p)” that crows drop into humans’ birdbaths or pools. So, if you see crows bringing little white parcels, it means that they have babies in their nests somewhere not too far away. It also means that they will stop doing it as soon as the youngsters leave the nest, so you won’t have to put up with these “special deliveries” for a very long time.

Posted: May 9, 2010. The American crow world is very quiet right now, with offspring in the nests most places in North America. We receive very few observation reports at this time, since the crows tend to be very secretive and there’s not much to be seen. Very shortly the young will begin fledging and the reports of “orphan” and “injured” crows will begin to come in. If you come across a fledgling crow, please let us know about it, along with the location, and we will post your sighting on the map on our Nesting Time page. If you need advice on what to do about a young crow that seems to be injured or in danger please contact us, and we will do our best to help. (Michael Westerfield. crows.net)

POSTED 4/29/10. NESTING SEASON IS IN FULL SWING. If you observe any nesting season activity such as, nest building, eggs, nestlings, or fledgling crows, please send us a report giving your location, the date of the observation, and just what you have observed. We will post it on the Nesting Season map on our "Nesting Season" page.

POSTED: April 25, 2010.

KRIA, by Sue Cummings, Friend of Corvid

The following is an event that happened that strengthens my conviction that there are NO coincidences in life.

This happened several years ago when I lived on Whidbey Island in the state of Washington. This was in the Spring of 1992. The night before this extraordinary event, I had just finished reading the book “Ravensong” by Catherine Feher Elston. The Afterword in the book dealt with how the author and her husband had found an injured crow. The crow’s wing was broken. Eventually the wing was removed. Gagee (the crow’s name) stayed with the author for some time. She recounts how she cared for Gagee. She then gave him to a wild bird sanctuary in order to offer better protection from wild life officials who would put “non releasables” to sleep.

The very next morning after reading the Afterward, my daughter, who was then a toddler, and I sat outside finishing our breakfast. My then husband had gone to work fifteen minutes earlier. Suddenly, we saw him walking toward us from the driveway with a crow in his hands held against his chest! She (I don’t know why I had decided she was a female) had a broken wing! On his way to work he had found her walking in circles dragging her broken wing.

We took her to the veterinarian, who was a friend of mine She stated that the wing would have to be removed or the crow put to sleep. The veterinarian removed the crow’s wing at my request. I then brought her home. I went to a pet store, bought some chicken wire and a woman at a pet store made a large cage out of it for me. I had learned what I needed to do from the book that I had just finished the night before. I had to force feed Kria (I named her from a story about some crows that I had been writing) as she would not willingly eat. I used one of those syringe type things to feed babies medicine and fed her watered down dog and cat food and watermelon. I gave her amoxicillin in case she had an infection from her injury. I bought her that gravel (can’t remember what it is called) that crows need. I placed a large shallow tub with water in the living room and would let Kria out of her cage. I knew that crows like to bathe everyday. She would not bathe with me in the living room, so I would leave the area and come back some time later to find water splashed all over the place. My daughter had a large dollhouse in the living room. I came in once to find Kria perched on the doll house peering through one of the tiny dollhouse windows with one of her eyes, looking at the very small people and furniture inside.

One day I held her against my chest and sang softly to her and she began to close one of her little black eyes. She felt so warm against me. I was very moved and deeply saddened. Such silent, uncomplaining suffering, such a clean innocence. And she had undergone a transformation of the most difficult kind, not only had she lost her wing and ability to fly, but she had lost her entire family, her entire way of life, the joy of crow freedom- the raucous pleasure of crow bantering, landing on a willowy tree top and swinging to and fro, the wind through her midnight feathers, diving deep and cutting through the skies, landing with grace, feet outstretched, upon a log, bathing in sweet water streams, perching on roosting tree close to other warm crow bodies, dark companions, hundreds of crow hearts beating softly and warmly in the blackness of night. My crow had lost all that. I felt at a loss.

I only had Kria for about a week. I knew I could not keep her forever. I was afraid some bureaucrat would find out about her and take her. So I called the Audubon Society and asked for their advice. They in turn gave me the number of the a wild bird clinic (I do not know if it still exists). I called there and the woman who ran it all on her own told me she would take Kria. We got on the ferry with Kria and drove her all the way to the town of Federal Way to this wild bird sanctuary. It broke my heart to part with her, but I knew it was in her best interest.

We arrived and found it to be in a woman’s large and wooded back garden. The place operated on a “shoe string” and with a tremendous amount of love and dedication. In this garden there were two large bird enclosures with various branches leading to the very top of these very tall enclosures. In one of them there were orphaned yellow goslings, mature ducks, chickens and crows. Three crows and a big and sassy black crow named “Sam”. Sam was the MAN. He was the head honcho of all crows. Sam was in perfect health but had been raised by a human somewhere, somehow, and could never be released into the wild because of that. Sam was big, plump, strong and glossy. The woman “Karen” who owned this place placed Kria in with Sam and company. Kria immediately worked her way up to the top of the branch that Sam was perched on and fluffed up her feathers like a baby crow and made little mewing baby crow sounds (before that she had been completely silent). Sam began to gently preen her facial feathers with his beak and then put his beak inside her open beak as if he were feeding her as she fluttered her wing. I stood there transfixed. It was one of the most astounding things that I have ever seen. I feel honored to have been a part of this odyssey.

POSTED April 23, 2010: A clever, food stashing crow

4/9/10. The Woodlands, Texas. A lone crow came into our yard and found the corn flakes I had thrown on the driveway and in the grass for it. He took some of the cereal and hid it under some oak leaves. Then he went to the main pile of cereal and issued the call to the group that he had found food. Four other crows came to his location and he stood a few feet away from them while they ate all the cereal. He patiently waited until they had flown away, then he went to his “stash” under the oak leaves and had his lunch. (J.K.)

Posted April 22, 2010. A white feather, cat warnings, a crow funeral, and a hunting owl.

I live on a lovely lake in Canada, east of Peterborough Ontario and north of Havelock Ontario. We have been observing a family of crows since 1968 and we love them. They feed at our feeders and on our lot and nest in our tall pine trees. They steal anything shiny if left out that they can manage and are constantly communicating with each other and us. One of the males (he is 8 now) has a white feather on his right side and many of his offspring have some white on them somewhere. When I go for my walks in the morning a few of them get together and follow me making sure I know they are with me.

One morning I was weeding the garden and heard the "warning" caws begin and 3 crows came and harassed me until I got up and followed them and chased off the wild cat that was stalking the birds by the feeders.

A sad incident occurred when a hawk raided one of the nests, grabbed an almost flying baby and then was attacked by the adults and dropped the baby that fell and died. Crows from everywhere came and commiserated with the parents. They let me approach and didn't fly away and watched as I buried their baby - it was so sad.

We have a large grey owl that sometimes hunts mice on our lane. When he is around the crows come from all around - impossible to count them - the sky is black with the numbers. They chase the owl for miles and can be heard bragging for hours! (S.C.)

Posted: March 30, 2010. Experiment: Do crows recognize people by sight or sound?

2 years ago I did an experiment with crows living near me. There was a large flock living in the graveyard across the street from where I lived at the time. (This is the Evergreen/Washelly Cemetery)[Seattle, Washington] Every day for a month I went at the same time, wearing the same clothes and making the same sound. I brought a big bag of food with me and fed the crows. I continued to make the same, simple, redundant sound over and over as they ate.

After a month, I went to the graveyard dressed very differently. Instead of being all covered in my grey hoodie, I had my long black hair out and wore a white t shirt. I made the same redundant sound, so the crows waiting in the trees heard me. I had the bag of food. But they did not react to the sound at all, though they had heard it over and over as I had approached for the last month, bringing their food, and as they ate their food. But they paid no attention to the sound at all.

They did come down when I put the food out, but when I was in my "disguise" of the crow experiment, they had learned to spot me right away. So it was more like it was a stranger feeding them.

The next day I wore my crow experiment clothes, all grey sweats with a hoodie tied around my head. I did not make the sound at all. But it didn't matter. They all came flapping at me as soon as I got close to the Cemetery. They recognized me as they had in the past, even without the sound I always made. The sound apparently played no part at all in their learning to recognize me.

I wonder about doing this experiment again, but using a different sound. Perhaps the one I used was not a sound they would recognize as communication.

That's my story; except you can guess that I took off the hoodie after that, and the crows learned what I looked like, then no matter what I wore, they spotted me. They eventually followed me home as well, and until I moved, I had a crow "Honor Guard" wherever I walked. It sounds cute, but it does get old. (Laura Morgan MT)

Posted March 24, 2010: Nesting Time for Razzle the Crow

Throughout much of the continent, this is the time when crows begin to exhibit behavior associated with breeding. There is considerable variation between locations and years, and the best all around answer I have found to the question, “When do crows start building their nests?” is, “When the first buds of the year begin to swell.” Crows are among the earliest of birds to begin the nesting process and may already be seen carrying nesting materials in locations with favorable climates. If you see other species of birds building nests, you can be fairly sure that your local crows are well along in the process.

Crows build nests in a variety of locations, but surely one of the most unusual nest sites is used by a crow named Razzle, who shares a territory with a human couple in eastern Oregon. Here’s part of their story about the crow that nests in their bedroom..

+++++++++++++++++++++

I have a 5 year old recue crow named Razzle. I found him as a hatchling one April morning while I was hunting for mushrooms along our creek bank. I believe he wasn't more than a day or two old when I found him laying cold on the ground beneath his destroyed nest(most likely a raccoon attack).

Razzle’s 1st Nest in the Closet.Photo by Renee Thompson.

In his third year we learned that Razzle was a she because she built her first nest(see attachment) in my bedroom closet! She produced 5 unfertilized eggs. The following year the nest site( see attachment) was in the bedroom directly over our bed! Again five unfertilized eggs were produced. We are patiently waiting to see where this year's nest will end up.

Razzle’s nest with eggs. Photo by Renee Thompson.

Razzle has total access to the outside. Our bedroom is on the second floor and it has several windows one of which is Razzle's personal window. Each morning when Razzle hears the other crows outside he starts cawing, at which point I get up and open his window and I go back to bed. He flies out and spends the whole day outside with the other crows. The entire flock remains fairly close to the house for the entire nesting season. During each day Razzle makes frequent pit stops to the house and loads up on food and sometimes a neck rub then he's off again. Forgive me for calling Razzle a him. My husband and I know full well that the bird is a female but we spent the first two years calling him "him" and we can't break an old habit. Besides it may confuse Razzle.

Once he becomes serious about nest building then we leave the bedroom window open all day long. However the first year he built the nest in the closet the weather was too inclement to leave the window open all day so most of the sticks comprising the nest he brought in via the downstairs door. He would collect a stick and show up at the kitchen table window alerting us that he needed the door to be opened. He would walk through the door with the stick and then hop up the flight stairs, then onto the banister and from the banister he would fly into the closet to the nest site with stick in tow. Jack and I were basically his personal door people for about two weeks. It was quite time consuming for us, to say the least. The third year I decided to encourage he use the window which thankfully he did.

You can not believe what that bird gathered for nest lining. In addition to grass, he stripped the bark off our yard fence, he used baling twine (blue stuff), shoe laces where very popular as were socks. I drew a line in the sand when he took great interest in my underwear! Now his gathering of the toilet paper was extremely interesting to watch. He would go into the bathroom and jump up onto the toilet paper roll attached to the wall and would start running like he were on a treadmill which would unroll the paper which would pile up on the floor, then he'd fly down and rip a long strip off. Heavy utilization of TP during that time. (Renee Thompson)[To be continued]

Posted: 3/24/10. Two Crows Fighting

March 22, 2010. This story I wish to share with you took place yesterday in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, that being March 21, 2010. It was late afternoon and I was walking close to the ocean front area. I could hear crows in significant numbers. They were in the tree tops. My immediate thought was that there was either an eagle or an owl close by, given the amount of noise being made and the number of crows that filled the trees above. As I walked close to the gathering through rather thick underbrush I came upon two large adult crows engaging in a fight. They were tumbling over each other and were quite preoccupied with fighting each other for survival. I was quite amazed. When they realized my presence they took off into flight and the noise quieted down. The area where they were fighting was scattered with small black underlying feathers and blood. I was quite amazed at this and wondered if they, like other animals, fought for the hierarchy of the flock or herd. I would never have thought these intelligent birds would fight each other over any particular need. (G.M.)

For another story and a couple of photos of crows fighting, scroll down this page.

POSTED: 3/23/10. A Trading Crow?

March 22, 2010. Back when I was a student in my graduate program, and when I used to smoke, there were these big crows that used to hang out at the UBC cafe patio and wait for students to feed them, or drop muffin crumbs, or whatever. I used to be a regular on that patio, and the crows got to know me as a bit of a fixture. Once, I had run out of tobacco, and was really jonesing [craving] for a smoke. One of the crows landed on a chair-back, and cocked it's head sideways at me. I tore the top off of my muffin and placed it on the table. It grabbed the whole thing firmly in it's beak and flew off. Some minutes later, it returned to the chair it was perched on before at my table with a clean, unsmoked cigarette, and it just plunked it down on the table, then it flew off. I marveled, lit up, and suspected either the Universe is a far more intelligent place than I had hitherto suspected, or just the crow parts of the universe (as in Goethe's Ur- or meta-animals). Either way, that event left an indelible mark on me, and has had me hold crows in high esteem ever since. (A.T.)

POSTED: 3/20/2010. CAPE COD CROW KILLERS

The Federal Government is undertaking a program of poisoning crows in an attempt to protect the nests of piping plover on Cape Cod. You can read about this in the Cape Cod Times by clicking on the following link. Our reply in a letter to the Editor is below.

Killing Crows for Conservation.

Letter to the Editor of the Cape Cod Times

According to a recent story in the Cape Cod Times, federal officials are attempting to poison crows at the National Seashore in order to protect the eggs of the piping plover from predation. The work will be carried out by agents of the U.S, Department of Agriculture (USDA) which has a long and disgraceful history of attempting to control crow populations by mass murder, sometimes killing tens of thousands by such expedients as dynamiting winter crow roosts at night or spreading poison over vast areas of farm land. Aside from the immense cruelty involved, these efforts have generally been futile, first because they addressed the problem from the wrong direction, and second because crow populations are remarkably successful in surviving anything that humans can throw at them.

In the present case, the piping plover aren't in trouble because of crows. Crows and plover have coexisted successfully for a very long time, prior to humans upsetting the delicate balance of nature through habitat destruction and improper land use patterns. The USDA’s solution to this particular human created problem is particularly cruel, since the crows that are robbing plover nests generally are doing it to feed their own nestlings. As a result, they will be poisoning parents and allowing the baby crows to starve to death in the nests, or they will be poisoning baby crows with the food their parents bring them, or both. It is not a nice picture, and it certainly won't solve the problem, except possibly in the very short term. Other crows will simply replace the ones killed, and the poisoning program will have to go on forever.

Surely there must be non-lethal solutions to the problem of crows stealing plover eggs. Perhaps the simplest one would be to provide the crows with a bountiful supply of non-poisoned eggs, in many, obviously placed artificial nests. If crows were able to feed their babies on these, without the need to rob plover nests, perhaps it would be possible to save one species without the need to murder another. That, after all, is what conservation is all about. (Michael Westerfield)

Posted: 3/16/2010: A Luecistic Crow

A luecistic crow.  Photo by Susan Boucher Ohmann.

Susan Boucher Ohmann submitted this photo of a luecistic crow. It visits her yard with several other normal colored crows. Luecistic, individuals sometimes called “partial albinos” or “pied” or “piebald”, occur occasionally in many species. Crows with one or a few white feathers show up fairly commonly. Ones as “piebald” as the crow in the photo are rare.

Posted 3/10/2010: Another great photo of the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Crow Roost by Linda Anthony.

Bethlehem Pennsylvania crow roost.  Photo by Linda Anthony.

Posted 3/6/2010: An Incredible Crow Roost

March 4, 2010. Bethlehem Pennsylvania has a crow roost that exceeds the hundreds of crows I have read about in the other reports you have received. This roost has tens of thousands of birds that have gathered each evening for the past several months. The roost has grown since December and is still very active as of March 4, 2010. It will probably disband in mid March. The roost occurs in W. Bethlehem between Broad Street and Union Blvd. in the area along the Monocacy Creek. It did move once this year, but not very far. It is in the backyard of the Hotel Bethlehem. The city has tried to move the roost by using noise and lasers, but the crows are too smart. The roost just continued to grow as the season progressed. See photos below.(Linda Anthony).

Bethlehem Pennsylvania crow roost.  Photo by Linda Anthony.

Bethlehem Pennsylvania crow roost (detail).  Photo by Linda Anthony.

Posted: 2/27/2010: Portland Maine Crow Roost

February 26, 2010: Just wanted to let you know that the crows in Portland, Maine are still gathering in the West End. I've noticed them several times now right before dusk, their location changes slightly each time. I estimate there to be about 1000 of them. A few weeks ago in January I saw them in Deering Oaks Park. They had totally covered the tennis courts there and the surrounding trees. I thought I was seeing things. They're always very vocal and do not seem too concerned with people getting in their way. They'll circle around, but return to the same spots with signs of geographical intention. I don't see them for weeks at a time though, and am not sure where they go. The latest I've seen them was about a week ago from today, the 26th of February. Anyways, thanks so much for this website it was really helpful for me, so I hoped that this would in turn help you! Thanks again! (A.C.)

FOR MORE ROOST REPORTS AND A MAP OF CROW ROOST LOCATIONS GO TO: Crow Roost Location Reports

POSTED: 2/19/2010. Crows Learning to Shell Peanuts. Also Predator Alarm Calls.

February 16, 2010. I live in a very remote area of northeast Oregon. My nearest neighbor is approximately 7 miles away, perhaps 5 miles as the crow flies (pardon the pun). My closest town (population 17) is over ten miles away. I live in both an agricultural and forested wilderness area and I'm sure I'm the only person around in the area that loves and feeds crows. Ten years ago I moved to this location and began feeding the local population of birds including the wild turkeys. It took several years before the crows began taking advantage of this food source on a regular basis. At first it was a few crows but each year their numbers would increase. Currently, during the nesting, breeding and fledgling season I will be feeding as many as 100 crows. This has become a "routine" for this group of crows and they never fail to show up every morning. In fact they sit outside my bedroom window and caw until I get up and feed them.

Several years ago I threw out for the first time some peanuts in the shell. I believe this was the first time these crows had ever seen peanuts in the shell. The group of crows came and ate all the regular and familiar foods but left the peanuts untouched. For several days these peanuts were left on the ground undisturbed. So I removed the peanuts in the shell and threw out some shelled peanuts along with the regular food. At first the birds were a little apprehensive about this new food item. By day's end the peanuts had been tasted and were quickly accepted as another item on the menu. After several days of regular feeding of the shelled peanuts I then took peanuts in the shell and broke each shell in half exposing the peanut inside. It didn't take long before several crows noticed the peanut hiding within the halved peanut shell. These few crows quickly learned how to get that exposed peanut out of the half shell. Soon all the other crows had learned the technique used by watching the initial few.

After about a week had passed I then offered the peanuts with the shell cracked but still intact. The actual peanut inside was not visible under this circumstance. Once again I observed several crows, recognizing the shell and knowing that a peanut was inside, take the shell stand on it with both feet and then crack it open with their beaks as the rest of the large group looked on. It took about two weeks but eventually every crow out there was cracking open the peanut shells with great proficiency. Of all the different food items offered the peanuts were and still are the favored food. Later in the season as the fledglings began to show up with their parents they too would sit there and watch the parents open the peanuts. Before all the crows left for the winter they were all opening the peanut shells like pros.

I believe these birds are masters of observation and never miss an opportunity to exploit a new food source.

