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Whether you’re here with specific questions or a general interest, you’re in the right place to learn the science behind one of the globe’s most charismatic and influential groups of birds. I created this blog in 2012 when I was just starting as a graduate student at the University of Washington as a platform to share my own research on crow “funerals” and to answer questions I was regularly fielding from the public. Since that time, my title and area of research has changed, but my passion for corvids and commitment to science communication remains immutable. I hope that by educating the public about these magnificent birds people will not only view them more compassionately, but will appreciate what a valuable connection to the natural world they provide.

No matter your feelings for them, nearly everyone has a story about crows, ravens, jays or magpies—even those people who otherwise feel quite separated from nature.  This connection is not recent one; you need look no further than the religious texts and creations stories of cultures around the world to appreciate our historical fascination with these animals. The fact that some of them are conspicuous and thrive in human dominated environments means that corvids are a uniquely accessible animal that offers a wealth of opportunities to connect people of all interests and backgrounds to the natural world. With over half the world’s population living in cities, this kind of accessible connection is more important than ever. So go watch them play, problem solve, bond with their families, cause mischief, inspire mythology, and watch you right back. The questions and stories these observations provide will always be welcome here, and I do my best to answer each message within a few days. So go learn, and let me know what information you’re still hungry for. Welcome to the Corvid Research blog!

 

199 responses to “Home

  1. LA

    Hi Dr. Swift,

    I caught you on DTFH and loved your interview (and your other work I’ve found). I’ve been feeding crows at my office for a few weeks and trying to at home for a long time with a little success. This morning when I got out of my car at work a group of four flew over me low and the one that I think watches me back and calls in the others when I throw out food was closest and cawed. I’m pretty sure they know my car. I left them peanuts and a peanut butter dog biscuit and when I went back out (they don’t let me watch them eat, even through the window) they had left a piece of a wooden dowel or stick pecked up to a point on one end where the food was! How awesome to get a physical gift from an animal!

    How long does it normally take for them to gift? I’ve only been feeding the ones at my office a couple weeks. Maybe they’re more grateful since it’s been snowy and extremely cold this week.

    • Hi LA, well there’s no set time for it. Some people have fed them for years and never received one. That’s part of the reason the motivations for this behavior remain unclear. There’s just no consistency in when it happens. That’s why I tell people who feed crows but never gotten one not to worry or take it personally. As fun as it is to imagine these gifts are a signal of gratitude we really don’t know, and there could be a number of other explanations for the behavior that have nothing to do with signaling thanks.

  2. Hi Dr. Swift! I was wondering what crows do during snow storms. Do they stay closer to the communal roost? Do they stay in their neighborhoods? Do they still actively look for food or just recover what they cached earlier? The reason why I am asking is because I haven’t seen very many crows today and it is snowing really hard! Thank you!

    • Hi Kris! They won’t stay closer to the roost (as far as I know) but will spend more time roosted on their territories in the interior of trees where it is warmer and more sheltered. They may recover their caches but with so much food available in the city they can probably forage “fresh” food just as quickly!

  3. Letty

    So not sure if I’m dealing with crows or ravens.. BUT on my school campus there’s A LOT of them. I always look up and try to find them sort of say my hello and wander to class, so they’d usually be somewhere in sight but also typically cawing.. then one day I was on my phone walking up a staircase when one started caw-ing on the rail of the stairs SO loud I heard it through my headphones turned around and I said HEY super startled, sort of shocked and we made eye contact and I tried to soften my shocked ‘hey’ by continuing with ‘hope you’re well’ and then went off on my way.. Since then, I haven’t really seen them much on my way to class. I don’t know if we were chill and my startled ‘hey’ and direct eye contact was a No-No and now I’m in the doghouse or if I’m fact they didn’t like me before and were aggressively following me until I spoke to the crow/raven. I haven’t come back to a car covered in bird poop or anything so any thoughts on where I might be with them? And is feeding my only way to mend our relationship? Also I don’t know if I was near their nesting site and that’s why the crow/raven so loudly cawed (it was ~5ft away), if I had pissed it off for not paying attention to it, or if it was simply saying hello and found my response to be rude..?