Another observation I've made on many occasions relates to the different calls used by these crows to signal a ground predator vs. a flying predator. I believe I can determine from hearing a crow give a predator call whether it's a ground predator or a flying predator that has been identified. There have been many, many occasions when I would hear a single crow or multiple crows giving a predator alarm call and I have gone to investigate. Knowing from the particular call whether to look to the air or the ground, I usually have found the source of all the racket. Over time I have come to learn the difference between these two calls. We have many different kinds of hawks and owls as well as many Golden Eagles in the general vicinity, all known predators of crows. These resident crows have a specific call for these flying predators. Likewise there is a specific call for the ground predator as well. Raccoons, skunks, bobcats, mountain lions, weasels, coyotes and even rattlesnakes will elicit the ground predator call. Totally different sound from the call of the flying predator.

Now within these two different sounding predator calls there exists sub-categories that will tell the listener how urgent the situation is and subsequent response should be. The closer the proximity of the predator the greater the frequency of calls that are issued over a given time period. I hope to get these two calls recorded this summer.

Hope this information can be of help in better understanding this incredible and intelligent bird. (Renee Thompson)

POSTED: 2/17/2010. Dorothy the Rescue Crow

February 13, 2010. We have a rescue crow and she was attacked by a hawk. This was after we found her as a baby, raised her for 3 months and tried to release her. Releasing her was a big mistake on so many levels. The neighbors think we are witches still to this day, because after her release we would come home from work, barely get out of the car and the crow would swoop down and land on our shoulder. Both myself and my boyfriend...didn't matter. We soon became freaks, but what is one to do...we where just trying to help an animal.

One morning around 6 AM, my boyfriend heard terrible screeching and ran out the front door. It was Dorothy. A hawk was on top of her across the street. We rushed her to the nearest animal hospital and they said they would *fix* her, but would need to confiscate her because it was illegal. They promised to send her to a ***crow rescue**. Yep. We asked them if they wanted their money for looking at her and told them we were leaving with the bird, regardless. $260 bucks, for them to tell us she just had a bruise. It was 3 days until we found a vet we could trust (yeah, Dorothy hung on and was gabbing up a storm, like nothing was wrong)...it was then that we learned she had infected talon wounds in her chest and her hip bone was completely crushed. Oddly, and much to the surprise of an avian specialist, she was still living...and very happily human friendly. He did not operate, but he put her under anesthesia and set her hip bone. The infection was cured through antibiotics. This all was a mere $1,000.00...and I would have paid a lot more...especially if I had known how amazing it was to have a crow in my life.

She is the best companion ever (needy of course, she is currently trying to clean my shoe as I type...as she does when she wants attention)...and she is doing her odd vocalizations....she says hello in several voices and likes to imitate our chickens...buck buck buck...sometimes she just barks like a dog, because the neighbors have a dog. She does not live in a cage, I clean up a lot of poop...and I have a helper (little black helper?) where ever I go in my house.

I wish Dorothy could fly and be a normal bird, but she cannot...due to her nerve damage. She really should not have lived through her accident, but this lil bird just hops around on one foot and insists on driving us all crazy and we love her.

Unfortunately Dorothy had developed an unhealthy addiction to cigarettes, before her accident. I always would leave packs outside in the yard where I smoked and noticed that the cigarettes where disappearing...I was sure I wasn't smoking THAT much. One day a couple friends came over and we walked out in the yard, and I was hoping Dorothy would fly down and meet them. I lit up a cigarette and about 30 seconds later...she swooped down and stole it out of my fingers!!! It was hysterical...but at the same time a bit scary. Chris got the ladder out to get on the roof where she took the lit cigarette and discovered she had been stealing all my cigarettes and stashing them on the roof!!! Bad bird. Bad bird mom. Needless to say she's not *smoking* anymore and I am still trying to quit. (W.M.)

POSTED: 2/16/2010. Limpy the Crow

February 15, 1010. Ogilvie, MN 56358. I am pretty lucky to have had a chance to get to watch the crow we refer to as Limpy. That’s how we know it's him/ her. This crow has a limp on the right leg and does not seem to be able to open the foot to grab stuff. So that’s how we know it is the same bird over and over. It started early last spring when I noticed a crow on the outskirts of the horses. After they were done with grain it would come in to see if any left overs. Well after a few days I started leaving a pile in the drive nearby. It did not take long for Limpy to figure out this easy pickings. I would add all new kinds of food thanks to your web site!!! So Limpy was getting a free meal of some left overs, dog food, cat food, etc...every morning. Some mornings he would be sitting waiting to get fed and others I started to whistle and within a few minutes you could hear the caws from a short distance away and he would soon appear.

Late mid summer I was excited to hear and see that he had brought a friend! Soon these two had 2 babies sitting in the tree nearby begging to be fed!!!! That was a very noisy day, teaching them to fly. For a while all 4 came to eat but since winter set in I only see 1 or 2 of them on and off other than the Limpy. He still comes almost every day for his food. Either he wakes me in the am to be fed (cawing in the tree near the driveway) or flies by the deck waiting. When there is lots of snow I will just go to the edge of the deck to feed (didn't need boots on then). So almost every day for 10 months he only missed a few days. (Patti Jentsch)

POSTED 2/10/2010.Click on the following link for an excellent video presentation on crow roosts by the Humane Society: Humane Society Crow Roost Video.

For reports of crow roost locations click on the following link: Crow Roost Locations

For general information about crow winter roosts click on this link: Crow Roosts

POSTED 2/1/2010: Blackie the Crow. Feeding Time for Blackie the Crow

Starting in June 2009, I raised a baby crow in the backyard, but let him stay outside with his family. For videos, click here: Blackie the Crow.

I am still feeding the family but I'm moving at the end of March. By that time he will be able to fend for himself. Crows usually migrate from my city, Timmins, Ontario, Canada, but since I have been feeding the same family for 10 years they don't migrate. (Pam Dallaire, http://www.paintingthenorth.com)

POSTED:1/25/2010

Crows (or Ravens) Obeying the Traffic Signals

The exact date of this observation can not be recalled, though I believe it to be approximately sometime between 2003 - 2005. The event which I sighted involved a group of about three or four crows or ravens, and took place in Arden Hills, Minnesota, Ramsey County, United States of America.

While waiting in the left turn lane, headed north, I was the first car in line at this light. I observed several crows/ravens diving down to a bag from a fast-food restaurant that was directly in the center of the intersection. The crows/ravens would roost on the street-light and waited for the light to change and dive down before the traffic began to move through the intersection. I watched and had perfect visibility to view them. They discerned when the light/arrows changed and how the traffic was going to move, and made decisions about taking turns to dive for the food on the roadway. I watched this for several changes of the street-light. (Jodi R. Brennan)

Crows.net note: Judging by the location, the type of activity, and the number of birds involved, it would appear more likely that they were crows than ravens.

POSTED: 1/22/2010: A favorite report, from 2007.

Bacon, eggs, and Old Crow

I've been feeding a small crow family for over four years now. My Old Crow came to our backyard in the summer of 2003. He had a broken leg, and was struggling to survive on the bread crumbs and bird feed that we had put out for the little birds. Poor Old Crow was a very sad looking guy back then ..., but you ought to see him now! Now, he's a very big Old Crow ..., with a wife and several children to feed.

The first summer, I would hang raw bacon over the back fence for him to snatch up, and this he did, with great accuracy. The only problem was, he was hanging the bacon like fresh laundered underwear over the telephone wires ..., for all to see. I was quite embarrassed by the sight ..., but learned very quickly that Old Crow wanted his bacon a little bit cooked ..., just so the fat was dripping out of it. A quick bout in the microwave solved that problem, and then there was no more unsightly bacon hanging over the wires for the neighbors to view.

Since that summer of 2003, I've been steadily and lovingly feeding my little crow family. In the Fall, as is now, I have "many" more crows to feed. The migrating crows will be here for a short time, and then they'll be off to their winter roost, and I'll just have my little family to care for ..., once again. Now to make a long story short; what the crows in Salem, Oregon prefer to eat! They *love* Col. Sanders fried chicken, but only get it periodically. Every day I feed them the following, and through much trial and error have discovered that this is exactly what they prefer to eat:

Cheese and Egg Omelet
Cut-up wieners [turkey, beef or chicken]
Macaroni and Cheese
Bacon slightly cooked
Cheddar Cheese
Pizza

I found that what they don't like to eat is raw meats, any kind of vegetables and the crows around here poo-poo peanuts. Quick funny story; I once gave my Old Crow an uncooked whole egg to eat. He loved it ..., but another embarrassing situation occurred. He punched a hole in the shell and took the egg up on the neighbors roof to eat. I'm very thankful that the neighbors couldn't see the side of their house that we had to stare at for a couple of months! We prayed constantly for rain. The broken shell was glued firmly to Jay's shingles, and the white of the egg had run down and dried in a glossy sheen, that only stopped at the rain gutter. So, even though crows love raw egg, I highly suggest that you never give them one! Soft boiled or hard boiled eggs didn't work out, either. They'll eat the yolk and leave the whites. So, I scramble their eggs with a good amount. of cheddar cheese and everybody seems to be happy! ( Roxann Gess Smith Salem, Oregon)

POSTED: 1/20/2010: Terra Haute, Indiana crow roost.

The Associated Press reports, “Thousands of crows have descended on Terre Haute, making a mess of downtown and causing trouble for business owners. A researcher estimates that at least 32,000 crows are roosting in the city this winter, leaving sidewalks and trees covered in droppings.” To read the full story, click here: Terra Haute crow roost.

POSTED: 1/19/2010

Winter Roosts

This is the time of year when crows gather each night in large communal roosts. If there are crows in your area, it is very likely that one of these winter roosts is located somewhere near you. In late afternoon, if you observe groups of crows flying steadily in one direction, you are probably seeing birds heading for a roost. The nearer to the roost you are, the more birds you will see. If you are at a roosting place around sundown, you will be treated to one of nature’s most unforgettable, and noisiest, sights, hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of crows swirling through the skies, settling as thick as leaves in the trees, as they prepare to settle in for a long winter night’s rest. For information on crow roosts click here. Roosts

If you know of the location of a crow roost, please let us know and we will include it in our listing.

For a listing of crow roosts in North America that have been reported to crows.net over the past decade, click here. Crow Roosts in North America

POSTED: 1/19/2010

Norwich Connecticut Roost Report, M. Westerfield

Staging Area For the Norwich, CT
 roost, Michael Westerfield, January 18, 2010.

1/18/2010. I set out today to visit the crow roost in Norwich, Connecticut that I have been monitoring sporadically for the past ten years or so. This was the first time this year that I headed down that way. Darkness comes around 5:00 p.m. at this time of year and it takes me about half an hour to reach the roost area, so I set out about 3:45 p.m. figuring to arrive at about 4:15. On the way down, I was rather dismayed not to see any flights of crows heading for the roost. In past years the birds from my area roosted in Norwich and they were still at home at 3:30. Since they can get to Norwich faster than I can in a car, traveling the fifteen miles or so “as the crow flies”, I expected to see them, or their fellows, on the way down.

Although the Norwich Roost moves around quite a bit over time, it always seems to be within an area with about a mile radius, centered on the Maplewood Cemetery, which spans Route 395 in the south west part of Norwich. I headed to the cemetery first, drove around the various roads and finally took the bridge which crosses Route 395 to the newest part of the cemetery, which contains only a few graves in a vast open field bordered by woods. A large group of crows were spotted on the ground and in the trees, at the southern edge of the field. The trees comprise a significant stretch of woodland that separate the cemetery from the grounds of the Norwich Country Club. The site was ideal for the use of crows. The whole area was seldom frequented in winter and no one could approach the crows unobserved across the very large field. A stream runs through the woods and the Thames River is around a mile to the east.

The group of crows was fully assembled by the time I arrived at 4:15 p.m. and no more were observed flying in from any direction. Over the course of the next half hour, the birds gradually moved from the ground into the trees and the whole group shifted east, moving from tree to tree until, by 4:40 they had vanished from sight beyond the tree line. An attempt to locate them by driving through nearby streets was unsuccessful, but it appeared logical that the group was located somewhere in the wooded area between the eastern extension of Maplewood Cemetery and the Norwich Country Club, bounded by Route 395 to the West, Salem Turnpike/West Main Street to the North, New London Turnpike to the East, and Fitch Hill Road to the south. The approximate latitude and longitude, in decimal format, of the roosting area is 41.504721, -72.109709. Will try to find the final roosting location within the next few days.

POSTED: 1/18/2010

Wild Crows Reveal Tool Skills

For the latest story from Science Daily on tool use by those amazing New Caledonian crows, click here: Tool Making Crows .

POSTED: 1/6/10

Ravens, Crows, and Golf Balls: A Report from India

1/5/2010: Lately I too have been a victim of crows stealing my golf balls. It is hardly ever that I hit on to a fairway and have little or no time to admire the effects, for I have to run after hitting the shot to prevent the crows from stealing it! I went searching to see if anybody else has had the same experience as we in the club have, and am relieved that it is not restricted to Chennai alone. Here at Chennai, Gymkhana club golf course, I have noticed that it is the raven that goes after the balls and if they are coloured balls, they seem to prefer it more. All they do is fly away with the ball and perch on top a race course tower (the golf course is within a horse racing track) and peck at it a few times and drop it somewhere abouts. I have also noticed that there are (at least) two crows (ravens) operating and it seems for them , some kind of a game and no two ravens go after the same ball!

On the other hand, I also noticed that the home crows (crows with the neck alone greyish or white) {House Crow, Corvus splendens (MJW)}, are just as curious, but are unable to hold it because of their smaller beak size. In this club, there have also been instances of eagles getting hold of the ball in their talons and making away with it.

I have no problems with the crows stealing the balls, as it is just as fun to see grown up old men running (or attempting to run) and shouting at the crows to lay off. (V.B.)

POSTED: 8/28/2009

Crows Playing Catch with a Pie Pan

Fall 2008. I saw a group of crows playing a game. It appeared there were two teams playing with a tin pie dish. (The pie plate was one of those throw aways that come with the store bought pies. I would guess there were 8-10 crows altogether.) They would fly toward each other, drop the tin plate and a member of the other team would swoop down and catch it in mid air, turn and fly back toward the other team, drop the plate and continue this game while they were being very vocal. What fun it was to watch. (Reported 8/22/2009 from Knightdale, NC, U.S.A).

************************************

POSTED: AUGUST 23, 2009

Crows and a Red Tailed Hawk

On Sunday August 16, 2009 in Dennis, Mass. I watched about 8 crows circle a patch of pine trees and caw loudly as a red tail hawk sat in one pine smothering and then eating a grey squirrel. The crows could not dive on the hawk because he was within the tree's branches and there was little room to maneuver. What I found interesting is that the crows tormented the hawk for the full 30 minutes it took to eat the squirrel. Then when the hawk was done with its meal, he raised his tail, defecated, and the crows flew off. The hawk remained for another 5 to 7 minutes, wiping it's beak and cheeks on a branch and surveying the area. Why did the crows leave? The hawk was still in their territory. It was still seemingly a threat to them. Did they know he was full and would not be hunting again quickly? Or were they not afraid of him to begin with and were only chastising the hawk for coming into their neighborhood and "murdering" the squirrel? (John LoDico)

CROWS.NET RESPONSE: It's a good question, and one not easily answered. We tend to think of crows as mobbing a predator "automatically"; that crows mob every red tailed hawk they see in their territory regardless of circumstance. Your observation tends to show that may not always be true. We do know that some animals, classically lions and prey species at a water hole, will share space when the predator is not in hunting mode. It's also been observed that crows can distinguish between individual predators according to threat level; that is crows can tell that some individual cats in their territory present less of a threat than others. So, it is not so far fetched to postulate that the crows read the behavior of the hawk, including the defecation, as a sign that its appetite was satisfied and that it no longer presented an immediate threat. It's possible. Why waste valuable energy on a non-threat?

***************************************

POSTED: AUGUST 9, 2009

Rook Uses Stones to Raise Water Level and Obtain Food

Watch the video and read about the latest demonstration of intelligence by a member of the crow family.

A Rook Solves Aesop's Puzzle. .

***********************************

POSTED: JULY 14, 2009 (Updated JULY 16, 2009)

A Juvenile Caramel Crow

7/13/2009: Kate and Felipe Garcia from Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, Washington, USA sent us the photos below of an extremely rare crow color variation known as caramel. The bird appears to be a juvenile with one of its parents and, given its location, is presumably a northwestern crow. More photos and information on this unique bird will be posted shortly. A juvenile caramel crow. 7/13/09. Kate and Felipe Garcia photo.

A juvenile caramel crow. 7/13/09. Kate and Felipe Garcia photo.

POSTED: JUNE 25, 2009

A Fledgling Albino Crow

6/24/09. I thought you folks might be interested in this juvenile albino crow I spotted this morning. I live in Ladner, British Columbia. Other than its complete albinism, it was behaving like a proper juvenile crow - loudly begging for food, and tended to by at least two all black adults. Mark Macdonald (more photos soon)

A juvenile albino crow. 6/24/09. Mark Macdonald photo.

POSTED: June 17, 2009

Junk Food is Bad for Young Crows Too!

An article from the "New Scientist" about junk foor and urban crows.

Junk Foor Gives Crow Chicks a Weight Problem. .

**********************

IMPORTANT NOTE: Posted June 1, 2009

Apparently our form email and possibly even our regular email has not been working properly for at least several days. Please send any observation reports to crows.net@gmail.com

If you have sent us a report or any correspondence in the last two weeks and have not received a reply, please resend it to crows.net@gmail.com. We are very sorry about this failure in communication.

*********************************

POSTED: JUNE 1, 2009

A Crow in the Airshaft

The Airshaft Crow. Mary Sylvester photo.

San Francisco, USA. I live with my wife in San Francisco across from Buena Vista Park. It is home to 3 crows, a blue jay and at least one red tailed hawk. Here is the email I sent to friends in June of 08.

Yesterday morning we heard a loud ruckus coming from our bathroom window. Our building is set up so there is a big a 6x6 space from the ground up to the sky for circulation. It is about the size of an elevator shaft. Our bathroom window looks out into this area. It is uncovered on the roof. It seems a crow had fallen into it and was walking around the bottom, cawing loudly. We called animal control.

Twice, I opened the window and reassured the bird that we were getting help for it. It would crane its neck and look up at me and listen. The animal control guy came and Claudine took him to the first floor apt which had the closest access. I stayed upstairs so I could watch. The guy held a big net out and the crow was scared and ran under a piece of metal that was down there. So he climbed out of the window over to a pipe and lowered himself down into the space. This guy was like GI JOE! The bird was nowhere to be seen, hiding under the metal. He asked the girl for a towel. A dark blue towel came through the window. He reached under the metal and pulled out the crow. I ran downstairs to see it. I walk into the girls' place and I said "Where's the crow?" "In the bathroom." I poke my head in, thinking it was in a cage or something and it is just standing on the lid of the toilet!

We waited for the guy to put his tool belt back on and he picked up the bird with both hands. I said, "I think it has a mate because there are 2 crows that fly around the park all the time." He said, "it is a baby. The parents are outside, watching." (Baby! That bird was really big.) We all walked to the front of the building to watch him let it go. We were holding our breath to see if it could fly. He released it and the crow took off and flew straight for the park. It was amazing!

Update

In October we moved to the top floor of the building. We have a terrace and access to the roof. Today I sent this email. Almost 1 year later!

Remember the story I told you about the crow that fell into our building? I think it remembers me. I walk around the neighborhood a lot. When I see it in the park, I make this smooching sound and it usually swoops down to take a look at me. Lately, if I make the sound, it finds me wherever I am. I could be blocks away from the park and it finds me. Today I was on the roof taking some photos of the fog. I didn't see it around so I made the sound. Look who came to visit! This is the closest it has ever come! (Mary Sylvester )

***************************************

POSTED: May 16, 2009

A Crow and a Tennis Ball

I observed a single crow within a larger block [of crows] feeding on the ground come upon a tennis ball in our large back lawn (about a half acre) It pecked at the ball and watched the ball roll forward. The crow stepped up to it again, pecked, and paused to watch it roll. It did this four or five times. The crow then changed tactics and, rather than pecking, it started to flick the ball with an upward movement of its head. The crow kept flicking the ball and walking after it for several minutes, going around the lawn until the 'game' ended when the ball rolled into tall grass and repeated flicks couldn't get it out.

It's hard not to ascribe human characteristics to a bird, but it looked like the crow was fascinated by the cause and effect of its action and the response from the ball. I've also seen crows that appear to be deliberately provocative to other birds like geese and hawks. They'll fly in close for seemingly no reason other than to swat these larger birds with their wings. They have wide open spaces, but they'll choose to come in where they're standing or perching. I have to liken their behavior to teenagers seeing how far they can push things before there's retribution. (Marlene Anderson)

***************************

POSTED: May 8, 2009

Crows make mistakes too!

A longer video of that pair of crows in Toulouse, France. Here they are choosing a nest site and attempting to construct a nest, but they don't have much luck with their building site. This video is about 25 minutes long, so settle back and enjoy crow watching.

Crows make mistakes too. .

********************************

POSTED: May 7, 2009

Meet the brains of the animal world

A good synopsis of work on the intelligence of corvids, presented by the BBC. Many videos. Click the link below.

BBC article on corvid intelligence. .

*********************************

POSTED: MAY 1, 2009

The Crow Camera

Watch live streaming video of nesting crows in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The nest appears to be on the ledge of a building above a busy street, with cars passing below. The camera operates between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., west coast North American time. Click the link below

The Crow Camera.

****************************

POSTED: April 25, 2009

Bruce Lepper, from Toulouse, France, submitted this excellent video clip of "courtship behavior" of the carrion crow, Corvus corone, a very close cousin of the American crow. The female is displaying her eagerness to mate by crouching down, spreading her wings and flicking her tail. The male, however, seems too preoccupied with his building project - a small piece of nesting material - to take much notice of her. Click on the link below to watch the video.

Courting Crows.

****************************

POSTED: APRIL 25, 2009

Juvenile Crow Gang Activity

At this time of year, when crows are nesting in Southern New England, as well as many other places, the activity patterns of crows change rather dramatically. While the mated pairs of crows are busy incubating eggs and raising nestlings, the tight family groups which, at other times of the year, form the basis of crow society undergo a significant change. While a few of the younger crows might continue with their parents as "helpers" around the nest, many others find themselves suddenly "cast out". These younger birds tend to join together to form "gangs" that might number somewhere between 50 to 100 birds that feed and "hang out" together. These gangs can be particularly apparent around dusk, when they fly from place to place before settling down together to roost for the night. They can also be quite apparent in the evenings when the weather is bright and the wind strong and gusty. Young crows seem to favor those evenings to play at "dog fights" and various other aerial games.

One interesting game which I observed on the evening of April 23, 2009, was a kind of reverse leap frog, or rather leap crow, played at the top of a tall evergreen tree, with the assistance of a gusty wind. In this game, one of two crows would perch on the highest part of the evergreen tree and the other would come up behind him/her and apparently attempt to pull its tail feathers. The first crow would avoid this by leaping into the air, spreading its wings, and being carried backwards by the wind over the other crow. He/she would then come up behind the other crow to pull its tail and that crow would perform the leaping and sailing backwards manuver. This process went on and on repeatedly for the five minutes I had available to observe them

A more common game that younger crows seem to constantly engage in, though more commonly on windy afternoons or evenings, is the two crow "dog fight". In these, two birds will chase each other around the sky, diving and swooping at each other, seemingly seeing how close they can come to each other without actually hitting. Sometimes dog fights can be serious, but generally they seem to be a sort of daring play and the two "fighters" can often be seen flying off togerther peacefully afterwards. Such games can clearly be very helpful in preparing for the more serious business of "mobbing" predators that invade crow territory.

In the most recent dog fight, which I observed last night (April 24, 2009), one of the birds seemed to be the chaser and the other the chasee. The chaser would dive at the other crow and just before they met in the air, one of the birds would give a very loud clicking "rattle call" while the other would respond with three high pitched caws. This sequence, including the vocalizations, was repeated many times and it did seem to be play rather than aggression, for the chasee never attempted to leave the area, but rather would circle back to re-engage with the chaser. (Michael Westerfield)

*****************************************

POSTED: April 18, 2009

Predator Crows

Throughout most of their range, this is the season when American crows are nesting and when many have rapidly growing offspring that need to consume a tremendous amount of food to reach the fledgling stage. This is also the time when many folks observe crows hunting and killing virtually anything they can manage in order to feed those ravenous babies. Very often the prey of hunting crows includes the eggs and young of other birds, as well very young rabbits, mice, snakes, and other small animals. One thing to keep in mind, if you should see what might appear to be quite shocking crow hunting behavior is that crows are doing this to feed their own babies and that in actuality their predation has virtually no effect in reducing the numbers of the species upon which they prey. A main reason for this is that crows generally produce only one nest of offspring a year, while the prey species may routinely produce several groups of offspring and/or react to the destruction of their nest by nesting again and producing a replacement clutch of offspring. Some observations on predatory crow behavior are given below.

April 15, 2009. Backyard lawn & semi wooded in suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A. Just saw a crow take a baby rabbit from my yard. Don't know whether the rabbit was alive or dead. I googled the event which led me to your excellent website. Of course I feel a pang for the rabbit, but after reading here, I feel for the crow, as well! (Kerrie Logan Hollihan)

April 10, 2009 Lafayette, LA, U.S.A. Some years ago at the university here, a crow flying overhead dropped a large squab at my feet. I dont think it had the means to hold on to it. (M.M.) (crows.net note - Unlike hawks and eagles, crows lack the ability to carry objects of any weight with their feet. Anything they can't get into the pouch under their tongues has to be carried in their beak. A squab would have been quite a load for them. M.W.)

***************************************

POSTED: APRIL 11, 2009

Playful Crows Rolling in the Snow

February 23, 2009. Lakeshore, California, U.S.A. Sierra Summit Ski Resort in Lakeshore, in the parking lot.

I was waiting for my daughter in my car in the parking lot of the ski resort. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a few crows landing on a big snow bank. As I watched, more and more crows landed, but the area was not flat. It slopped steeply. The crows were rolling near the top of the slope, using their wings to cause themselves to do a complete roll. At first I thought they were cleaning their feathers, as I have had chickens and the behavior seemed similar. They kept at this rolling in the snow and fluffing their feathers, but then some of them added a variation. The ones near the slope started to roll down the slope, sometimes the roll would slow down and they would use their wings to start rolling again. It was so funny to see these crows tumbling, not head over heels but side ways, repeatedly. I watched them do this for at least a half hour. To go from rolling on the fairly flat area of the slope to the steep area was hysterical, as the ones who ended up on the steep slope seemed to be having fun tumbling down the steep snowy hill. So entertaining. I love crows. (B.A.)

*********************************

POSTED APRIL 7, 2009. A Report from the Past.

A Jealous Crow? A Crow Liar?

Willimantic, Connecticut: February 20, 2000. At about 10:30 this morning, while walking my dogs at the local high school athletic field, I observed a most remarkable sequence of crow behavior that sorely tempts me to interpret it in terms of analogous human behavior.

The high school field is surrounded by large trees, mostly hardwood, but with some conifers mixed in. My attention was drawn to a tall conifer by a sequence of very unusual crow calls. There was frequent cawing, but on a higher pitch than usual, mixed in with the rattling calls that sound something like squirrel warning calls. Next I heard very clearly the distress calls of a crow in dire danger, literally that kind of high pitched gargling-gurgling call of a crow in the clutches of a hawk or other predator. As far as I knew, this distinctive call is never given under any other circumstances.

I moved closer, scanned the trees and spotted two crows in the conifer from which the calls were eminating, but rather than being in distress, they were obviously engaging in pre-mating activity, preening each other, rubbing bills, etc. It was hard to see clearly through the branches, but it seemed as if their behavior was clearly incompatible with the dire distress noises which I was still hearing.

I changed my position to get a better view, and was surprised to discover that there was a third crow on a branch several feet away from the pair and that this third bird was vigorously engaged in producing the distress calls, though he was in no apparent danger at all. It was very difficult to interpret his/her behavior as anything other than the distress/jealousy of a rejected suitor.

After about three minutes of this performance, a flight of 7 crows appeared and made a beeline towards the conifer. The pair was startled into flight and a moment later the "distressed" crow took flight and joined the others. The whole group, the newcomers as well as the pair and the "distressed" bird, then flew away as a group without any further apparent interaction.

I couldn't help asking myself, was it possible that the "distressed" crow was actually lying, consciously giving distress calls to produce exactly the result that in fact happened? Calling in a group of other crows to break up the romantic interlude? (Michael Westerfield)

**************************************

POSTED: March 29, 2009

Fighting Crows

Fighting crows. Photo by Sheila & Boyd Anderson

March 25, 2009. McBride, BC. Front Yard under the apple tree. There were two or three crows holding one crow down and pecking him. They fought in the air and then knocked him down to the ground where they continued to peck at him again. This was only stopped because we ran toward them. The crows flew off still fighting in the air. Is this normal behaviour for a group of crows to attack a single bird? We took photos of the events. (B.A.)

Fighting crows. Photo by Sheila & Boyd Anderson

Reply from crows.net: We have had several reports over the years of the type of crow behavior which you obseved. Since it is now the nesting/breeding season, I would expect that it is a territorial battle or may possibly have resulted from attempt by a dominant "outsider" crow attempting to breed with the female of an already mated pair.

Fighting crows. Photo by Sheila & Boyd Anderson

It looks rather like several members of the local crow family were working together to fight an invader but, since we've never received a report on how these conflicts actually start, this is really only an informed guess. (Michael Westerfield)

*******************************

POSTED: March 18, 2009

Crow Using Car as a Nutcracker

1999. Dallas, Texas, USA. An apartment complex on Preston Oaks Road in North Dallas.

One day, I was sitting on the steps outside my apartment waiting for a friend to come over. While I waited, I noticed a crow nearby and began to watch him. What I saw amazed me.

The buildings that made up my apartment complex were laid out on a gently sloping hill. The road that came into the complex from the street followed the slope of the hill such that when you were entering the complex, the left side of the road was higher than the right side of the road. As I sat that day, I observed a crow using his beak to roll an acorn on the surface of the road. The crow appeared to be manuevering the acorn and trying to put it in one particular spot. The slope of the road, however, kept causing the acorn to roll to the side of the road, where it would stop against the grass. After several attempts, the crow managed to get the acorn to stay in one place, after which he hopped into the grass beside the road.

At this point I was thoroughly intrigued, and could not for the life of me imagine what this crow might be doing. After another minute or so, I figured it out. A car entered the apartment complex and ran right over the acorn with its passenger side tires. As soon as the car left the area, the crow hopped out of the grass where he had been waiting, and ate the pieces of acorn on the roadway. The crow was using the passing cars to crack open acorns that he probably wouldn't have been able to open with his beak. Crows, I decided, are very clever creatures indeed!

***************************************

POSTED: March 15, 2009

Japanese Crows that Start fires?

This is surely the oddest scientific publication about crows that I've ever come across. Click on the link, then be sure to scroll down to view the pictures.

Article on Japanese Fire Starting Crows.

***************************************

POSTED: March 14, 2009. A report from the past.

Another Faithful Crow Family

May(?) 1990: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. A residential neighbourhood with many mature trees.

Fledgling found injured (bleeding profulsely from puncture wound on left side abdomen) on neighour's front porch. We brought it to an emergency clinic that treats wildlife. The next day when I checked to see how it was doing they asked if I could keep it for the couple of days it needed to heal because they were too busy.

We picked it up, contained it in a chicken wire cage that we placed high in our backyard tree. We hoped that Mom would feed it... Of course, mom knew where baby was and although she would come within about five feet in the trees, she wouldn't feed it. We fed it cat food as instructed by the clinic. Unfortunately for us, Mom had enlisted all the troops in berating us for having birdnapped one of their own. From day one they expressed their emotions (anger, grief, concern?) by loud vocalizations, somewhat agressive diving (never actually touching us), and following us for blocks when we left the house. For the seven or so days that we had baby, and for about a month afterwards, we were always watched and followed by the crows. Others could come and go from our house without a problem. It was just the two of us who were involved that they targeted.

A two day period of constant vigilence paid off when we felt finally that the young crow would be safe. We had let it out several times but took it back when it continuously ended up back on the ground with very interested cats nearby. The adults were far less vocal or aggressive during these "test flights".

The crows certainly gained my respect for how well they work together, their communication network, and their great memory. I hated having them "hate" me but I know that particular young one would not have survived without our intervention. It was very embarassing being singled out and on the receiving end of angry crows --ones that follow you for blocks from tree to tree, ignoring everyone else!

**********************************

POSTED: March 9, 2009. A report from the past

Nevermore and His Faithful Family

Montgomery, Alabama: April 15 - May 8, 2000

Our yard and that of our neighbors is heavily treed. The back of our lots has very tall large trees. A baby crow was found walking about my yard and I saved it from the cats and dogs. About 5 crows were standing guard in the trees cawing enough to wake the dead. The baby was fully feathered so we thought it could fly and put it up on the roof but it just walked around til it fell and flitted into the back yard. I took it to the vet and he said the wings are fine but it just isn't old enough to fly. So for 3 weeks we have been feeding this messy bird on dog food worms, crickets, canned cherries is a favorite, corn and peas, hamburger etc. It can fly over the fence now but can not seem to reach the tree branches. The four guardian crows come down to see him twice a day when we let him out for an hour and a half. The baby can fly over our pool but does not seem to land well.

Today I left him out for a longer time and about 9 crows came. Some stayed in the trees but 6 were on the ground with him and seemed to have a noisy reunion. I put bread and corn out to encourage them to come again. I am beginning to wonder if this huge baby will ever fly away. How old do crows have to be ususally to fly? If I do not have him outside by 5 a.m. the crows start up a racket outside me door waiting for him. It is remarkable that not a day has gone by that they have come and cared about him. They have never given up. I am begining to worry that little "Nevermore" has fallen on his head once to much and is a bit retarded! (Jane Rudick)

CONTINUED MAY 8, 2000

Friday (5/5/00) afternoon I let Nevermore out as usual and left him for about 2 hours. He hid between the house and the shrubbery a lot of the time and he pecked about the yard for peas that I had thrown out on the lawn. His relatives cawed and came down as usual to visit. I retrieved him several times from vines that he seemed caught in and chased off the neighbors cat but for the most part I stayed in doors and watched from a window. Saturday I let him out in both the morning and afternoon. He really ate more than usual and developed an appetite for avocado and tuna and worms. He flew to a bush and then a higher bush but then he just walked about the driveway and after a while I had to go so he was caged again.

Sunday we began the routine earlier as his family woke me with the dawn demanding that he be brought out. There were more crows about 12 this time and I went inside while they swooped down (perhaps showing him how to fly) they watched from the Magnolia trees and telephone poles and 4 landed then 8 and they hopped right up to him and did a little dance with their feet and fanning their wings and made a lot of excited noise. After 30 minutes later all of them left except 3. Sunday at noon Nevermore wanted out and was fanning his wings so I decided that I had time to try again. I cawed and the family who was used to my routine was not close by but managed to come within a few minutes to watch and cheer. Nevermore took off and made it up to the high branch of a tree only to be dived bombed by a family of mocking birds. Nevermore held that position for about 10 minutes and flew across the fence and landed next in the neighbor's yard. I held their dog at the fence for an eternity till Nevermore flew to a pine tree with his family. Then they all took off. Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. as I drove in the driveway there was Nevermore walking on the drive and 3 other crows were on the grass eating corn that I had thrown out. The larger three flew off as I drove in and then a second or two later Nevermore flew off too. This morning I could hear them in the woods behind my house. I have gotten so that I can recognize some of the different tones and calls and I am sure that Nevermore is the smallest voice that I hear.

It is a joy to know that Nevermore has graduated to the tall trees in the wood. I was truly amazed that his family remained ever loyal to him and continued to encourage him throughout the many weeks. The cage is empty now but you never know what the day may bring. (Jane Rudick)

***************************************

POSTED: March 8, 2009

A Clucking Crow

03/01/09. Corvallis, Oregon, USA. Neighborhood on the edge of an urban forest with many tall trees.

I watched a crow last week sitting in one of my backyard trees imitating the neighbor's chicken's sound that she makes when she lays an egg. (The chicken is in a coop just on the other side of the fence.) The crow came back and did it again the next day, same tree. Totally imitation, it was hilarious and sounded remarkably similar to the chicken. (M.C.)

*****************************************

POSTED: March 3, 2009

Night Flying Crows

3/3/09. Stellarton, Nova Scotia, Canada. Last night about 9:00 PM, well after dark, my wife and I heard a hell of a racket outside and found almost every tree and roof in the neighborhood was black with crows. We live in the middle of town so this appears to be odd behavior even for crows, I've never seen them move around, in mass, at night, before. Last night, however was very bright not because of a full moon, instead we had freezing rain with ice pellets and the glow from the street lights seemed to light up the neighborhood. They settled down after a hour but at 6:00 this morning, all hell broke loose again. Even woke up my cat, who has to be the laziest cat in the county. About 40 minutes later, when is was fully light, they all took off, I would guess somewhere between 1500 & 2000, but not in different directions, they headed back in the direction of the main roost to the north west of town. And they were flying hard almost as if they were in a race. It was still overcast this morning but the freezing rain had stopped. There is a small park across from my house that serves as home base to about 6 crows, they stayed behind and seemed to start their day normally. I've lived in this house since August 1988 and have seem large groups of crows gather in the neighborhood during the day but never at night. (D.T.)

Reply from crows.net: In my experience, crows only fly at night when something has disturbed them in their roosts. Most commonly it is hunting owls which attack the sleeping crows and cause the whole roost to take flight in alarm and change its location temporarily. The sort of moonlit night which you describe would be ideal for hunting owls. Of course there might have been some other sort of disturbance in the roost, but an owl attack is the most likely explaination. In the morning, when the crows had the advantage of the light, they might well have been heading back to the roost to deal with the owls. Crows hate owls because of these night attacks and will mob them much more fiercely than they will mob hawks or other raptors. (Michael Westerfield)

***********************************

POSTED: March 2, 2009

A Consultation of Crows

Early spring 2001. Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, USA. A wooded hillside beside my home in a pine grove with an open area at the center.

Crows commonly visit the woods around my home and occasionally nest in the pine trees, but this time was different. Several groups of crows congregated in the pine trees around the open area over the course of the morning, until maybe 50 birds were present. They were chattering noisily until one crow took center stage and made a single loud call. All of the crows quieted down at once, and the "lead crow" started making sounds that sounded like a speech to me- nothing like any sounds I'd ever heard crows make. It went on for several minutes, and when he/she stopped, another crow took center stage and gave a shorter "speech"- this happened until maybe 5-6 other birds "spoke". Occasionally, birds in the audience seemed to respond with vocalizations to the birds that were speaking, again these sounds were not just chatter, but more like real speech patterns. I never heard of this sort of behavior with crows- it was fascinating and I felt goosebumps while it was happening! After the speaking was over, birds left the meeting in what seemed to be an orderly procedure.

There was definitely a communication of ideas going on with these birds- the speaking, pausing, and commenting by the audience with what sounded like responses, just like when humans have a meeting.(M.B.W.)

**************************

POSTED: February 26, 2009

Tripod the One Legged Crow

Tripod the one legged crow.