    • Hi Letty. Well, if you’re in the US and this happened recently then we can start by ruling out any relationship to the nesting season since we are still about a month out from that. Second, more than likely since you’re on a college campus and you say there’s a lot of them and you describe their vocalizations as “caws” you are dealing with crows, not ravens. As for what happened…it’s probably just a coincidence. Making direct eye contact can make them wary, but in contexts like…you threw some food on the ground and are starting at them (as opposed to looking away) while they try and retrieve it. You’ll notice in this situation that if you stare they will take a lot longer (if not give up) trying to get it than if your gaze if facing another direction. But staring (and even a gruff bark) is not the kind of threatening interaction that triggers the kind of facial memory and predator aversion behaviors caused by say, throwing rocks, picking up babies or dead crows, or capturing them. And if you look through the comments across this blog you’ll notice lots of comments to the effect of (I love my crows and they used to be x place everyday and now they’re not, what happened?!). They just move around sometimes for their own reasons unrelated to us. As for repairing your relationship, from your description it didn’t really seem like you had a relationship unless you left that part out of your story. So since you’re not being harassed you don’t need to do anything. But yes, if you had birds you were feeding and feel sad they’re gone try carrying a handful of raw unshelled peanuts with you and feed them opportunistically as you encounter them across campus. Thanks for your questions!

  4. Jared H

    Hi Dr. Swift,

    Just heard you on the podcast ‘ologies’ and I was blown away by all the stuff you taught me about crows and their funerals! I knew they were smart, but I have a reignited appreciation for them now.

    I live in Seattle and work at University of Washington in a microbiology lab and I was telling one of my co-workers about the podcast and your episode specifically. Someone overheard me and chimed in that one of his neighbors is constantly harassed by the neighborhood crows, and said it’s because someone from UW (maybe you!) used to come do the crow work in his area and the mask they wore looked like him. Now he is crow public enemy number one on his block!

    Thought you would get a kick out of this story. Hope your post-doc in Denali is going well.

    Jared

    • Probably from John’s original facial recognition study since those birds had a lot more and a lot more intense exposure to the mask. Is the guy bald? The bald mask caused more problems than for just the neighbor!

  5. Theodora

    I love crows
    In my country I do not have them, when I travel the first thing I do is try to listen to them

  6. Absolutely amazing, thank you, I thought I was the only one that loved crows (ravens) of Australia.
    Lachlan

  7. From time to time, crows would stray in our backyard, perching on our big mahogany tree. Sadly, though, I never give much attention to these birds. Thank you for this valuable information, I’m beginning to get interested in them.
    Forest Degradation

  8. Hi Dr. Swift, I just read your interview on wordpress, and it’s really great to find another neurodivergent person in academia! In undergrad I’m quite certain that we read your paper on crows identifying/remembering faces in animal behavior, and I was so interested! Afterwards I did some literature review in undergrad on pinyon jay social hierarchies. It was really cool to read about!

    This may sound really strange or come out of nowhere, but you said you were diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia – I was just wondering if you’ve ever looked into autism? A lot of the current literature has a rather stereotypical view on how autistic people act/behave (a lot assumes that we don’t have empathy, and many autistic women have loads of empathy), and a lot of women have gone undiagnosed most of their lives (I only found out because of reading about random interesting things at 24! Then looked into it, read autistic women’s experiences, and got a diagnosis a year later). Understanding my brain and my sensory sensitivities has really helped lower my stress – academia’s already stressful as it is!

    I’m not trying to say you’re autistic, I was just wondering if you’d ever looked into it! I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of women in the sciences are autistic and undiagnosed. Anyway I really loved your interview!