2/25/09. For the past month or so I've had a visiting one legged crow. He/She seems to be doing quite well with its one leg. It centers that one leg to its body when standing. Hops along when foraging for food. It seems to fly fine also. I only wonder how he/she lost its leg. It has what seems to be a very short stub because it tried to put it down occasionally when its lost its balance...but nothing is there.(Lisa)

Photograph of "Tripod" by Lisajourney

*********************

NOTE: 2/14/09. Curiously, we have received three reports in close succession relating to groups of crows attacking and killing or apparently attempting to kill another crow. This is an area where very little information is available and we would love to document as many incidents of such behavior as possible. If you have been a witness to the type of crow behavior described below, please send us your reports for publication here. Send to: info@crows.net

******

POSTED: February 14, 2009

Crows Killing Another Crow

2/9/2009: Lynden, Washington, USA. A cemetery, on the ground, a dirt surface beneath Douglas Firs, next to an asphalt driveway.

Your "dubious behavior"--A mob of crows, I made no attempt at counting, but probably between 15 and 20, most of them on the ground, in a group attack on someone or something.

I maneuvered the bus I was driving to get a better view through the trees, and saw nothing but crows in the melee. There were at least a half-dozen crows in a "pile", with several others crowded closely about, leaping and hopping as if on a moonshadow in some old song, cawing raucously, of course. I looked for something furry in the mix, remembering that incident on the Olympic Peninsula beach with the raccoon and the crows back in the 20th century, but saw nothing but crows. This was happening maybe five or six yards from my bus stop at the Lynden Station, and I had to move on without viewing the outcome, but I get to stop there six times a day, and the dead crow that appeared on the asphalt a few feet from the mob scene by my next time around is still there a couple of days later. It lies there alone, but today I did see one crow stepping around it, checking it out, as it were. (Harley Barber )

**************************************

POSTED February 9, 2009

Charlie the Crow, Crow Courts, and a Huge Crow Roost

2/8/09. Stellarton, Nova Scotia, Canada. From my early years as a boy growing up in Westville (about 4 miles where I currently live) I've had a casual interest in crows. Way back, when I was 8 or 9 years old, a friend and I stumbled onto a very young crow and took it home. "Charlie" the crow spent 2 years as a guest of our family before flying of one day never to be seen again. We never viewed "Charlie" as a pet; he was just a visitor that freeloaded from us, for a while. He and my Dad seemed to have a connection, Dad like to talk and Charlie liked to listen, he'd walk behind Dad in the garden for hours... Dad would hoe the drills and any worms or bugs uncovered were flicked back to Charlie who disposed of them. My Mom on the other hand was not a big fan, it was around 1960, she switched from the old wooden clothes pins to shinny plastic pins, and they were bright red, green and yellow. She would load the line with clothes and Charlie would empty it, one shinny pin at a time. The wash would then have to be re-washed and Charlie became "That Damn Crow" and I would then have to climb into the loft of our barn to retrieve the pins from Charlie's roost. Along with the clothes pins I would find marbles, wire, nails (no rusted one, only new nails) and once a very shinny quarter (big money to a 9 year old in 1960) and I'm sure that Charlie would have just blown it on junk food, like I did.

As a result of Charlie's time with us, I've maintained a casual interest in crows and can relate to the many stories and observation on your web site. I've witnessed 3 different incidents of what my Dad called “Crow Courts” where a large number (150 to 200) of crows gathered and after much discussion and flying around they would leave behind a badly mutilated body of a crow.

The area in which I live (Pictou County) is made up of 5 towns within a 40 mile radius with a combined population of 55,000 between the towns and county area. We seem to support a very large roost and have done so for many years, my Dad was 86 when he died and that was 8 years ago, he told me that the crows roosted in the Mt. William area sense he was a small boy as they still do today. I don’t know if anyone from this area ever did a head count but I have often stop to watch as they gathered in their roost area and made a guest-a-mate of over 70,000 and it could be twice that many. Their roost is on a hill that can only be seen from 2 roads but it would be nothing to see 150 to 200 crows per tree and the hill is covered by hundreds of large trees and at twilight they are always moving and then it’s too dark to count by the time they settle for the night. Most evening the the sky is dotted from several directions like the spokes of a wheel, "they seem to have a flight path" and every morning it's the reverse except when it's windy as it was this morning. At least 1500 or more settled on the surrounding trees in my neighborhood for a morning chat and some aerobatics before heading off in all directions. (D.T.)

************************************

POSTED: February 6, 2009

Crows Attacking Another Crow

1/31/09. Madison, Wisconsin, USA. I was looking out my window and onto the street in front of my house. Residential area. Morning around 7:30-8:00am.

I first heard the noise of many crows and looked out to see what was going on. I saw 5-7 crows pinning one crow down on the street and pulling out his feathers. The crow being held down was screaming and the other crows were hopping around and hurting the other one. At first I thought that they were all tearing apart some road kill, but then I looked further and it was a crow that they were hurting and it was alive. I was very upset by the sound they were all making and by the thrashing around and so I stepped outside and made some noise and the other crows flew off and up into a tree that over hangs in the street. They continued their squawking while the one being hurt got up, shook his feathers, and flew to the nearest house's roof, where he sat for some time while the other crows flew from tree to tree and continued to squawk very loudly. The persecuted crow went over the roof and out of sight, but the other crows continued to fly in a circular pattern from tree to tree surrounding that house. I never saw the "persecuted" one again. The other crows finally quieted down after an hour and a half or so. I was very afraid to let my little dogs outside while this was all going on. (L.S.R.)

Could this have been due to the "persecuted" crow being hurt or did something that was considered "wrong" to that particular gang of crows?

Reply from crows.net. A few times over the years we have received reports of crows killing or appearing to be attempting to kill another crow. While it is hard to really know what is going on in these situations, it seems unlikely that the crow being attacked is related to the crows attacking it. Crows are very family orientated and are far more likely to care for an injured family member than attack it. The reports of crows faithfully tending an injured mate or offspring are very common. My guess is that the bird being attacked was a bird from elsewhere, possibly a dominant male looking to establish a territory and possibly challenging the local male for control. Crows, however, are all individuals and one can never be certain how any two of them will behave in a given situation. (Michael Westerfield)

*****************************************

POSTED: February 5, 2009

Making Friends with Crows

August 2007 to present. Tacoma, Washington, USA. My backyard, which is 1.5 acres and located in a rural country area .

When I first moved into this house in August 2008, I only noticed the crows because of their annoying caw. I didn't really like crows, they were big and loud, but I just left them alone and never bothered them. Soon I started noticing the same old crow seemed to always be around. I recognized him by his size and the fact that he had a hole in his wing that I could easily see when he flew over me. I also noticed he would steal my dog's kibble from her bowl when the dog wasn't around, and soon he started bringing another crow around with him, his mate I assumed.

One day their was no kibble in the dog's bowl, and I watched them searching around the ground for kibble. I decided to go outside and put some kibbles on the ground for them. Of course when I walked outside they flew up into the branches of a nearby tree and watched me. When I went in, they flew down and ate the kibble. I did this a couple more times randomly in the next few weeks, if I thought of it. One day I went outside to get something, and as I was crossing the yard to go back in, I heard this loud rapid cawing above me and looked up to see the two crows in the tree above me, and it looked like they were cawing at me! This was confirmed when they both flew out of the tree and swept gracefully over my head while cawing down at me! "FEED US! FEED US!" they seemed to be saying to me. And so I did.

They came day after day, and so I named them "Russell" and "Sheryl" and soon they were not only calling to me when I walked outside, but amazingly they began to land on my fence outside my window and look in at me inside my house and caw out to me. Then they brought their babies and taught them how to fly in my yard, which was weird because I have cats and dogs. Needless to say, I keep the cats and dogs in the house when Russell and Sheryl come for their morning feeding. When I first started feeding them, they would not fly down and eat until I went back in the house, but gradually they started flying down and landing before I got back to the house. This morning they landed on the rail of my porch right next to my sliding glass window and leaning in they cawed into the house, on cue as they have trained me well. I pour out a cup of gourmet lamb and rice kibbles and turn to go back in the house, I take only one step and suddenly behind me I feel a whoosh of air, hear a quick rustling of feathers and a scraping of claws, I turn around and they are right there, within arms length, landed right back on the railing, right next to me.

I am awed by the trust they are showing me. I think how funny life is that just a year ago I hated crows and their obnoxious ways, and now I share my life with a crow couple I call Russell and Sheryl, and I like them a lot and really look forward to their visits. I know they really like me too, because they not only come at meal times, they hang out all the time and when I go outside they talk to me and fly over my head really low and slow. My husband teases me now because sometimes I have more Russell and Sheryl pictures on my camera than of my kids!

And that is my really cool crow story. (A.P.)

***********************************************

POSTED: FEBRUARY 3, 2009

Crows and Fish Tanks in India

2/3/09. Bengaluru, South India. I have many aquariums out on a porch (Sit-out). I used to find quarter of a slice pieces of bread in some of the aquarium and was wondering how they got there. (The bread is a slice from a western type loaf) The mystery was solved one day when I noticed a crow with a bread slice piece sitting over the tank. I would guess that he was dropping in the bread and picking up the fish that came for it OR he was wetting the bread slice. (R. K.)

Added 2/4/09. I have Kingfishers diving into my larger tanks. I was rudely drenched while reading the morning paper by a bird looking for breakfast. I have had Egrets too dropping in for breakfast.. crows are the most persistent.

***************************************

POSTED: January 25, 2009

Tire Thumping Crows

11/18/08. Bryce National Park, Utah, USA. A parking lot at Bryce Canyon National Park, along one of the Rim Trails. I was sitting in the drivers seat of my car, slightly reclined and taking a nap after a tiring hike. I heard a series of hard thumps on the tire of my car. I looked out and didn't see anything, so resumed my nap. The thumping started again. This time I looked down and saw two crows hitting the tire with their beaks. When they saw that I was awake, they stopped and spent the next ten minutes opening up their beaks as if begging for food and at the same time ruffling up their feathers. They didn't knock anymore after they knew I was watching them. I didn't feed them, so finally they gave up and wandered away. (J.C.)

*****************************************

Posted: January 24, 2009

Some Interesting Crow Behaviors

12/20/08. Camp Hill, South-Central Pennsylvania, USA. Residential neighborhood consisting of a cathedral surrounded by apartments, townhouses and homes with many trees and a few wooded areas populated by many species of birds to include hawks and owls and songbirds.

I have watched a group of crows for 2 years now. At first they used to congregate at dawn and dusk in a group of 5 on top of the building across from my apartment which, at that time, was the tallest point in the area. One large crow would remain perched while the other crows would individually fly out to the 4 quarters surrounding. They would repeat this every day. I walk 2 dachshunds daily and I noted that soon after we began our walk, a crow would land near us and crow as if greeting us and remain with us for a few minutes before flying off. This is a daily occurrence. In the spring, the flock of crows grew to 7 in number and began their daily routine of 'patrolling' the neighborhood from a tree which has now become the tallest perch in the neighborhood. Today, as I walked my dogs, 2 crows landed near us, one being the same that has always greeted us and a newer apparently younger crow. The older crow crowed at us and then looked to the younger who crowed in the same fashion. Both of them followed us by walking and hopping as usual and then flew off.

It has always appeared as though we were being greeted by the one crow in a friendly manner. Could the older crow be now introducing us to a newer member of the flock (fledgling?)? I have spoken with a few of the dog owners in the neighborhood and they have noticed that the same behavior occurs with them, although they did not note it until I pointed it out to them. My dachshunds seem to be of particular interest to the crows and they get much closer to us than the larger dogs in the neighborhood. (Brian Keith Stolley)

Reply from crows.net: Your report includes several crow behaviors which have been reported before by visitors to crows.net. The part about a large crow sending off others in the four directions has been reported a few times. It is consistent with the way a crow family will feed together in the morning then split up to cover their territory throughout the day, keeping in touch with periodic calls. The larger crow is probably the male of the mated pair. The increase to 7 crows in the spring, was most likely due to the new fledglings from that year’s nest. One of the more fascinating areas, about which little is known, relates to the dynamics of the composition of the small family groups which are the basic element of crow society. Each year new fledglings are added and some of the older siblings leave and others stay. Apparently some also leave only to return after fairly long periods of time. Exactly how this shuffling process works is very unclear. Some of the offspring may stay with the parents as "helpers" for more than one year while others may leave before the next nesting season after their fledging.

Individual crows are often reported following specific people on a routine basis. The reason for this is also not clear. Crows do pass specific knowledge from generation to generation and from bird to bird. I would be relatively certain that your interpretation of the behavior of the two crows during the dog walk is accurate. Crows pass on the knowledge of what is dangerous and what is safe in their territories and, I suppose, what is just plain interesting. You and your dog, clearly have been deemed both safe and interesting.

********************************

POSTED: December 29, 2008

Crows Outwitting a Groundhog

12/28/08. Damascus, Maryland. When we lived o our "BirdFire" property in MD I made peanut butter sandwiches for "my" resident flock of crows. Of course the groundhogs who lived down in the pasture caught on quickly, and there were quite a few disputes over the food. On several occasions I watched the crows employ clever tactics! One crow would stand in front of the groundhog (and he was an enormous old fellow), while several other crows stood behind and pulled the groundhog's tail until he dropped the food. Needless to say, the front crow. snatched the sandwiches and off they all flew! They became VERY skilled at this behavior...I'm convinced the crows figured this out on their own and taught the trick to their youngsters. Think so? (R.B.)

*******************************

POSTED: December 24, 2008

December 20, 2008. United States, South Central PA, Camp Hill. Residential neighborhood consisting of a cathedral surrounded by apartments, townhouses and homes with many trees and a few wooded areas populated by many species of birds including hawks, owls, and songbirds

I have watched a group of crows for 2 years now. At first they used to congregate at dawn and dusk in a group of 5 on top of the building across from my apartment which, at that time, was the tallest point in the area. One large crow would remain perched while the other crows would individually fly out to the 4 quarters surrounding. They would repeat this every day. I walk 2 dachshunds daily and I noted that soon after we began our walk, a crow would land near us and crow as if greeting us and remain with us for a few minutes before flying off. This is a daily occurrence. In the spring, the flock of crows grew to 7 in number and began their daily routine of 'patrolling' the neighborhood from a tree which has now become the tallest perch in the neighborhood. Today, as I walked my dogs, 2 crows landed near us, one being the same that has always greeted us and a newer apparently younger crow. The older crow crowed at us and then looked to the younger who crowed in the same fashion. Both of them followed us by walking and hopping as usual and then flew off.

It has always appeared as though we were being greeted by the one crow in a friendly manner. Could the older crow be now introducing us to a newer member of the flock (fledgling?)? I have spoken with a few of the dog owners in the neighborhood and they have noticed that the same behavior occurs with them, although they did not note it until I pointed it out to them. My dachshunds seem to be of particular interest to the crows and they get much closer to us than the larger dogs in the neighborhood. (B.K.S.)

REPLY FROM CROWS.NET: Your report includes several crow behaviors which have been reported by several visitors to crows.net. The part about a large crow apparently sending off others in the four directions has been reported a few times. It is consistent with the way a crow family will feed together in the morning then split up to cover their territory throughout the day, keeping in touch with periodic calls. The larger crow, is probably the male of the mated pair. The increase to 7 crows in the Spring, was of course, due to the new fledglings. One of the more fascinating areas, about which little is known, relates to the dynamics of the composition of the small family groups which are the basic element of crow society. Each year new fledglings are added and some of the older siblings leave and others stay. Apparently some also leave only to return after fairly long periods of time. Exactly how this shuffling process works is very unclear. Some of the offspring may stay with the parents as "helpers" for more than one year while others may leave before the next nesting season after their fledging.

Individual crows are often reported following specific people on a routine basis. The reason for this is also not clear. Crows do pass specific knowledge from generation to generation and from bird to bird. I would be relatively certain that your interpretation of the behavior of the two crows during the dog walk is accurate. Crows pass on the knowledge of what is dangerous and what is safe in their territories and, I suppose, what is just plain interesting. You and your dog, clearly have been deemed both safe and interesting.

**************************************

POSTED: December 14, 2008

A Conclave of Crows

12/9/08. Eugene, Oregon. A stand of oak trees in my backyard. My family and I have always witnessed single or several crows in and around our yard and enjoy listening to them and trying to decipher their language. My adult daughter who has special needs is especially in tune with "crow" and is the one who sparked my interest. Today, for the first time ever, I was inside and suddenly heard a cacophony that I immediately identified as crows, but it sounded like it also could have been some sort of loud machinery. I was instantly drawn to go outside to observe, and there in the oak trees saw approximately thirty crows. It seems like one would 'speak,' others would answer, and then the whole group together would rise in intensity and volume into this cacophonous frenzy, bobbing their heads, etc. Then it would die down only to start up again. They quieted after about five to ten minutes and I went inside - I did not witness their dispersing behavior.

Comments: I had no idea what this meant but it seemed significant since I have never experienced that before in our yard in seven years. If anyone has any interpretation of this behavior I would be very interested. It seemed to me they were gathering in council as some sort of reunion or important meeting to determine something, but that is likely my own anthropomorphasizing. Any ideas? (J.V.)

REPLY FROM CROWS.NET: We've had several reports of the type of behavior which you describe and, frankly, I don't think you are anthropomorphasizing when you think of it as a meeting of some kind. I believe something is definitely being communicated by one bird to many and they are responding. Exactly what is going on is very difficult to determine. It could, in fact, be a sort of decision making process where a dominant crow is proposing a course of action and the others accepting or refusing it. I have begun to believe over time that crows have a fairly sophisticated language and complicated social system, so such a decision making process is not awfully far fetched. (Michael Westerfield)

**********************************

POSTED: December 3, 2008

FEEDING CROWS by Michael Westerfield

Crow taking off with Nathan's cocktail franks 12/3/8. M. Westerfield photo.

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. It’s helpful if it is highly visible food that crows will recognize, and the 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 can’t 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 it…which, of course, you won’t. The next thing you’ll 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 it’s not their first choice, crows will take food from a raised, open platform. I’ve 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 “Droll Yankee”, mounted about six feet off the ground. I have one of those old style concrete birdbaths set just a few feet away. I’ve 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.

It’s 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, that’s 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 don’t ever have to forage for themselves, you really don’t 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 that’s about it. We’d be happy to hear your experiences with crow feeding or answer any questions you might have at info@crows.net.

**********************************************

POSTED: October 29, 2008

Resources on the Hawaiian crow, by Michael Westerfield

A few weeks ago, when I was on the Big Island of Hawaii, I made an effort to find out the status of the critically endangered Hawaiian crow, Corvus hawaiiensis. The story of my hunt for information “on the ground” is given earlier on this “Featured Reports” page. On my return to the Mainland, I made a thorough internet search on the subject and was rather amazed at the scarcity of information posted both on the Hawaiian crow and the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center at which the majority of ‘alala are kept.

As far as I could determine, there are currently somewhere between 57 and 65 Hawaiian crows in existence, all in captivity. In 2006, 57 ‘alala were reported. In 2007 some additional birds were hatched and survived, but I have been unable to find the actual number. In 2008, six Hawaiian crows hatched, of which four survived. I believe that the majority, if not all of the ‘alala, are at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center on the Hilo side of the Big Island of Hawaii and that a smaller number are at the Olinda Bird Conservation Center on Maui, though I have no recent confirmation of this. I also believe that all the birds currently alive have been born in captivity.

There is very little chance that someone not associated with the Bird Conservation Program could manage to get even a glimpse of a Hawaiian crow until such time as a population is reestablished in the wild or the captive population grows large and healthy enough to allow a few members to be displayed publicly. Below you will find links to the various sites or publications where information on the Hawaiian crow can be found.

The Birdlife Fact Sheet on the Hawaiian crow.

The blog for the San Diego Zoo “Hawaii Bird Project”.

Two short videos of the Hawaiian crow in an aviary, with sound.

Sounds of the ‘alala and a distant view of one of the aviaries at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center.

Three nice photos of the 'alala and a bit of info from a lucky visitor to the Keauhou facility.

Alan Lieberman, Conservation Program Manager of the Zoological Society of San Diego, talks about the hazards of the present releases of volcanic gasses on the Bird Conservation Center. There are a couple of brief shots of the ‘alala at the Center.

The Scientific Bases for the Preservation of the Hawaiian Crow

The Draft Revised Recovery Plan for the ‘Alala (October 2003).The entire document.

The Draft Environmental Assessment for Population Reestablishment of the “Alala (December 1999).The entire document.

******************************

POSTED: October 28, 2008

An Example of Crows Playing?

Clearlake Oaks/Spring Valley, California. Our house had a clear 360 degree view of the valleys and mountain ridges on all sides of our ridge/hill. Near our garage was a young oak tree. The winds were particularly strong at our location and often would gust to 45-50 mph. One particularly windy day, when the winds were holding steady at about 25-30 mph out of the northwest, and upslope through the trees, I was able to enjoy an uninterrupted view of some spectacular crow antics. A flock of about 12-15 crows were landing in the tree in its mid-branches and hopping, one or two at a time to branches that extended out over the steep slope of the hillside. They would teeter for balance momentarily and then extend their wings and tilt into the updraft. They would ride the updraft as if they were on a ferris wheel. At the "top" of the ride they would again tilt forward and fly in a wide circle back to the "loading platform" branches. I watched for about an hour or so. It was delightful. I could not see any "seeking food/foraging behaviour". It sure looked like play to me. Maybe "mom and dad" teaching the youngsters aerobatics? I no longer live on the hill, but the memory is always with me whenever the winds are holding in one direction for any length of time. (B.D.)

****************************

POSTED: October 25, 2008.

Fall Roosting Report by Michael Westerfield.

As the weather grows colder and the leaves begin to fall here in Northeastern Connecticut, the local crows begin showing signs that the formation of the large winter roost is not far off in time. During the spring, summer and early fall, crow life tends to be centered around small family groups which forage together during the day and roost together at night, usually separate from other crow family groups. In winter, however, most crows will roost at night in large communal roosts, often containing many thousands of birds, who gather together from a wide geographical area. At this time of year, the behavior is often somewhere in between.

When I walk outside anywhere from a half hour before sunset until the last light fades, if I pause and listen, usually I'll hear the calling of crows from somewhere in the vicinity. If I stand watching the sky, almost invariably I'll soon see small groups of crows flying overhead sometimes all heading in the same direction and sometimes seeming to mill about, riding the currents of air with an appearance partly of purpose and partly of pleasure. The interesting thing about watching these crows is that, unlike many flocking birds, starlings and the like, they don't move as a coordinated whole; each bird in a group is busy interacting with the others on an individual basis. A pair will come over and you'll see then swooping at and away from each other like children playing tag. One member of a group might break away and join another group or double back the way it came.

When the weather is still mild, it seems that the birds here will gather in a number of smaller local roosts which will eventually coalesce into the larger winter gathering place. As one watches the crows shifting from place to place on a fall evening, I can't help thinking that some sort of democratic process is going on as the birds settle on an area in which to spend the night. There is a great deal of noisy flying about, with the birds settling first in one area, then some breaking away and moving to another nearby location. Individual birds may move back and forth between two or more groups and the whole mass of birds may rise into the air and settle again, or move, or divide into other smaller groups. This will go on until the light finally fades and, somehow, the whole flock has settled on one roosting area.

Roosting areas tend to be located where there are large, mature trees with open spaces in between. In cities and towns, cemeteries, college campuses, malls with adjacent trees, old rail yards, and older neighborhoods and industrial areas, and the like tend to be favored. If there is a river or other body of water nearby, its a definite plus. The crows generally settle on the branches of trees which have already lost their leaves, or on the uppermost branches of those that haven't, so it is easy to spot their silhouettes against the still bright sky. At this time of year, the temporary roosts may be more loosely organized and spread out over a wider area that those in colder weather.

If there are crows in your neighborhood throughout the year, it's likely that there will be one of these temporary fall roosts nearby. The amazing thing about these roosts, and even some of the gigantic winter roosts, is that one can be fairly nearby and most folks will be totally oblivious to its presence. I suppose it has to do with the timing, when people are still at work, commuting home, or just settling in for a long autumn evening. Probably the most common reason folks notice crow roosts relates to crow droppings on their cars or sidewalks in the morning. If your car is clean, and you want to find your local roost, just take a walk in the late afternoon – with your ears free of noise making devices. Choose an area with large, old trees and open spaces. Watch and listen for crows passing by up above and move in the general direction in which they are moving and, if you are lucky, you might just arrive at the place the crows will choose to spend the night. You’ll know it when you get there!

*********************************

POSTED: October 15, 2008. Updated October 20.

Status of the Hawaiian Crow by Michael Westerfield

I recently returned from the Big Island of Hawaii where, among other things, I attempted to determine the current status of the most endangered of all Corvids, the 'alala or Hawaiian crow, Corvus hawaiiensis. Although major conservation efforts have been underway for a number of years, they were apparently unsuccessful in maintaining a wild population. Some of the birds are reported to exist in captivity, but it proved suprisingly difficult to obtain precise information on their status, let alone catch a glimpse of the last surviving Hawaiian corvids. Over the next few days I will post the tale of my search for the last of the 'alala here on the Featured Reports page.

DAY ONE

When I accepted a friend’s invitation to spend two weeks on the island of Hawaii, I was not particularly thinking about the ‘alala, the critically endangered Hawaiian crow, Corvus hawaiiensis. I had known that this bird, the only representative of the crow family in the Hawaiian Islands, had been tottering on the brink of extinction for years, and I was not even sure that it hadn’t fallen over the edge into extinction. For reasons which I did not understand, information on the current status of the ‘alala seemed to be both scarce and contradictory. But I was on a vacation and hunting the vanishing ‘alala was not uppermost on my mind as I stopped at Volcano National Park to view the awesome power of the continuously erupting Kilauea volcano.

At the entrance to the Park, there is a Visitor’s Center with an art gallery next door. Across the road is the famous Volcano House, a hotel and restaurant which overlooks the caldera of Kilauea. It was from an earlier incarnation of the present volcano house building that Mark Twain viewed the eruption in 1866, and it was in Volcano House that I received the first of several pieces of misinformation that ultimately inspired me to try and hunt down whatever accurate and up to date information I could find on the ‘alala.

On the wall of the lobby of Volcano House are a number of displays. The one that caught my attention was a series of small photographs of Hawaii’s endangered birds, of which there are many. Among these was a picture of the ‘alala, with the brief note, “only 13 remain in the wild”. My interest was immediately piqued since this suggested that, if there were still birds living “in the wild”, I might perhaps be able to catch a glimpse of them and perhaps even obtain photos to post on the crows.net website.

Heading over to the park visitor center, I stopped at the book store and picked up a copy of A Pocket Guide to Hawaii's Birds by H. Douglas Pratt and Jack Jeffrey. This book turned out to have several pages on “The embattled ‘alala” which indicated that some success had been achieved in captive breeding programs managed by the “Peregrine Fund” and that the last population of wild birds lived on the McCandless Ranch, south of Kona, where ecotours provided a possibility of seeing 'alala. It also indicated that there were captive breeding birds at Olinda on the Island of Maui. All of this made me briefly think that the Hawaiian crow might not be in as much trouble as I imagined. It was not until later that I noticed the publication date of the book was 1996.

Later the same day, when I was talking with one of the park staff, I asked if there were any Hawaiian crows left. She replied rather cryptically that she thought the “Peregrine folks had some over at the golf club,” then was interrupted by another person before I could get any more information.

A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER

I didn’t think anything more about the ‘alala until I was wandering around Hilo town a couple of days later and found and bought a print of Hawaiian crows by Dick Mortemore, a local artist and, according to the sales woman, a really great guy. (What she didn’t tell me was that he was also the Director of the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo outside of Hilo.) Also in Hilo, I picked up a copy of the Hawaii Audubon Society’s Hawaii's Birds, which told me that as of 2005 there were no wild Hawaiian crows, but that 50 were in captivity. It also told me that a captive breeding program was underway at Keauhou Bird Conservation Center which had previously released birds into the wild, but that survival was poor.

With these clues, I began an internet search for the current location of the remaining ‘alala, but was hindered in this by only having a dial-up internet connection available where I was staying. Since my search tied up my host’s phone line while I was engaged in it, my time on line was very limited. I did manage to ascertain that at some point the The Peregrine Fund, which was engaged primarily in raptor conservation, had a facility called the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center where they raised ‘alala for release into the wild. An examination of the Hawaiian map showed that that a place called Keauhou was located very near the McCandless Ranch where the last wild population of the crows had been located in 1996. For a moment I thought I had located the last of the Hawaiian crows.

Since I was staying on the Hilo side of the Big Island of Hawaii and Keauhou was located on the opposite Kona side, I put off searching for the Conservation Center until I had additional reasons for taking the lengthy drive to Keauhou. I’m glad that I did. While I was studying a map of the area around Volcano National Park, looking for interesting places to visit, I discovered that there was a Keauhou Bird Conservation Center next to the Volcano Golf Course and Country Club just twenty miles up the road from where I was staying. I can only surmise that the facility was moved from on or near the McCandless Ranch when the last of the wild birds were removed, and that the Keauhou name was simply retained for the new facility. Needless to say, I drove out immediately to see what I could see.

What I could see was very little indeed. There was a sturdy locked gate with a NO TRESPASSING sign blocking entry into a somewhat overgrown dirt road which vanished into the trees. No name or contact information on the gate and no signs of life on the property. Across the road, however, was the Volcano Winery where, after a 10:00 a.m. tasting of their very pleasant wines, I obtained a phone number for the Center from one of the winery staff. She warned me that whenever she called, she only got an answering machine, so I shouldn’t expect to talk to a real live person. And so it was when I called. Only an answering machine, without even a message saying who I had reached or saying “leave a message”. None-the-less, at the beep I left a rather lengthy message explaining who I was and asking how I could get information about the current status of the Hawaiian crow. I never received a return call.

AT THE WEEKEND

By this time I was beginning to wonder whether or not the Hawaiian crow had actually gone extinct and all concerned parties were covering up the fact. On Saturday I wrote a lengthy email message about myself, crows.net, and our desire to help with the conservation of the Hawaiian crow and fired it off to the Peregrine Foundation in Boise, Idaho, of all places. I really didn’t expect to get a reply, so once again I parked the ‘alala in the back of my mind while I did the Hawaiian tourist scene. Like all crows, however, the bird had a way of intruding at the most unexpected times, and, in a Hilo bookshop, Basically Books, I found the book Seeking the Sacred Raven: Politics and Extinction on a Hawaiian Island, by Mark Jerome Walters.

Walters’ book presents a survey of historical information on the ‘alala from its first sighting by Captain Cook’s men up to the present (publication date 2006). He includes a great deal of information about Hawaiian culture, the ‘alala’s significance to the Hawaiian people, and his own personal search for the “Sacred Raven”. He also attempts to document, with what degree of accuracy I am uncertain, the long history of cooperation and conflict between numerous well meaning people and agencies, all striving for to protect the ‘alala and return it to at least a portion of its former range. “Seeking the Sacred Raven” is the only popular book available on the Hawaiian crow and is certainly worth reading, both for those interested in the Hawaiian crow and those concerned with the intricate politics involved in the preservation of an endangered species. I should point out, however, that reviews of this book vary from extremely favorable to very unfavorable and that I find it unfortunate that the most accessible account of the ‘alala should concern itself to such a great extent with negative events and so little with the life history of the bird itself and with the tremendous efforts of those dedicated to its survival.

The book provided one particularly important clue in my hunt for information on the present status of the ‘alala. Apparently sometime around the year 2000, the Zoological Society of San Diego assumed responsibility for the species from the Peregrine Fund. This news heartened me greatly, for the reputation of the “San Diego Zoo” in the area of conservation of endangered species is among the very best. Even if I was unsure of the actual status of the ‘alala, I was at least certain that if any birds remained they were in good hands.

A very reassuring clue, indicating that the ‘alala population still existed, came from a very unlikely source, once again at the Volcano House where the whole quest began. My elderly hostess, with whom I was staying in Hawaii, and who was part of the group with which I was dining at Volcano House on Sunday evening, had the gift of being able to engage anyone in conversation on virtually any subject at the drop of a hat. I had stopped to use the rest room upon entering the restaurant and, by the time I had rejoined the group, she had elicited information from one of the employees that she had been with a group of school children on a visit to the Bird Conservation Center to see the Hawaiian crows the previous year! Seeing I had been away no longer than three minutes, this was a pretty remarkable achievement.

The children had not been allowed to disturb the crows by viewing them directly, but had watched them live on “monitors”. Yes, she said, the road to the center was right opposite the Volcano Winery and if I had left a message on their machine they were sure to call me back. Finally I had some verification, anecdotal as it was, that the Hawaiian crow was still alive and well on the Island of Hawaii.

ON MONDAY

On Monday I received two email messages. Pat Burnham of the Peregrine Fund responded, “Thank you for your note and your interest in the Hawaiian Crow. The Peregrine Fund did work with the crow and other endangered Hawaiian birds for a period of time. We passed the project along to the San Diego Zoo and they are now running the project. I will pass your information along to Alan Lieberman who heads the project for the zoo and I am certain you will be hearing from him.”

Alan Lieberman, Conservation Program Manager of the Zoological Society of San Diego, responded very shortly afterwards. “Pat Burnham at The Peregrine Fund kindly forwarded your email to me regarding the status of the Hawaiian Crow. How can I be of help?"

These sites may be of interest to get you started.

San Diego Zoo, Archive for the 'Hawaii Bird Project'

Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program

"Also, my apologies, the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center is closed tp visitors. We have minimum staff and do not have public facilities ... also the reason the answering machine serves as our secretary.”

TO BE CONTINUED

**********************************

POSTED: August 30, 2008

Friend or Foe? Crows Never Forget a Face, It Seems

From the New York Times. An article, with video clip, about the ability of crows to recognize human faces. (I do find it strange that the biologist in the film clip would be amazed that crows can remember human faces. After all, our dogs and cats and horses can all recognize us, and crows can recognize individual cats and, of course each other, so why shouldn't they be able to recognize particular humans?)

Crows remember faces

*********************************

POSTED: August 15, 2008

Feeding the Birds

Calgary, AB, Canada. August 8, 2008. A few months ago we had to have our family outside dog of 7 years operated on not once but twice to save his life as he had numerous infections and even the vets were surprised that he made it. We have always had Magpies in our back yard who would play with him and steal his food. Our dog was on a special Medical dog food for a few months and when we still had some left I opted to just feed it to the Magpies as opposed to throwing it out.

Well, that was the start of something so amazing! Before we knew it there were a ton of Magpies coming to eat the food and then I noticed one crow hanging around. He/She flew down and scared off the other birds to eat, this only happened once as our dog chased off the crow to let the other birds eat. Then the sharing with the other birds happened.

Before we knew it more and more crows were showing up along with the magpies. The most crows that we counted were 14 about a month ago. I had started reading about crows and I was amazed at the few things that I had read about their strong family ties and also that they are actually cousins of magpies, blackbirds and ravens. I had always thought they were a dark, bad bird as they are always associated with witches and bad people in cartoons and movies. Now I realize that they are not bad, just amazingly intelligent. I also read that they really like peanuts. So, long and short of it all is that I now buy 7 different types of food from wild finch food, bulk 7 grain cereal, zupreem bird food, dried bread and feed them every morning. As well I have put birdbaths and give them fresh water everyday.

We went on holidays a couple of weeks ago and as I looked at how many different types of bird families we actually help I hired a local girl to come feed them for us while we were gone. I now have basically my own bird sanctuary as I guess I have what you would call a Murder of Crows coming here every day (at last count 40+ per day) who also bring their babies to eat in our yard. This happens with the magpies as well and I have especially discovered with them that even though they are regarded as pests they are beautiful birds and also seem to be very family orientated and bring their young as well. They are especially curious.

I now have so many different types of birds coming to eat in my yard that I would say that there are literally 100's at any given time with all of the little birds that come here now as well. I think they are swallows, finches, chickadees and whatnot. I also have a couple of red winged blackbirds who hang out here. There has even recently been one lone bird which I think is a Homing Pigeon who eats here as well.

I had also read that crows have very sensitive immune systems and I think with all that I have been feeding them, especially the medical food and fresh water that they are becoming healthier every day. I even fancy that if just one yard in every neighborhood took the time to do what we are doing that we could possibly eliminate the bird flu's and virus's that seem to be plaguing the whole world these days. Plus, I have seen more little birds this year than any other and I figure that this may be because we are feeding the birds, especially the magpies which remind me of raptors, that they no longer need to feed on little birds or their eggs.

We have had a lot of things going on in our life in the past few months and to tell you the truth I don't know really who is helping who more, or if we are just helping each other as when I feed the birds in the morning I sit on my deck and drink coffee and it gives me such a great start to my day that no matter what is happening on any given day that my stress is completely relieved just by watching them and knowing that I am helping them. Our daughter is especially fond of helping me feed them and also enjoys watching them. She often video's them and takes pictures of them, especially the little ones who we feed on our stone fire pit. We are living in such a fast paced city, and yet, we have our own little sanctuary and we don't have to even leave our back yard!

Like I said before, I just wanted to share this as it is too incredible not to share! The best part is when you watch them the crows sit on the fence and let the little birds and the magpies eat first and then they eat. Just seeing the big birds waiting for their turn is a huge learning lesson for the rest of us. I have to say as well that I am sure I have a few neighbors who are not very happy with what is going on in our yard, but, to me, the birds were here first and who are we to think that we are any better than them! As a matter of fact, this whole area has only been residential for the past 15-25 years, from what I understand this whole area was pretty much all fields, some kind of dumps and industrial land, so, we are the ones who have encroached on their homes. I feel privileged and honored to have them feel that they are welcome and safe in my yard and I hope to one day perhaps have this great City of Calgary that I live in make our yard an official sanctuary for birds so that they will be safe and so that no one will be able to try and make them go away (as I have recently noticed some of the neighbors throwing rocks at them!) I have even had friends come for "Breakfast with the Birds" and they have been completely amazed! (P. R.)---------------------------

POSTED: July 27, 2008

A Tool Making Crow

Issaquah, Washington, USA. March 23, 2008. A small apartment complex located on Squak Mountain in Issaquah, Washington, within walking distance of Tiger Mountain State Park and Squak Mountain State Park and about 20 miles from Seattle. A very clean and quiet apartment complex and it's residents appreciate the surrounding natural environment.

I observed a crow make a tool and then possibly teach a companion crow to do it! There is a primitive fence in front of my apartment (made of pine, consists of vertical posts with two horizontal rails). There are two crows that visit the area every day, seemingly snooping around for stray sunflower seeds from my neighbors bird feeder. I observed one of the two crows hop up onto the top rail of the two-rail fence. It began to walk slowly along the pointy top edge of the rail, giving one very firm peck to either side of it with each step. After several steps and pecks on each side of the rail, he walked back in the other direction, continuing the single firm peck on either side. Then, crow peeled an 8" long sliver of wood from the pine rail and began to use it as a tool to probe the holes of each vertical fence post!!! After probing most of the holes with the stick, while it's companion observed, it then flew away with the sliver in beak. Then, the crow's companion jumped up on the rail and began the same behavior (walk along rail, peck once on each side with each step, and repeat). This crow left, maybe responding to another crow call, without completing the tool making process.

Comments: The "wood working" process the crow employed to make his probe was not unlike traditional wood working methods. The crow was precise. I feel fortunate to have witnessed it.