    • Hi Autisticsciencelady! I haven’t ever looked into autism. But as it happens, I have a friend (another really wonderful science writer) that was recently diagnosed so I am becoming more familiar with the ways that autism presents differently in women and how it is so much more under-diagnosed. That said, I don’t think it really fits me. I suppose I don’t have a good reason, I just don’t identify with most of the symptoms especially the sensory ones. But it is interesting to think about! If you want to read a really great article Kelly wrote about her experience though you can check it out here: https://www.theopennotebook.com/2018/10/09/writing-when-on-the-autism-spectrum/

      • wow, that’s awesome! I just figured I’d mention it. Thanks so much for the link! It’s good to know there’s openly neurodivergent people in the sciences doing well! I’m trying to figure out my career path right now and have absolutely no idea (not sure whether to go the academia route or not), and it’s quite hard to find other openly neurodivergent people. Thanks for the reply!

  9. Jacquelin Rogers

    There is a crow in mum’s garden, it only fly’s short distances and mostly climbs up trees. It is on its own. The other crow attack it. It appears thinner and feathers are short and messy. We have started putting out a bit of food when it is around. It hides in the bushes and low trees.
    Is there anything we can do to help this bird?

    • Ah that’s too bad. It’s not unusual for crows to attack and even kill injured crows. We’re not really sure why they do this. Nothing you can do aside from bringing it to a rehab facility but depending on the extent of the injuries they may just put it down right away anyway. So my advice is just to leave it alone and let it find a quiet place to pass.

  10. Jon Noad

    Hi Kaeli, I thoroughly enjoy all the corvid related material that you share. I had a quick question for you. Do you know how many primary and secondary flight feathers, and how many tail feathers, the Eurasian Magpie has? I am giving a talk on Archaeopteryx and wanted a comparison with a similar sized bird. (Archeo has 11-12 primary, 12 secondary, 16 to 17 tail feathers). Thank you
    Jon

    • Hi Jon, so aside from the primary feathers (which there are ten) the other two stats I don’t know off the top of my head. So, I used google image search and photos from the Slater Natural History Museum wing collection to just hack it and count. I counted 11 tail feathers and, depending on the specimen 8-9 secondary feathers. So suffice it to say arcyaeopteryx has more of these feathers than the standard passerine bird!

  11. Chris Welbourne

    Hey Doc! Been following you on Twitter for awhile now (welby). I’m fascinated by birds of all kinds but mostly crows. A murder hangs out near my house and I want to endear myself to them.
    What types of food do they like most? Also is there a preferred delivery (tray, feeder or simply leaving it on the ground or patio table)?

    • Hi Chris! Unshelled peanuts are a good, inexpensive way to start feeding them. I recommend directly on the patio table or a tray. Just stay away from any feeders where they need to stick their heads into something. They might be used to and okay with this, but if they are at all shy they won’t even check out the food if it’s in this kind of feeder.

      • Chris Welbourne

        Great! A side note, I’ve listened to the Adam Carolla show podcast for years now and he’s a big Crow fan. He talks about training them to do all sorts of funny and interesting things to help humans. It’s equal parts serious and funny but I think about you every time he brings it up. I think he would find your expertise fascinating. He has nearly 600K followers on twitter and it might be a good opportunity to pick up some of his.
        Thanks again for replying!

  12. Meg

    Crows always elicit a sense of eeriness for me…their oily wings, their cawing call. I appreciate this new insight into the fascinating and prevalent critters!