---------------------------------------

POSTED: May 15, 2008

A Clamoration of Crows: Some Ruminations by Michael Westerfield

This morning, as I was sitting on the porch of a very rustic cabin in the Arkansas Ozarks, peacefully listening to the rushing of the rain swollen “crick” in the “back holler”, I gradually became aware of another rather discordant sound emerging from the roar of the water. It slowly grew louder and more distinct until I realized that it was the sound of a large and very excited group of crows moving rapidly in my direction. I didn’t see what it was all about. From the sound of it I imagine they were probably mobbing one of the larger owls that was unwise enough to be caught out in daylight in “crow country”.

When the noise was at its height, a new phrase popped into my mind to describe it: a “Clamoration of Crows”. Not bad, I thought. Crows are known both for their clamor and their orations. It certainly fits a lot better than that popular and very inappropriate term, “Murder of Crows” that so many folks are using these days.

I’ve always hated the term “Murder of Crows” and try everything I can to suppress its usage. Despite Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and various folk tales and superstitions, crows are not particularly murderous, certainly not when compared with the raptors - hawks, eagles, and especially owls - who make their living by killing. I can understand the liking that some have for “murder of crows”, it does have a delightfully spine chilling sound, but its use has done these marvelously intelligent and highly social birds a great disservice. Their black (ominous to some) color and raucous (to those that do not listen closely) voices put them at enough of a disadvantage without hanging an undeserved murder rap on them as well.

The reputation of crows as birds of ill omen seems to date from the days when humans got civilized enough to engage in large scale warfare that left battlefields strewn with plenty of corpses to attract crows and other carrion eaters. Crows haunting battlefields was, of course, solely the result of the actions of “murders of men”. Before that, crows and ravens (which, after all are just big crows) in folklore tended to be intelligent tricksters, forever outwitting the cleverest humans. They were objects more of grudging admiration than of fear.

Some folks think that crows have murderous eating habits. Its true that crows will eat just about anything that can be eaten, though some crows show distinct preference for some foods and dislike of others. About the only things which they won’t eat are green leafy things and other crows (and I wouldn’t swear to either of those if they were pushed to it by starvation). Most commonly they eat bugs, grubs, seeds, small fruits, carrion (road kills), and human garbage. Which other things they eat depends on the time of year and locally available resources.

The feeding behavior which shocks human observers most usually occurs in the Spring when the crows are raising their young. Crow babies are BIG, grow fast, and consume a tremendous amount of food. To fill those gaping beaks, crows will hunt anything that they can manage to catch and this includes baby rabbits, eggs and young of other birds, frogs, small snakes, young squirrels, and the like. Interestingly enough, predation by crows to feed their young is reported not to decrease the population of prey species. Crows tend to nest early in the Spring and they only produce one successful brood of young a year. The species whose eggs and young they take, will generally produce one or more additional set of offspring in a given year and the later nests are generally more successful in producing healthy young, even discounting crow predation. Seeing a crow kill a young rabbit or baby robin can be distressing, but they are doing it to ensure the survival of their own offspring, and there will never be less rabbits or robins because of them.

A behavior, which seems widespread in legend, but which is of dubious reality is that crows will sit in judgment over one of their flock members who has transgressed in some way and, if they find him wanting, execute him/her by viciously attacking until the culprit is dead. Most commonly the offense cited in the stories is that a bird serving on watch duty while others feed was inattentive and allowed a predator to kill a flock member, bring the death penalty down on himself. If such a thing actually happened, perhaps there would be some justification for calling the group involved a “murder of crows”, but I don’t really believe it ever has.

While I have never actually seen it myself, I do believe that on rare occasions crows will, indeed, kill other crows. Over the years, crows.net has received three or four good, eyewitness reports of one crow killing another in the presence of other crows who only act as excited spectators. I think that these observations represented battles for territory or dominance between two male birds, the same sort of battle that is fought between the males of many species. Crows will often have “flurry fights”, brief challenges or disagreements between flock members that last for a few seconds. The more serious territorial challenges between two dominant birds generally end like the majority do in all species, the weaker male admits defeat and flees the field. In a very few cases something goes wrong with the normal pattern, perhaps the males are too evenly matched and neither will admit defeat. In that case the fight may be to the death with, according to one observer, one bird holding the other to the ground by standing on him and pecking him to death.

A murderer crow? Perhaps. Certainly not a “murder of crows”. This same sort of thing sometimes happens in other species when males battle for dominance, including our own.

There is a very specific reason why I don’t believe that crows ever kill a “guardian crow” for dereliction of duty, with or without a trial. It never occurs to most people that when they are looking at a small group of crows feeding while one or more acts a “sentry” that what they are seeing is a close knit crow family. The sentry is generally a parent of the younger crows on the ground. Both parents may act as sentry, or they may take turns, or an older sibling may take a turn. Crows are incredibly alert for danger, but sometimes predators succeed and a crow family member is killed. In such cases the family is likely to chase after the predator to rescue their kin or to hold a “crow funeral” to mark (dare we say mourn) its death than kill mom or dad or older brother.

In actual fact, crows are almost the reverse of murderers. They are well known to be extremely caring for their family members, to feed and care for a wounded companion or offspring, sometimes for long periods at great personal risk. They will risk their lives for another crow that is in danger and will valiantly attack and drive off far larger predators who threaten their group. Rather than kill a strange young orphan crow that happens into their territory, a flock will frequently adopt it as one of their own.

While I was writing the paragraph above, a term that much more suitably characterizes those small groups of black birds you see everywhere: a “Caring of Crows”.

Other appropriate names for groups of crows, some of which are in current usage an some of which are more obscure, are as follows. Remember, no ornithologist, ever refers to a “murder of crows”.

Flock of Crows: This is the most common term for a group of crows which is larger than a mated pair with several offspring. A flock can be any number from less than a dozen to many thousand.

Cooperative Group: This is a term ornithologists and particularly corvid specialists will use for a mated pair and their resident offspring to avoid having to use the taboo word “family”. There is nothing that biologist fear worse than being accused of attributing human characteristics to other animals, even when the term in question is obviously correct.

Family of Crows: The term that most clearly describes to the “layman” the relationship of that small group of crows in the yard to each other. Usually a mated pair and the offspring from the most recent nest, and possibly including one or more offspring from previous years’ nests. Size seems to normally range from three to eight or so, depending upon many circumstances.

Roost of Crows or Crow Roost: Crows tend to gather together – roost – at night to sleep. From late fall to very early spring, crows form large communal roosts at night. These roosts may contain up to tens of thousands of birds. These roosts are amazing to see, particularly when the birds are arriving in the evening.

Mob of Crows: Crows will attack and drive away predators that enter their territory. When a number of crows engage in a mid-air dogfight with a hawk, eagle, owl or other predator, its called “mobbing”. When crows are engaging in a group attack, they are a “mob of crows”.

Gang of Crows: I don’t know if this is an “official” term or not. There are a lot more crows than there are available nesting territories. Since crows can’t mate and reproduce without having a territory, there a lot of unmated male and female crows out there. Some have to wait for years to mate. Many of these younger birds will “hang out” in large groups, feeding and socializing and arguing rather like teenage humans. I call these groups Gangs of Crows.

Parliament of Crows: I believe this one is a fanciful British usage. Those black clothed birds sitting around cawing their unintelligible arguments endlessly do rather remind one of members of parliament. Sometimes, Congress of Crows.

Cawcus (or Caucus) of Crows: Another political allusion.

Cacophony of Crows: If this on doesn’t exist, it should.

Surely you could use one of these instead of that most unsuitable “Murder of Crows”.

------------------------------------

POSTED: March 9, 2008

Some Great Crow Observations

Washington State, Tacoma/Puyallup. 2007. Wooded Park directly in back of my home. I have had an interest in crows for years, but until we moved to this residence two years ago I had not gotten particularly close to them. Perhaps working out of my home, the only companionship I have during the day is my cats, the squirrels I feed, and now my crows.

It started with one crow and throwing out some bread. That crow brought another crow ( I assume a mate). It was the two of them for probably a month and then they brought the others. I have had as many as a dozen. One is always a lookout. They sometimes fly off and bring others back to share the food. Sometimes they just give a call that brings them. I give them whatever I have. I have a bird bath and they do like soaking their food. One time I gave them some very dried out rolls. They were pecking at them until one went over and soaked it in the water and then all of them followed suit. I also notice when I put food out on a paper plate they are usually a little leery until one of the leaders is brave enough to sneak a bite, of course always under the watchful eye of a lookout.

I was at Pt. Defiance Park in Tacoma July 2007 and I observed them waiting until a couple went down to the water and then the crows began rifling their bags that were filled with baggies containing cheese-its and other various snacks. One of my disappointments with the crows is that I am amazed that while they are feeding in the backyard that one squirrel can scare them from the food. They don't fly off but they let the squirrel do want it wants.

When any of my cats go outside they caw and caw at it. The crows clearly do not like cats. I saw one of the crows several days in a row in the same tree taunt a neighbor cat, clearly enjoying it. Also I, as well as my son have heard the crows making cat like noises. It sounds kinda like a muffled meow. I have heard them do this many times, but I am not sure what its purpose is.

My crows will eat raw meat. I have given them an entire roast that was freezer burned and they spent the day tearing it apart. I also have observed them saving food by putting it in the fir tree branches. I have seen them do this many times. One day recently I gave them approximately 30 slices of cheese that had begun to mold on the edges. They were certainly enjoying it, but I was shocked to look over and discover they were shoving the cheese down my neighbor's gutters! I was horrified as I like my neighbor and do not want to cause any problems. I quickly went out and scared them away from the neighbor's house.

The crows have become quite comfortable with me and do not fly off when I open the door or go out in the yard to bring them more treats. They even sit on the light pole out by the front driveway as I garden.

Last spring I observed a crow in my backyard that just was sitting there. It stayed and stayed. I began to think something wasn't right. I went out and its mouth was stuck open. It couldn't eat. I managed to get a little water down his throat and for a moment I thought it would help. He wasn't afraid of me at all and I am sure he knew I was trying to help him. During all of this there was a couple of crows who were observing and at times seemed to be cawing words of encouragement to this crow. This crow eventually flew off but it was obvious something was terribly wrong. His crow buddies followed him to where he landed in a neighbors yard and I could hear them cawing at him. He was dead the next day.

Another observation I have made is that the crows seldom fight. For the most part they get along and cooperate with each other. Also my former father-in-law decided that a crow was bothering him so he shot and killed it. He soon regreted it. He soon had hundreds of crows descend on his residence. They were on his roof, power lines, trees and they cawed and cawed forhours. They clearly were mourning the dead crow lying in his yard.

I am happy to have found this site and hope to share more.I believe crows have to be one of the most intelligent creatures on earth. They work together, they figure solutions out and learn from each other. (V.T.)

**********************************

POSTED: February 17, 2008

A Senseless Slaughter of Crows

A story in the NRA Journal about a man who has killed far more than a hundred thousand crows. We will leave you to form your own opinion of this "sportsman".

Slaughter of Crows

*********************************

POSTED: OCTOBER 9, 2007

An Injured Crow Helped by Its Family

1999-2003. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Theodore Wirth Park is located where Golden Valley and Minneapolis meet. It is the largest nature park in Minneapolis. It include a golf course and trails. My house was located nearby and at least one family of crows lived in the area which included my house.

I first notice a crow with a broken wing around the spring of 1999. I did not believe he would make it for long since the park also included a family of foxes. He could not fly and spent his time walking mostly in the outskirt of the golf course. There was always at least one crow either in the ground or in a tree nearby. Any time someone or some small animal came near the crow with the broken wing, the crow in charge would make a noise and others would show up right away. I saw crows bringing food to the hurt crow many times. He managed to survive until at least 2003. After that winter, neither my daughter nor I ever saw him again. It was quite obvious that this bird would not have survived for so long, being unable to fly, without help. I can't even imagine how he made it through all those winters. Minneapolis in located in zone 4. (C.O.)

POSTED: October 8, 2007

A Crow Lecture?

Fall 2004. Golden Valley, Minnesota. This area of Golden Valley is close to a small lake and Minneapolis largest nature park (Wirth Park). Most of the area slopes both in back and toward the road. There is a fence on the top and slight terracing to prevent erosion towards the road.

That day I was driving by when I noticed hundreds of crows gathering. I stopped the car and parked just before the area where they were gathering. I had never seen so many at a time. (My house was about 100 meters from the location.) They were landing on top of the fence and all the way down covering all the "terraces". The stood in place all the way to the sidewalk. After a few minutes the area was packed with crows. Two crows were standing in the bicycle path by the street next to the sidewalk. One of them made a sound and all the other crows became silent facing the ones in the bottom. Then the second began making sounds. After about three minutes, the second crow stopped making sounds and the first one made a sound and all the others began flying off.

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw this was that they were in an amphitheater listening to a lecture. I was amazed that they all stayed quiet while the one in the bottom was "speaking" and none flew away during all this time. I was also surprised at how instantly they grew quiet when the first crow made the first sounds and how quickly they left when "he" made the second sound. (C.O.)

*********************************************

POSTED: October 6, 2007

Tool Using Crows Caught on Crow Cams

Scientists attached miniature cameras to the tails of those Caledonian tool using crows. Click on the link below for the story.

Clever Crows are Caught on Camera.

*******************************************************

POSTED: October 1, 2007

Old Crow

November 30, 2007. Salem Oregon, USA. I've been feeding a small crow family for over four years now. My Old Crow came to our backyard in the summer of 2003. He had a broken leg, and was struggling to survive on the bread crumbs and bird feed that we had put out for the little birds. Poor Old Crow was a very sad looking guy back then ..., but you aught to see him now! (:

Now, he's a very big Old Crow ..., with a wife and several children to feed. The first summer, I would hang raw bacon over the back fence for him to snatch up, and this he did, with great accuracy. The only problem was, he was hanging the bacon like fresh laundered underwear over the telephone wires ..., for all to see. I was quite embarrassed by the sight ..., but learned very quickly that Old Crow wanted his bacon a little bit cooked ..., just so the fat was dripping out of it. A quick bout in the microwave solved that problem, and then there was no more unsightly bacon hanging over the wires for the neighbors to view.

Since that summer of 2003, I've been steadily and lovingly feeding my little crow family. In the Fall, as is now, I have "many" more crows to feed. The migrating crows will be here for a short time, and then they'll be off to their winter roost, and I'll just have my little family to care for ..., once again. Now to make a long story short; what the crows in Salem, Oregon prefer to eat!

They *love* Col. Sanders fried chicken, but only get it periodically. Every day I feed them the following, and through much trial and error have discovered that this is exactly what they prefer to eat:

Cheese and Egg Omelet
Cut-up wieners [turkey, beef or chicken]
Macaroni and Cheese
Bacon slightly cooked
Cheddar Cheese
Pizza

I found that what they don't like to eat is raw meats, any kind of vegetables and the crows around here poo-poo peanuts. Quick funny story; I once gave my Old Crow an uncooked whole egg to eat. He loved it ..., but another embarrassing situation occurred. He punched a hole in the shell and took the egg up on the neighbor’s roof to eat. I'm very thankful that the neighbors couldn't see the side of their house that we had to stare at for a couple of months! We prayed constantly for rain. The broken shell was glued firmly to Jay's shingles, and the white of the egg had run down and dried in a glossy sheen, that only stopped at the rain gutter. So, even though crows love raw egg, I highly suggest that you never give them one! Soft boiled or hard boiled eggs didn't work out, either. They'll eat the yolk and leave the whites. So, I scramble their eggs with a good amount of cheddar cheese and everybody seems to be happy! (R.G.S.)

****************************************************************

POSTED: September 13, 2007

A British Pet Crow

June 2007. England – Yorkshire. I rescued a fledgling crow off a river bank. I watched it for 2 days but saw nothing feeding it. By then it was fairly weak so I brought it back and raised it on poultry food. I did not at this stage realize that it was unlikely to be accepted back into its original social circle.

It is the most enchanting of birds though it is basically a very intelligent thief. But it is impossible to get angry with it. It steals clothes pegs as you're putting the washing out, then gives you a torrent of abuse when you try to retrieve them. Like a magpie, it will go for anything shiny and has stolen numerous keys. It picks holes in milk bottle tops and soon learnt to watch out for the milkman. When he started putting plastic covers over the bottles it stood watching what he was doing and he got a load of abuse as well. It worries me that it is TOO tame as the latest report I got is it went into a neighbour's kitchen and fended off her 2 Yorkshire terriers while it tried their dog food. Not all dogs will be that tolerant.

It seems that the crow learns by observation. Being naturally curious, it investigates EVERYTHING. If it sees another animal doing something that benefits it then it will copy. A neighbour showed it how to soften bread in water so now it always "dunks" its bread. But it found out for itself about stealing from milk bottles and how to get peanuts out of a shell and grapes from a sealed packet. Now EVERY packet has to be ripped open in case it contains something delicious. (S.S.)

****************************************************************

POSTED: September 11, 2007

A Family of Crow Friends

September 10, 2007. Ocean City, Washington, USA. My home along the Pacific ocean, bordered along a wooded hillside, a small community. I started my observation 3 years ago on a local pair of crows that appear to live in my back yard in a thick wooded area that surrounds a swamp. This year I watched them experience many good and some tragic bad times. One of the pair had been injured somehow and they were late to mate. They did eventually and 2 young came from it.

When the one was injured I fed them dry dog food soaked in warm water every morning and in the evening I fed them table scraps. I fed them under the huge old tree in my yard so they would have the safety of its branches for retreat yet could easily get to the chow. They came to trust me so it was no surprise when they brought their 2 babies to eat there as well.

On the 4th of July, one of the adult parents was killed, I found her a little way down the road she appeared to have been hit by a car. They mourned her but not for long. The remaining parent was now alone and had to raise the babies alone. He had little routines that he led them through every day. Early morning he brought them to the alder trees outside my bedroom window and squawked until I would wake and go feed them, as he and his mate had done so many times before. Everybody would eat then join the others in the area flock for a bit of the day, till around 11:00 am.

We have a large deck in front of our house that overlooks a huge grassy lot and pretty much the whole town. The tree is on the border of our driveway which is called Lone Tree drive. By 11:00am I am out on my deck. He brings the babies to the tree and he grooms them a while. They are very loving and affectionate to each other. Then he leaves them there and he flies off for a bit never long. They sit in the tree and "Talk" back and forth using a number of different clucks and caws which sounds like speech therapy in crow! Sometimes they sit quietly and on occasion they will pick bits of moss and bark and drop it on me or my deck playfully. They stay in or around the tree until the parent returns then they are gone for a while. If I am outside gardening or walking my dog they hear my voice and follow me where ever I go. It looks pretty strange because I also have 2 black cats who follow me around as well, so here is this woman walking along with 2 black cats and a black and white dog, and 3 black crows all in a parade! Evening rolls around and I am feeding cats, and dogs, and yes, crows! They wait in the tree not very patiently, yelling for dinner!

I love these birds and intend to learn all I can about them. There is no doubt in my mind that they far surpass the intelligence level of most creatures, especially other birds. What surprises me most is the emotion and the obvious affection they have for one another.(C.C.)

******************************************************

POSTED: August 30, 2007

Ball Playing Crows

April 14, 2007. Western Washington State, Seattle Area. Grocery store, strip mall roof. As I approached the covered breezeway I could see several crows, maybe 5 or 6 "jumping" up and down on the roof. When I reached the covered area I could hear a bumping noise overhead. A moment later a super-ball dropped off the roof and bounced into the busy parking lot; three crows quickly followed and chased the ball while it bounced. When the ball came to rest in a gutter one of the crows picked the ball up in her beak and "threw" it. At that point the other crows all tried to catch it. Even when it rolled under cars they would pursue the ball and make it bounce. I watched this along with a group of people who also noticed the crows playing ball.

After about 10 minutes the "owner" of the ball took the ball back up to the roof where I could once again hear the bouncing and jumping. The super-ball was one of the 2" diameter ones; so it was really an effort for them to pick it up and then fly. I buy a super-ball from the dollar store a couple of times a week and throw it on the roof for the crows. Quite often I can hear cawing and bouncing when I walk under the breezeway. (A.C.)