  13. Julia

    Dear Dr Swift,
    Fellow UW alumna here! I’m a huge fan of your research. Thank you for all you’ve done to encourage people to appreciate crows, ravens, and other corvids as the amazing neighbors they are!
    My partner and I live in Seattle, and we’ve been feeding unshelled peanuts to our neighborhood crows for a few weeks now. The other day there was a group of four or five on the telephone wires waiting while my partner put out the peanuts. One of them looked really unstable on the wire, and suddenly he flipped upside down. He hung there for a bit very casually, then let go with one foot and hung one-footed until finally dropping off and landing on the ground. At first we thought maybe he was sick (or drunk??), and were happy to see him land safely. Before long, however, he flew up and did the exact same thing again! We got some great pictures of him hanging upside down. We read online that crows sometimes do this for fun or to show off for one another, but I wanted to check with an expert.
    Thanks so much for your time, and I hope your postdoc is going great!
    Sincerely,
    Julia

  14. Becky Armbruster

    Hi Kaeli,

    I feed the crows in my area, Gig Harbor, regularly now a mix of small dog kibble & seed/nuts, there are about 30 who come by. Today I noticed what looks to be a younger/smaller crow who is missing a leg. The bird squatted a lot, hunkering down so I could not tell if the leg was gone or twisted a different direction. She adjusted balance with his or her wings but listed quite a bit. She did get some food & flew off, so flying does not seem an issue. Any tips on how I can help this bird should they come back? I can call Sarvey as well for advice. I don’t want to interfere much if it does not need assistance but don’t want it to suffer either.

    Thank you for any advice.
    Becky

    • Hi Becky, crows are astoundingly resilient when it comes to foot/leg injuries. If you see it again, I’d take that as a sign it is getting along fine and leave it be. Best of luck to it!

  15. I love my neighborhood corvids…thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  16. Garry Kraft

    Crows playing with other birds?
    Down by the marina where I keep my boat, a group of crows has learned to identify me due to my distribution of unsalted peanuts. When I come to the boat they recognize me and fly to the masts of the adjacent boats waiting for my treat.
    About a year ago, there was a group of 3 or 4 crows in a tree by the marina, with some pigeons in a adjacent tree. One of the pigeons would fly out in a big loop being chased by a crow and then return to their tree. Next a crow would fly out being chased by a pigeon, again returning to their adjacent trees.
    No attacking, pecking, just chasing.
    They repeatedly alternated this behavior 9-10 times.
    My question: is there any research showing crows “playing” with other birds?

    • I certainly see crows teasing pigeons in a way that looks like a game for the crow but not for the pigeon. I don’t know of any literature that supports interspecific (between species) play. Cool observation!

  17. CJ

    Hello,

    Like a lot of birders, I often witness crows divebombing raptors that have entered their territory. Today at work, I saw a murder of about 10 crows doing their best to get rid of a red tailed hawk.

    Do you know anything about crows’ “attack formations”? I.e. does the head of the family begin the assault on the raptor, followed by his brother or eldest offspring? I’m sure there’s no definitive answer, but I remember reading about how even some small songbirds will assign tasks to other birds depending on their “ranking” within the flock, so I assume crows have developed some strategies and formations for dealing with unwanted visitors.

    Thank you,
    CJ

    • Hi CJ, this is an interesting question. My assumption is that the most dominate bird or pair will get the closest to the predator, but I don’t know of any specific research that has looked at this. Would be a cool thing to study!

  18. Hello Dr. Swift.
    As you might know, a crow’s story was mentioned in the Holley Qur’an associated with the story of the first murder case in the history of humand kind on Earth. However, the majority of scholars of Islam who engage in the interpretation of the Quran (exegesis) interpretate what the crows did in the story as follows: When Qabeel (Cane) murdered Habeel (Able) out of envy since Allah (God) accepted the sacrifice of Habeel but rejected the sacrifice of Qabeel, then, hence no one had died prior to this, therefore Qabeel was confused as to what he should do with the dead body of his brother. He carried the dead body on his back for several days, and then he saw two crows fighting with each other and finally one killed the other. The living crow began to dig the ground with his beak and claws and dug a hole, put the dead body of the other crow and covered it with the sand. Seeing this Qabeel realized that the dead body should be buried in the ground. He dug the grave of his brother and buried him…”

    Well, a different point of view of few modern scholars of exegesis says thier understanding of the verses is contrary to what people has long believed; the one who murdered his brother is the one who God accepted his sacrifice and he did so because he became curious to figure out why God did not accept the sacrifice of his “bad” brother who should have done bad deeds, as he, the “good” one, thought and convinced himself and became curious to “search” why God did not accept from his bad brother and he started diging the shortfalls of his “bad” brother to figure out the truth.
    So the good one felt that he is better and superior over his “bad” brother whom God refused and decided to kill him out of arrogance and to please God. After the good arrogant one killed his brother he felt the guilt and did not know what to do with the body and there was only one crow, according to the bearers of this odd point of view, mentioned in the verses and the crow in the story did not dig a hole to bury the corpse of another crow, not mentioned in the verses, to the contrary, the crow was digging to exposing (uncovering) follies or some thing like a cadaver (maybe of another crow) symbolizing what any of us will do trying to search for shortfalls of others the same deed the arrogant brother in the Adam’s sons story did to his brother.
    Well, if you were to use your research findings to support one opinion, which point of view you would side with with regard to what a crow would actually “teach” human beings in this murder case if you would side with the “a digger to bury and cover a body” crow or “a scratcher to exhume or expose filthy things” crow?
    I hope I made the argument clear and sorry for long post.
    Dr. Ahmad Abdelfattah, environmentalist

  19. Moncef

    Hello Dr Swift, Thank you so much for this blog, i have a question about Crows and i don’t know the scientific terms to express my idea so please forgive my english.
    Is there a scientific proof to identify the age of the crows as a specie, did crows lived with dinosaures ?

    • Hi Moncef, how specific of an answer do you need? I can tell you that non-avian dinosaurs (because remember, birds are technically therapod dinosaurs) went extinct about 65 million years during the Cretaceous period, but the earliest fossil evidence of a passerine bird (the order to which crows belong) is only 52 millions years old. From there you still have tens-of millions of years to go before the first crow would walk the earth. So I can tell you conclusively that no, crows were not around when non-avian dinosaurs roamed the earth. If you need me to be more specific I have it my head that the first corvid fossil is something like 17million years old, but I don’t remember the citation for that so take it with a grain of salt.

  20. Vicki Lynn Oates

    Hi,Dr Swift! I have always loved and fed crows(usually shelled raw sunflower seeds,in order to keep the mess down).I have made friends with a number of them over the years,and I am curious about something.I would love to take photos of them,but the minute I get the camera out,they get all shy and move away from me.The phone cam isn’t as bad,but they really don’t seem to like the camera,no matter how far away from them I move.Could it be that it’s a weird black object that is being pointed at them,or perhaps that my focus towards them changes?When I have no camera,they will come very close to me…they get excited when they see the seed bag,and will hop around and even touch me with their wings when they come in to land,but they seem to hate the camera.

    • Hi Vicki, this is a common experience! Crows are both attentive to human gaze and very neophobic which for many birds means they really don’t like it when something is held to the face and pointed at them. You could try different objects and see if it has the same result to test this. With time they should get used to it. It is frustrating though. I’ve had a heck of a time photographing the magpies and ravens in Denali for the same reasons!

      • Vicki Lynn Oates

        This brings me to another question!I was feeding crows today,and I observed one of them doing something i’ve never seen before.It filled it’s crop with sunflower seeds,but instead of caching them right away,it walked over to a rain puddle and spat the seeds out.It kind of stirred them around,and then picked them back up and flew away.I double checked-they were not salted(I am careful about that),so i’m wondering if crows are known to wash their food?

  21. James

    Hi, I have lived with an adopted jackdaw for over a year now. I saw him get hit by a car and I provided first aid and care for a couple of days until a vet was willing to see him (by which point he had begun to bond with me) his wing was so badly damaged that he had to have it amputated, hence why we live together. He does interact with other members of the family but whenever I return from work he calls loudly and lowers his head while sticking his wing out and frantically wagging his tail. What does this behaviour mean please? I like to think he’s excited to see me and hope this isn’t a dear or submissive behaviour.