+++++++++++++++++++

crows.net response While we've never received a report of ball playing crows before, it does seem well within the range of behavior (play) in which young crows frequently engage. We have heard on a number of occasions about crows stealing golf balls, but usually they just drop them in places where the golfers have a hard time retrieving them. A 2 inch diameter super ball must be at the very outside edge of what a crow can carry in its beak. They can manage fairly large hardboiled hen's eggs, but usually they will first poke a hole to get a better grip. I don't suppose there's any chance of capturing the crows' game with a video camera. It would certainly make an interesting video. (Michael Westerfield)

******************************************************

POSTED: August 28, 2007

Crow Regional Dialects, etc.

Sometime in Fall, 1999. Porter Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. How I first became entranced by crows:

Actually, I've always thought crows were beautiful and interesting so I was aware of the ones hanging about by the fence as I waited for a commuter rail train on a brisk but sunny fall day. There were two nearby, almost too close for wild things to be near humans, and one other on a roof across the street. In turns, these three would sound off with two short caws and then there would be a long pause and then they would go around again. During the pause I could swear the two by the chain link fence would stare at me expectantly. So, after a few rounds of this, I cawed at them myself becoming #4 in the 'roll call'. This delighted them, they had a flurry of raucous calling and then began again, one at a time, a one or two caw call, and I fell in, the pause was not so long and we went round again. The second or third time we sounded off together a fourth crow flying by overhead also cawed in turn after me. Then it landed on the roof by crow #3. I felt that I had been invited to 'sing along' and felt very honored and included.

Since this happened I have become a very keen observer of crows and have identified a few other calls and behaviors that seem to be consistent in crow language/culture. By Spring of 2000 I was able to mimic a call which I call 'there's food here' because I'm guessing that's what it means. After a round of sounding off, three loud caws would cause the crows to come and congregate in nearby trees.

I will also attest that after several seasons of cawing the crows in the Boston area and rural Mass, and southern Maine I was disappointed to find that my caws had no meaning whatsoever to Central California crows. I spent a few years in California and never did manage to 'get' the crows there. Very little of their behavior seemed to match New England crow culture.

Now I am back in Maine, feeding crows in my driveway, designing a crow feeder and have just found your site (hooray!). I have been going out between 5:30 am and 7am every morning this week to scatter seed, bread bits or other leftovers (cantaloupe slices) and have been watching these local crows which seem more familiar in habits, caws, and social behavior. I believe there is an alpha male among the regulars, or possibly just a bully, and I think, but I'm not sure that a particular individual is now accustomed and expecting my largess. This morning, perched in a dead tree this one did not fly off as I walked about flinging bread bits. Previously all had scattered and only returned when I retreated inside. (G.G.)

+++++++++++++++++

crows.net response: You bring up several interesting points about crow behavior in your message. The "sing along" in which you participated may actually have been more of a language class for young crows, with a parent or older sibling making a vocalization with a specific meaning and the youngsters repeating it. No doubt the "kids" were happy to have a non-crow join in the game.

Crows have different dialects in different areas of the country and the west coast crows do indeed behave and vocalize very differently from those in the Northeast. Florida crows are also vocalize very differently. I suspect California crows have been fairly isolated from other populations by the desert and mountains. As you go further north, you run into another population, the Northwest crows, which some consider to be a separate species.

The basic unit of crow society, is the "nuclear family" which usually consists of a mated pair and several offspring from various year's nests. The alpha crow, is usually the male of the mated pair...the head of the family, though the most dominant of the offspring can sometimes be the most obvious bird, while the father is out of sight playing a lookout role.

Concerning crow feeders. Siting is important. Crows like to feed on the ground in an area well away from brush or trees that might conceal predators. A "feeding table" tends to work better than something hanging or pole mounted, though crows can get into most types of feeders if they have enough incentive. (Michael Westerfield)

********************************************************

POSTED: August 18, 2007

The World's Largest Crow

Just a bit of crow trivia. Click on the link below.

World's Largest Crow.

*******************************************************

<

POSTED: August 17, 2007

Tool Using Crows: BBC Story with Video

You may have heard of the famous incident where a crow in the laboratory was caught on video making a tool apparently by reasoning out how it could be done and then doing it. In the experiment that was being carried out, food was placed in a little bucket at the bottom of a tube. The bucket had a handle and crows were given either a straight or hooked strip of metal to use to try and fish out the bucket. The crow that was given a straight piece of metal fashioned it into a hook in very much the same way you might do it, by sticking one end into a crack and exerting leverage on the other. This present story from the BBC reports even greater reasoning power on the part of Caledonian crows and includes a short video of a crow solving a complicated problem in using tools to obtain food.

Tool Using Crows.

******************************************************

POSTED: August 8, 2007

Crows Dropping Fir Cones on Folks Below

Observation Date: August 7, 2007. Bainbridge Island, WA., USA. Rural, two and a half acre yard, partly cultivated, with numerous tall fir trees, on intertidal bay.

My daughter and I walked out into the undeveloped area of her yard to decide on the placement of some fencing. While standing there together, we noticed that an unusual number of fir cones were suddenly landing on the ground, one after another. We looked up into the trees to see what could be causing such a deluge, and saw five to eight crows, very quietly coming and going in the tree directly over our heads. We could only surmise that they were pulling off and dropping the cones. We stood there for probably five or six minutes while this behavior continued without ceasing. During this time, there was no cawing or crowing at all. My daughter noticed that where we were standing seemed to be the only area that the cones were landing, as if the crows were intentionally trying to drop them close to us. We checked our theory by moving about 20 feet away and before too many minutes had passed, the crows moved to the tree above us again, and again we were bombarded by dropping fir cones. Now we moved, this time about 30 feet away, with the same amusing result.

We were astounded by this behavior and probably spent 20-25 minutes enjoying the spectacle. I should note that it was evening, just before dark. We are used to watching the crows drop clams from high up in order to break them up on our cobblestones so they can easily get at the meat,(Her yard is full of shells of course.) but the raining fir cones was something new to behold, and fascinating to observe.

Comments: I'd be interested in knowing if you or anyone else has any insight into what these crows were trying to accomplish. The only thing that occurs to me is that they were trying to scare us away at a vulnerable time for them, just before nightfall. This has us intrigued and we look forward to hearing what you have to say about this. Thank you. (C.P.) >

++++++++++

crows.net response:I would guess that the crows were used to roosting at night in that clump of fir trees and that they were indeed targeting you in an attempt to clear you out of the area before they settled down for the night. Fir trees are fairly safe refuges for crows at night, where they are reasonably safe from the large owls which are their major predators. I can see, though, that they wouldn't want any other potential dangers hanging around their roosting place as darkness was falling. (Michael Westerfield)

********************************************************************************

POSTED: August 7, 2007

Cracker, a "Slow" Fledgling Crow?

August 6 & 7, 2007. Nanaimo ,British Columbia Canada. Our back yard, we live on a half acre lot. On one end we have several nearly 30 year old trees,cedar,cypress, alder. Last year(06), we became aware of a crows' nest in a large spruce tree in the tree area. Two babies emerged from the nest. I believe these are western crows. All last July/August we were delighted to watch one of the crows (we named Cracker) learn to fly. It seemed to take forever; the flying seemed to come naturally it was landing that took weeks of practice. Mother was always close at hand but always on a different branch. Cracker contstantly complained that he had to try to fly to the next branch to get to Mom. This went on for at least four weeks before he could take off and land with any confidence.

We have watched Cracker and his Mom and Dad every morning for about a year now. We sit in our yard for about an hour each morning, and have bribed them with a piece of cheese broken up and placed on top of the grape arbour. Cracker has only this past month began taking his own food; up till now he has been fed by Mom. Cracker is a year old now. Mom and Dad did not have a nest this year. Is this unusual behavour? We are very interested in these great creatures. (A.G.)

++++++++++++

crows.net response: Well, when it comes to crow behavior, there can be considerable variation among groups and individuals. In this case, Cracker does seem a bit "slow". Most young crows are feeding themselves at least some of the time within several weeks of leaving the nest and are fairly self-sufficient by the fall after fledging, though they still might try begging from their parents from time to time. The process of learning to fly is generally like what you describe, with the parents often landing on branches or in trees at a distance from their offspring and the youngsters vocally protesting. Sometimes I think that the parents are encouraging the youngsters to fly and join them and other times teaching them to remain in place until called.

As far as the parents not having a nest this year, I can't say much about that, since any number of factors could be involved. Oh, and what became of Cracker's sibling? (Michael Westerfield)

*************************************************************************************

POSTED: July 31, 2007

City Crows and Country Crows

I have noticed that there is a bit of difference in the crows that live by my house in the country vs. the crows that live by the office I work at in town. The city crows seem to be braver, and friendlier.

I have a story to share. The office I work at was built new. During the building process I was at the site a great deal. I love birds, especially crows, so of course I noticed a nesting crow in a large tree off the parking lot of the building. I would click and talk to the crows in the trees for fun every time I would show up. Sure enough, they had a baby - I was able to see it amongst the tree branches. As soon as they had the baby I decided to help them out and regularly brought them food. One occasion that I was bringing food, I saw the baby on the ground. Still with blue eyes. So I started talking to the baby and leaving food near him.

We finally moved into our building so I was there more regularly by this time. As the crow grew, he became quite comical and would hang off the gutters of the building upside down so he could see me in the window. When he would do this I would dutifully bring food treats out to him. On many other occasions I would drive my little truck in and put treats in the back. The crows loved that. They got so familiar with it that they would hop on the tailgate of the truck before I was even stopped. It has been 7 years now and I have fed these group of crows quite regularly.

Our office mailbox is way out across a big parking lot so I have to walk quite a ways every day to get the mail. The latest thing that one crow in particular is doing, is what I call "drive bys" - which is this.......the crow swoops up from behind me and clips me on the head with his wing. He has done this 20-30 times. I get the impression that he thinks this is hilarious. I liken it to the Indians "counting coup", when they would take sticks and hit the enemy and that was a big deal to them.

I was wondering what you might think of my city crows - if it is the same one friendly crow, or a family of them and there is more than one that is active and friendly to me. The crows at my house we feed every day too - but they come and eat and leave and don't really do much to get our attention except to yell if we haven't put the food out for them yet. -Any comments would be appreciated. (C. McL.)

++++++++++

crows.net response: City crows and country crows often show distinctly different behavior largely due to the fact that they tend to live fairly protected lives in the city, while in the country they are shot at by hunters and subject ed to all sorts of harassment and persecution. In my experience, city crows are much more curious about humans and more likely to interact with them while in the country they tend to give humans a wide berth, veering off and flying away as soon as they notice a human presence. This fear can be modified over time if they find particular places to be safe refuges, despite the humans, but it generally takes much longer to overcome the wariness than in cities.

Interesting that you would use the term "counting coup" in describing the behavior of the crow in doing his "fly-bys". I use the same term to describe the behavior of crows when mobbing hawks. Often individual crows will break out of the mob and come as close to the hawk as possible, sometimes even hitting it. I refer to this as counting coup and am certain that it is done to "show off" and gain status with the flock.

As to the question about how many crows might be involved in your "city crow" interactions, its really hard to tell. Over the course of seven years there have, no doubt, been numerous offspring born to the original pair, or their successors, and all of these are probably aware that you are a "friend of crows" and safe to interact with. So, it might be the original baby that is still interacting with you and/or any of his numerous siblings from successive nests. (Michael Westerfield)

***********************************************************************

POSTED: July 30, 2007

Inconsiderate Crow Feeders

Please help raise awareness that if you should choose to feed crows, consider the impact it will have on your neighbors. We live in a nice community with one neighbor who feeds the crows his kitchen scraps, dry dog food etc. We now have a crow disturbance beginning BEFORE 6am EVERY DAY. The crow calls are 10x louder and more frequent than a dog's bark. Did I mention we are awakened pre-dawn EVERY DAY of our lives now by the crows? It is not possible to sleep through their cawing. We wake up and close all our windows (during the summer) but it does not help very much at all. Crows landing on the roof to eat our neighbor's nasty kitchen waste are very noisy and impossible to ignore. This impacts at least 12 neighbors in the immediate area. We know how to deal with a constantly barking dog. What can we do about the crows?

Of course we have spoken with our neighbor but he prefers to be friendly with the crows and resultant rats; who by the way also love a big pile of dog food dumped in the front yard. Rats to their credit can be trapped, and have yet to wake me from much needed rest. Please leave my name off, but you may use my town. (Sleepless in Poulsbo)

++++++++++++++++

crows.net response: Like anything else, feeding crows must be done with due consideration for one's neighbors. Crows can be incredibly noisy and since they like to feed at dawn and tend to have loud discussions about menu choices, a person who provides them with large quantities of food around the clock can quickly become a major neighborhood problem. The crows themselves are not the source of the trouble; they wouldn't be there without the food. It sounds like you have a man who is not as considerate as he could be of his neighbors' right to the peaceful enjoyment of their property and who should change his crow feeding methods immediately for the benefit of everyone.

To avoid the dawn cacophony, food could be put out in late morning in a bowl or pot or on a feeding table that would keep it confined to a small area. If the container of food was brought inside in the evening, the crows would quickly learn that breakfast was off the menu and should stop their morning visits in a very short period of time. If your neighbor could be convinced to try something like this, the crows would still be fed, he would still have the pleasure of watching them, and the peace of the neighborhood would be restored.

***********************************************

POSTED: July 27, 2007

More on Food Dunking Crows

Spring 2007. Camarillo, Southern California, U.S.A. upscale residential area. 1/2 acre lots, citrus orchards and rowcrop within 1/2miles. On a hill.

I maintain a bird feeding area with bath in my backyard. I feed them every thing from table scraps, old cereal, old dried bread and birdseed. One morning I discovered one of the dry tortillas was in the bird bath. I wondered about it and began to p notice that the occasional crows were around. For several weeks I observed them while feeding. None put the tortillas in the bird bath. I finally saw one crow soaking one in the bird bath. After that I commonly saw crows carrying the dried bread and tortillas to the bath and pecking at the them as they softened. This suggests to me that most of the crows did not know this trick until one or more crows demonstrated it. Then they all knew the trick. It seems to be learned behavior from the crow who knew the trick. (J.V.)

++++++++++

crows.net response: We've been getting a number of reports about crows dunking food in late Spring and early summer. It would be very interesting to know if this behavior is continued throughout the year or is only related to the feeding of nestlings and younger fledgling crows at this time of year. It would be great if all you crow watchers could keep us posted on the what and when of crows dunking food throughout the year in your birdbaths, ponds, etc. (Michael Westerfield)

***************************************************************

POSTED: July 26, 2007

Is It Legal to Keep a Crow?

I know that you can kill crows in most state but is It illegal to "keep" crows in all states? I've searched the net and can't find the answer. I've always wanted to foster one and have met people who have, but don't know about the legalities in Tenn.

++++++++++

crows.net response: It is illegal under the U.S.federal migratory bird act to keep any of the North American crows or their feathers or any other part of them. This is true in all states despite the fact that it is legal to hunt and kill them in many places. The only way a crow can legally be kept is if you have both federal and state permits to do so. Federal permits are generally only issued to educational institutions, museums, etc. or to persons legitimately involved in scientific research. I've never run into any person who actually had a permit to keep a crow. (Michael Westerfield)

****************************************************************

POSTED: July 25, 2007

A Crow Funeral

Alberta, Canada. Observed July 21, 2007. Heavily treed back yard. To my dismay, my dog caught and killed a young crow today. I realized something was happening in the back yard when I heard a different type of "caw". There were aprox. 5 crows staring down at their injured friend. Their caws were very loud and persistent. Eventually the trees and air were filled with about 15 frantic crows. Some swept down and tried to scare my dog , unfortunately, by the time I got to the crow, it was too late. I also observed that magpies had joined the group of birds. All birds remained there and "screamed" loudly for quite some time. Needless to say, I was very upset and could clearly see how family oriented these birds are.

Comments: Obviously quite intelligent and definitely possess a complex language system. (J.R.)

++++++++++

crows.net response: Crows are very family orientated and the death of one of their group always seems to affect them deeply. The scene which you describe is very common when a death has occurred. It is interesting that magpies also joined in, but not too surprising since they are closely related to crows and seem to understand the meaning of many of their vocalizations. (Michael Westerfield)

*****************************************************************************************

POSTED: July 24, 2007

Chip Dunking Crows

Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA. July 20, 2007. I have been a crow admirer for years. My sister and I had stopped at 'turn out' to take pictures of a mountain stream. As I got back in the car a crow landed on the rock wall. I started talking to it (with my sister laughing in the background). It keep hopping closer and closer. I rummaged around in the car and found a bag of potato chips. I offered him/her one and it came even closer. I tossed it onto the wall and he started calling for the family. Within seconds a baby and several other adults were on the wall. Several of the adults took the chips to indentations in the wall that had collected rain water and 'washed' the chips before eating them! Before we left they had summoned more family and there were many that were less brave, waiting in the trees for the chips I had thrown on the ground. (Margaret)

I own parrots and they frequently wash food. But I had not seen others birds do this. I wondered if it was just to soften the food or perhaps they don't like salt!!

++++++++++

crows.net response: Some crows do indeed regularly dunk food. This is particularly true during the nesting season when they will soak up water in food to bring to their young. The moisture in their food is the only way the young get needed water. Its also possible that if water sources are scarce in the area and the indentations in the wall are pretty shallow, soaking food would be a good way of "picking up" the water. As far as salt is concerned, I'm not sure that I've ever heard anything about crows liking it or not, but from my observation s, at least some crows seem to like salty foods just fine. However, individual crows seem often to have distinct tastes for one sort of food over another, so I wouldn't rule out the possibility that the ones you observed disliked salt. (Michael Westerfield)

***************************************************************************************

POSTED: July 17, 2007

An Enemy of Crows

Hello. What a wonderful site for studying crows! I am hoping to understand my own flock in Asheville, NC better. They are the noisiest, most brazen and clever flock I have ever observed anywhere. I have an excellent feeding station where I feed whole corn to about twenty deer and twenty turkeys every evening. Naturally, the crows will swoop in and grab some if they think I am not home. They know me, my car, my wife and their behavior is dependent on household activities. Because they also used to raid our bird feeders at will, if they thought no one was home, I have occasionally threatened them with a .22 rifle which I have fired as a warning a few times, so they now consider me a mortal enemy, but they no longer hit the feeders as they used to.

The instant I step out of the house the sentry immediately sounds off to the others in the woods. If my wife steps out of the house they do not respond at all. My wife likes to remind me how much they seem to hate me for threatening them. It certainly appears she is correct. I wanted to hear what the sonograms of the alarm calls on your site sounded like but I am only getting static. Is there a problem with those? Our flock's caw signals are very distinctive and clearly they have various meanings.

BTW, I had a tame crow when I was a kid and he was a marvelous pet. He was raised from a fledgling but was always allowed to fly free. He would hang out with a wild flock but always came back especially if my parents were having cocktails on the patio. He loved to dip his beak in my father's Martini and he would get quite tipsy, even falling off the back of the chair to the ground occasionally where he would get snuffled by our spaniel who loved him. (N.C., Asheville, N.C.)

++++++++++

crows.net response: Thanks for the report. Crows do indeed recognize individual people and once you have been designated as an "enemy of crows" its hard ever to live it down. Word of your "bad character" might spread from crow to crow and you might find yourself being scolded by crows anywhere in your local area.

I checked the sonogram and it really isn't working on the website. I'll have to try and figure out what the problem is. (Michael Westerfield)

***************************************************************************************

POSTED: July 10, 2007

Crows Dunking Food in Bird Baths

Has anyone else encountered this problem? Crows are bringing their food - bread chunks, road kill etc. to our bird bath and leaving it in the water. It is disgusting! Sometimes they return to eat it if I don't take it out. I put a hanging plant over the basin at our most public bath at a height that the crows cannot get under it to eat and the smaller birds still can get in to drink and bathe. The other two baths I have left open. I don't want to completely stop the crows from access - does anyone have an idea how to deal with this behavior? We have had crows around for years, but this is the first time we had this happen.