  22. Angela

    I worked as a parks interpreter for 6 years and Corvids are my favorite family of birds. Happy to have found your Facebook page and this blog! 😁👍

  23. Phyllis Rabun

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  24. Devin Galardo

    Do crows eat out of bird feeders too? Will they coexist with the songbirds. Am I even seeing crows or am I wishfully thinking. (Asking a smart person a stupid question)

    • They will, but depending on where you live the crows may be to shy to mess around with birds feeders. Platform feeders are a better option. They will coexist with other backyard songbirds, but part of that coexisting is that they may eat them and their babies! This is normal and ok as long as you are not supporting a huge flock with your feeding. Just a pair and their offspring is fine though.

  25. Pam Hagen

    Very interesting

  26. Cora

    Hello Kaeli! This is a funny useless fact. I live in Puerto Rico and we called them ‘Changos’. They are extremely smart and I have seen them ‘steal’ bags of Lays and chips from inside a store, escape, open the bag and eat them like professionals! They are particularly famous in the Campus of the University of Puerto Rico where they are known for stealing your lunch if you leave it unattended. There’s even a lunch special in the cafeteria called ‘Chango Pack’. They are very interesting and quite funny birds!

  27. Donna Kendall

    Hi Kaeli, I have a question about a sound a crow makes along with a behaviour . It sits alone on my fence, is quite comfortable, bends it’s head, feathers fluff up a bit and as it seems to inhale makes a soft goorpish sound. I have a short video file but am not sure how to share it here. I ‘ve tried to research this but have found no answers. I bet you know what it’s about. Thanks!

  28. Colin

    I’m interested in learning more about vocalization/behavior of Steller’s Jays. We’ve been fortunate in having a single Steller’s staying at our location (along with a consistent group of 4 Blue Jays) since October 18th. This is a scarce bird for our location (western Nebraska) so it’s been a privilege to have it around for so long. But over all these months, with daily feeding and near-constant activity around our home (which is located in a low hills/woody area), this bird has not become more comfortable with us at all. I’m particularly interested in possible interpretations of the “WEK-WEK-WEK-WEK-WEK” vocalization–sounds like a scold to me–since that I what I hear from this Steller’s from deep within a cedar tree staying hidden. It is definitely more cautious overall than it’s “companion” jays…just curious if you’re familiar with anyone doing the kind of research you’ve described focusing on Steller’s rather than crows? Thanks for your time!

    • Not that I know of Colin. In fact I cant really think of anyone that focuses on Steller’s jays outside of nest predation purposes. They’re an under-researched species!

  29. Hello Dr. Swift. I enjoyed hearing your interview on the ABA’s podcast. Regarding other species that conduct “funerals,” John James Audubon observed the puffin and many others that “mourn” the death of another. Audubon’s writings are not easy to access, but there is a a fairly complete electronic copy at http://www.audubon.org/birds-of-america.

  30. Kristin Lueb

    I started becoming friends with my neighborhood crows about a year and a half ago and I love them so much!! I am here to learn more about them and I value your expertise. They fascinate me and I want to know how to be a better friend to them. My first concern is when leaving them treats or food what is the best for them? We have spent many mornings just watching each other and I feel pretty close to them. They call me when I come out the door and will let me get about 6-8 feet from them while perched on the fence. The whole group is 6 but most of the time 2 come to see me. I feel very privileged to have them in my life and I appreciate any answers to help me. Thank you!

    • Hi Kristin! Welcome to the crow club 🙂 As far as food goes you can’t really go wrong with a handful of unshelled peanuts. I prefer these because they keep well (when properly stored) and are inexpensive. But they’re omnivores and love the occasional meat treat. Just keep your offerings limited or you can encourage too many crows and put too much local pressure on prey species. A handful of food a day for a couple (or 6) crows is all you need to keep them coming.