+++++++++

crows.net response: Usually the problem you describe only occurs when the crows have young in their nests. They can't carry water to their nestlings, so they soak food in shallow pools - often bird baths - and carry water to them that way. Usually it stops after the young leave the nest. You don't say where you are, so I can't tell if its still nesting time there. Its also possible that if you are having a drought and there are no other water sources, the crows are using the birdbaths rather than the pools they usually use. (Michael Westerfield)

************************************************************************************

POSTED: July 9, 2007

"Altruistic" Crow Behavior

Tumwater, Washington: Wooded area with cedar trees, douglas firs and maple trees behind the South Puget Sound Community College.

I often go to this area and feed a group of crows that seem to live there. Among the various things I have observed is that often one will lite on a tree or lamppost above me and watch me scatter bread. Then he might fly away and return with various other crows. It appears to me as if the observing crow, is able to delay gratification in order to somehow let the others know that there is food available. (s.c.)

crows.net response: Hello! Thanks for the report.

Your report describes one of the major distinguishing characteristics of crow behavior, that they have a very strong social/family orientation and individuals often show what appears to be altruistic behavior. They routinely put aside their own immediate good in favor of the good of other crows. Those who find a source of food will very frequently call other crows in before eating themselves. Parent crows will keep watch while their offspring feed, even if it means going hungry themselves. Not uncommonly crows will risk their lives to aid another crow that is injured or in danger. One of the more odious characteristics of certain hunters is that they will play the recorded distress calls of injured crows and then slaughter the crows that come to the aid of the supposedly endangered birds.

Crows also have an excellent system of vocal communication and can provide information to other crows about the location, and kind, of food as well as just about anything else that might be of interest to the crow community. (Michael Westerfield)

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: December 21, 2006

Tool Making Crow Video

You may have heard of the famous incident where a crow in the laboratory was caught on video making a tool apparently by reasoning out how it could be done and then doing it. In the experiment that was being carried out, food was placed in a little bucket at the bottom of a tube. The bucket had a handle and crows were given either a straight or hooked strip of metal to use to try and fish out the bucket. In this video clip you will see a crow that was given a straight piece of metal fashion it into a hook in very much the same way you might do it, by sticking one end into a crack and exerting leverage on the other. Take a look by clicking on the link below.

Tool Making Crow.

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: December 17, 2006

Crows Using Cars as Nutcrackers

From time to time we have received reports of crows opening nuts by dropping them into traffic and recovering them after cars have run over them and opened them. Many scientists doubt that this is a studied and reasoned action. Follow the link to the video of crows in Japan and see what you think.

Nut cracking crows.

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: December 14, 2006

A Visit by the Roost

Minnesota, Hennepin County, Minneapolis: 12/11/06.

The Seward Neighborhood of Minneapolis is an old one with the Mississippi River as our eastern boundary. It is an "inner ring" neighborhood, close to the U of M, population intense, part commercial, part industrial, part residential. At dusk this evening the sounds of crows began to fill the air. It is unseasonably warm (39F) for December, no snow is on the ground, and a fine mist began falling about 4PM. There is a huge crow roost north of here on the River and we certainly have crows here but never like this evening. The crows filled the air - some sounding like kittens, some like blue jays, some clacking, some sounding like geese and others cooing like pigeons. The old stock trees, mostly hackbery and maples started to fill with birds. If you didn't know all the leaves were off the trees it looked like the trees were completely leafed out - but it was all crows. The trees for a 1/2 block area were all filled - but nothing outside of that area. There were thousands of birds and it was a spectacular sight!

Don't understand why this evening...crows used to frequent our trees up till 5 years ago when the patriarch crow (named einstein) died in our yard. He is buried under a boulder by a concrete bird pool. That year the crows would pay respects but not stay. They came back once for the death of a neighbor and ringed the top of her home. And left. Now they occasionally come through, often escorting a hawk out of their territory and we see flight lessons of the young on power lines, but nothing like this. It was magical. (M. A-C.)

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: November 3, 2006

Clarence the Crow

Reno, Nevada: 2001 - 2004. American crow: Found hatchling, about 4 inches long, fallen from a nest (possibly knocked out of the nest by an owl, it was at night). Parents and presumably older siblings had a fit, but I took the baby and "cross-fostered" it. Too complicated to report here, but I've studied other animals, e.g., chimps, and "Clarence" was extremely intelligent. He learned to speak several words- mama, doodles (our shih-tzu), frank (our cat), Colin (my husband), bluebird (a large bluebird, his buddy), food, etc. He understood MANY words. Example: I'd say where's the bluebird? He'd fly to window and look for the bluebird and call for him. Or, where's doodles? And he'd go find her. He was completely untamable, fiercely independent, but affectionate and possessive. Perched at head of our bed, guarding us, sometimes slept in dog bed with cat and dog. Went on walks with dog and cat (actually walked, this was before he could fly).

At the time I was the administrator of a hospital/hospice for Alzheimer's patients, and he went to work with me, acting as a care animal (along with other animals). He was invariably gentle with patients. One example to demonstrate intelligence: he was as mischievous as could be, would peck keys off laptop keyboard, or, if I forgot to hide cigarettes he'd pull them from pack and rip them to shreds. One time I got particularly upset (like the 3rd pack in one day), and I yelled at him and stomped on the floor. The next opportunity he had to get my cigarettes (and from then on), he carefully removed every single cigarette without breaking it and carefully lined them up in parallel. Unbelievable.

Although I'm a scientist (a cognitive psychologist) my experience with Clarence has mystical overtones. I can't explain it all here, but Clarence suddenly grew much bigger, at least 20 inches long, then learned to fly (I don't know what was wrong with his wings, but his feathers didn't grow properly, then all of a sudden, they grew in). One day he started flying expertly, flapping his wings slowly and gracefully, like he'd been doing it for years. This was after more than two years. He opted for freedom, flew away, risked everything to be free. For three days he sat in a tree, calling and calling in the rain, above our house. Finally, he disappeared for over a week. To make a long story short, he conquered the wild, gained two main companions, then became a leader of crows, for over a year came to visit every day at dusk, often bringing his entire "murder" with him, and then less and less often. The tall trees around our house would be dotted with dozens of large black crows, utterly silent, watching, while he flew down and "visited" with us and our pets, in our backyard. It was quite eerie and wonderful, we felt honored, graced, witnesses to something magical, mystical. To further validate this, he seems to appear whenever I most need him (to this day)- in times of trouble, death, despair, etc.

comments: Wovoka, a Pauite leader, considered crows sacred. Many Indian tribes have crows woven into their creation stories. I know why. One need only have a crow peer deeply into your eyes to awaken you to other realities. (S.S.)

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: October 27, 2006

Another Murder of Crows: Riverton, Wyoming

Every year at about the time when crows begin moving into towns and cities to form their winter nightime communal roosts, some misguided folks begin organizing ways to free their municipalities of what they consider to be "vermin". Often the methods chosen are incredibly barbaric and include shooting, poisoning, and even the use of explosives to slaughter the birds. The latest report of a planned mass murder of crows comes from Riverton, in Freemont County, Wyoming. Read all about it in the local paper, The Ranger, by clicking on the link below. If you wanted to help end this senseless slaughter, it would be helpful if you sent a "letter to the editor" to The Ranger. You could also "google" Riverton, Wyoming and use the information to write letters or send emails to the "Town Fathers", Chamber of Commerce, etc.

http://www.dailyranger.com/headline2.htm  Article in The Ranger about the Upcoming Slaughter of Crows

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: October 25, 2006

The CrowCentric website has a lot of really great crow photos and some fine art works.

http://www.crowcentric.com/ Great Crow Photos and Art Work

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: October 25, 2006

A "Crow Funeral"

Crows react very strongly to the death of one of their flock members. The reaction often times takes the form of what is popularly refered to as a "crow funeral". The following is a report on one such event.

October 16, 2006. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

A downtown-busy street. A crow fell to the ground-probably electrocuted, and 12 or so other crows were screaming and upset. I took a plastic bag out of my back pack and picked it up to get it off the street and I was followed home by the group as I placed it gently near a tree in my back yard (only a block away). They watched and continued cawing for half an hour or so. Later the crows seemed to take turns on the tree above their friend-looking down at him quietly. The next day they returned around the same time to check on his remains. Cool creatures. (R.B.)

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: September 13, 2006

Tata, the 59 Year Old Crow: A Request From His Caretaker

Tata the crow who died at age 59 in July was in my care for the last 6 years. During that time he lived in a parrot cage in my dining room in a bay window with occasional excursions to the yard for a walk about in warm weather.

Tata seems to have been a very happy crow, despite a life without flying lived totally with humans and their dogs. During the time he spent with me, visitors who spent time sitting with Tata experienced incredible heart openings that were quite blissful. I would see the person weeping for joy and Tata sitting quietly watching the person (though he was blind with cataracts) or with his head cocked paying attention. I, myself, felt this many times as I held him in the mornings while I cleaned his cage, as we "meditated" together, or as I preened him.

I am writing a book about Tata and his life and I am interested in hearing from others who may have had similar experiences with a crow, or any animal. The consciousness of crows is my interest. I am a wildlife rehabilitator and deal with so many animals every year. I have found this heart "openness" in perhaps three other animals, but none to the extent of Tata. Kristine Flones, Bearsville, N.Y. klippebo@hvc.rr.com

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: August 31, 2006

ACTION ALERT: SLAUGHTER OF CROWS IN LANCASTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

Officials in Lancaster County, PA intend to poison up to 50,000 crows during the roosting season this fall and winter. Follow the link below to learn about this cruel and sensless act of destruction and what you can do to help prevent it. Your help is vital to end both this and the other annual crow massacres that happen periodically at various places in the U.S.A.

Murdering Crows in Lancaster County, PA

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: August 19, 2006

AUSTRALIAN GOLF BALL STEALING CROWS - A favorite series of postings from May 2002.

5/13/02. Dear Crows.net. I am a bird lover but also a golfer and the theft of golf balls [by crows] is very prevalent where I play and it is an expense I could do without. I look forward to a reply. Yours sincerely, L. M. AUSTRALIA

********

Crows.net Response: Hello. Crows really steal golf balls in Australia? Could you tell me exactly how they do it? I've observed crows taking a chicken's egg, which is close to the size of a golf ball, but they have to punch a hole in it and get part of their beak inside to carry it. And what do they do with the golf balls they steal? This is the first time that I've heard this complaint. The crows down there must be a heftier and more aggressive lot that here in the USA. Michael Westerfield.

********

5/14/02. Dear Michael, Thank you for your prompt reply.

This is how they do it... They are as cunning as a fox and always seem to go after a ball that has been hit into a clear area on the fairway, where they know they are out of range of anyone who might decide to run after it to frighten it. They simply come from the pine trees they are in, along the fairway, and fly low to the ball, pick it up in their beak and fly away, always just over the fence where the golfer cannot take off after it (although we feel like it). He flies over long grass to some structure like an old fence post and drops it. As he flies away, you can see it in his beak which is wide open. I have been told that one grassy field beside this golf course, had a grass fire at some time in the past and it exposed THOUSANDS of golf balls, but of course they were all ruined. Very frustrating.

The local pro at the course said if you carry an (unloaded of course) shot gun in your golf bag they seem to sense danger and stay away, but I won't be doing that, and I'm not sure if it would be legal anyway! They are, like most birds, and seem to work out a way around the latest method of scaring them off as an orchardist would do, and let's face it we are just out to have a game of golf and not into carrying a kit of stuff to frighten birds. I look forward to your thoughts on this. Kind regards, L.M.

********

Crows.net Response: Hello again. Well, I've tried to find an answer for you, but have been unsuccessful. It seems like the crows have the perfect set-up to bedevil humans. They honestly enjoy creating a fuss and tormenting larger birds and animals - humans included. Often the young males - much like teenage humans - gain status in the flock by "counting coup", performing daring deeds like chasing hawks or stealing golf balls in the face of angry golfers. One possibility, since the golf balls may be attractive because of their similarity to eggs - and it always causes a great amusing fuss when a crow steals eggs - have you tried using different colored golf balls? Will crows steal florescent red, orange, or yellow balls as often as they steal white ones? Michael

********

5/24/02. Dear Michael, I shared my communications with you at the golf club yesterday and they have been down the track of coloured balls and the crows love them! It seems the only thing that really discourages them is to see a dead one. Many thanks anyway for replying to my question. I give up! Kind regards, L.M.

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: August 7, 2006

The Crows of Burnaby, British Columbia

The following link will get you to an excellent article from "The Vancouver Courier" of August 5, 2006 about the gigantic year round crow roost in Burnaby, B.C. Burnaby Crow Roost Story

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: August 3, 2006

Tales of Mokey, a Pet Crow

Western New York, a long time ago

Area description: small town in rural area

Observations: I don't know if this is of interest since it's second-hand crow stories from a time before I was old enough for much personal observation. My father had a pet crow named Mokey for a good twenty years, given to him as an orphan by friends in the local parks department. These are some of his stories.

1. The Thief. Mokey would steal almost any shiny object, keys, change, etc and hide them in ones of his stashes. But, if you were quick enough, he would relinquish any treasure if offered a chance at my fathers Zippo lighter, an object of life-long lust.

2. All-Around Nuisance. OK... a lot of these. One day, he methodically removed all the clothes pins from a laundry line and deposited them in a bird bath three yards down. If sneakers were left out, he was known to laboriously pull the laces out and string them through a nearby tree. In those days we still got milk delivered and it had to be taken in very quickly as Mokey liked to tip the bottles over and watch the milk run down the sidewalk.

3. The Drunk As the basis for mixed diet, Mokey was given small dog biscuits which he dropped into a tray of water to soften. One day, after an inadequately cleaned up party, he dropped his buiscuit into a glass containing vodka. You have never experienced the evil-eye until you've been glared at by a staggering, dismally croaking crow with a hang-over.

Comments: I just enjoy these stories and hope you do too. A.K.

*********************************************************************************

Crows team up to carry dead rat

Tadworth, Surrey, England

Earlier this year I was driving over a bridge above a busy main road when I saw a pair of crows carrying a dead rat between them in mid-air. They set down together on a wall and then started to peck at it.

(Crows.net asked the observer for more details.)

There isn't much more to tell really. It was at the beginning of the summer this year, at about 2.30 in the afternoon. I was coming back from Tadworth in Surrey, crossing a flyover/bridge that goes over the M25, and then on down Pebblecombe Hill, when I noticed the crows. The road the bridge is on is very long with woods either side, including a golf course, and not many houses, those that there are being set way back from the road. The crows were probably about 7 or 8 feet above the ground carrying a fairly average size looking rat. I had plenty of time to watch because there is a speed camera just before the bridge so the traffic had slowed right down. i have no idea how far they had flown with the rat or where they had come from but they were in the air when I spotted them. I saw them carrying the rat for a few seconds, and then settling on some sort of fencing or wall at the side of the bridge, and I just had time to see them start pecking at the rat. It was dead and already wounded by the look of it because I could see blood on it. I was quite astonished at the time because I had never seen any birds hunting in pairs before and to see them carrying it between them really was bizarre.

Anyway I think that is about all there was to it. I would be interested to know in future if anybody else sees anything similar. (S.H.)

Crows.net is unaware of any reports, in the literature or elsewhere, regarding crows teaming up to carry an object. We'd greatly appreciate it if anyone who has observed anything similar, or knows of any published references to such behavior, would submit the information to crows.net.

*********************************************************************************

POSTED: July 27, 2006

Flassendale. North Yorkshire. England

Observation date: 2005

Area description: We live in a North Yorkshire forest. We were sitting on the decking in our back garden under our Oak trees.

Observations: Our rescued Carrion Crow was guarding his food from our Siamese cats by pulling the dish away from them and marching up and down in front of it. The bravest of our cats decided to ignore him and eat the contents of the dish. The crow stared at her indignantly and tried to pull the dish away but the cat just crouched further over the dish. The crow stepped back and assesed the situation then went behind the cat and picked up her tail and began to pull. The cat's face was a picture.

comments:This crow often displayed behaviour that showed an ability to reason that was far beyond what our dog or cats where capable of. He/she had no fear at all of them either. We believe that he/she had been poisoned by our local gamekeeper which is why we found him/her as a young bird unable to fly. He/she enriched our lives for a few months but was never completly well and never learned to fly despite his/her efforts to. The poison seemed to have attacked his/her central nervous system and he/she gradually faded despite our vets and our attempts to keep him/her alive. Sadly we lost him/her. We still miss him/her as he/she had a wonderful character. Crows are wonderous! We called him/her Mordag as we never knew whether he/she was Morrigan or Dagda.

*********************************************************************************

JULY 23, 2006

St. Augustine, florida: July 2006

Area Description: St. Augustine is a tourist town on the Atlantic Coast.

Observations: I'm a wildlife rehabber that normally just deals with song birds...but this month I've have the opportunity to rehab 3 young crows (all from different areas of town)that were abandoned and nearly starved to death. I am amazed at thier intelligence and concern they have for each other. I released the two older crows today and put the younger one in a large cage in the back yard as she is still way too thin and young. The guys I released kept coming back to the baby all day talking to her. As the sun set I went out and opened the cage door and both releasees came down and went in the cage and started feeding the young one and talking. I left the cage door open just to see if they'd stay and bed down with her....and they did.

Comments: I feel these guys have an unusual ability for compassion toward each other that I haven't seen in other bird species. They've certainly impressed me! (B.E.)

*********************************************************************************

JULY 21, 2006

Crow Believed to Be Oldest in World Dies

Crow that may have been the world's oldest dies at age 59

BEARSVILLE, N.Y., Jul. 7, 2006

(AP) There's no way to prove Tata was the world's oldest crow when he died Sunday at age 59. But an expert on crows says it's possible.

Tata's tale began in 1947 when a thunderstorm blew the fledgling out of his nest in a Long Island cemetery, a mishap that likely led to his long life. Injured and unable to fly, the bird was scooped up by a cemetery caretaker and brought to a local family with a reputation for taking care of animals, Tata's most recent owner, Kristine Flones, told the Daily Freeman of Kingston.

"He was never able to fly, so he became their family pet," said Flones, a wildlife rehabilitator in the Woodstock, N.Y., hamlet of Bearsville, 95 miles north of New York City.

The Manetta family took care of Tata for more than half a century but gave the bird to Flones in 2001 because of their own health problems.

Blinded by cataracts and 54 years old when she got him, Tata was still a wonderful pet, Flones said.

"When you came around him, his energy was very beautiful," she told the newspaper. "It was as if he were exuding or giving off a loving energy."

"It's an incredibly old bird," said Kevin McGowan, an ornithologist at Cornell University who has studied crows for more than 20 years. "They don't live that old in the wild."

McGowan said the oldest living crow he has documented in the wild is a bird he banded as a fledgling and has tracked for 15 years. There is an unsubstantiated claim of a 29- or 30-year-old crow in the wild, but he knows of no older crows, tame or otherwise.

While claims of animal longevity are tough to verify, McGowan said, "This one sounded pretty reasonable to me."

In an environment without predators, communicable disease or the likelihood of a fatal accident, a crow could grow as old as Tata, he said.

Flones said Tata was still active and alert in his later years, to the point each spring that he called out from inside the house to crows outside, often loudly and beginning at 5 a.m.

Return to Top of Page.
Return to Site Contents of the Crows.net Project.

horizontal divider
Crows.net
Home
The
Project
Language
& Culture
Site
Contents
How You
Can Help
crows.net@gmail.com


© Copyright 1999 - 2014. Michael J. Westerfield. All Rights Reserved.
Website design by goinhome.com