  31. Sara

    I have been feeding a group of 4 crows every morning for about 4 months. I put bread on the deck railing outside my kitchen window. They show up promptly for the bread and water from the birdbath (one crow puts his bread in the birdbath and eats it soaking wet!). If they glimpse me through the window they takeoff, and come back later to eat. Is there anything that I can do to encourage them to be less skittish? They are the biggest birds in the neighborhood, bigger than the pilates woodpeckers that completely ignore me, so I’m a little confused by their shyness.

  32. Stevie Catney

    Hi Dr Swift, love your blog.

    I’m a wildlife rehabber from the uk, and have raised, treated and released many corvids, both young and adult. Just wanted to offer my tuppence about a specific point in your crow vocalisation Q&A. I am certain that their calls are almost 100% taught by parents, and in their absence, some (but not all) are learned passively from peers and non-parent elders. I now have several unreleasable resident birds that were raised wild and became injured. They serve as tutors to young birds and enable them to become fully adjusted members of corvid society when they decide to move off. Previously to this, even though I would spend 4+ hours daily in even winter taking chicks and fledgelings out and teaching them to fly, hunt, forage, and learn which animals and situations to avoid (so fun), they still did not develop effective wild-type vocalisations and were slower to learn other aspects of survival than their wild counterparts – generally taking around 6 months to become independent (in every sense other than socially) rather than the usual 4 for parent reared wild birds. They appear to spontaneously learn their calls by ‘conversing’ with each other, call and response style, but I am unaware as to whether these calls match the specific meanings of wild crows or if they are assigned differently when not taught. In this situation, their vocalisation repertoires are definitely shorter than wild bred birds, and they get frustrated when attempting to communicate with wild born corvids, as if they know there is a partial language barrier – they generally eventually integrate pretty well but they’re always noticeably different. The exceptions to the rule are the first two birds I ever reared, a crow and a jackdaw that had no siblings and no tutors. The crow was confiscated from someone who was raising her incorrectly, and the jackdaw was raised by me. Both free fly, and both socialise with wild born members of their species, but they definitely view themselves as human. Interestingly, they (both female) perform their sexual display to both me and wild born members of their species – but that’s another topic. The crux of my point is that the crow has never cawed, not once. She makes several grumbling noises, but that is just about it, and I’ve never heard a wild crow make similar sounds. She was denied any attention and raised in isolation, and it shows in her vocalisation ability. The jackdaw, however, has a wide repertoire of calls that she has picked up from me, many of which are item and situation specific: but it is only the pair of us that share this language, she cannot communicate it to others. Hearing clicking (imitation of beak clacks) stimulates her to perform her sexual display, so that is clearly innate, but the only proper corvid vocalisation that the pair of them can make are their respective alarm calls – I was so shocked the first time I heard it from both of them. Now either this was taught in the first few days before they tumbled from their nests, or it is indeed inherent in their instincts. Hope you find this interesting! I know it’s anecdotal and a tiny sample size but I find it fascinating.

    • Hi Stevie, I do find that fascinating! It does support something I stress in the springtime though, which is that crows raised in the homes of well meaning but inexperienced people do not acquire the full suite of skills they need to be high functioning crows. I will look for other experiences like yours in the future.

  33. Ben Thijssen

    Dr. Swift.

    I would like to order (book or online) your publication I found on https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rstb.2017.0259, “Occurrence and variability of tactile interactions between wild American crows and dead conspecifics”.
    Can not find how to order it.

    Kind regards,

    Ben Thijssen. (twitter @ben_thijssen)

  34. Brian

    My grandmother had a pet crow for, I think, 30 years. (Southern California, I assume American crow) He came with us on road trips and everything.

    Anyway, some time after taking in the injured crow, I’m told the game warden came by and told my grandmother that she had to release the crow. She had no permit to keep one. My grandmother said something along the lines of “the damn bird stood out in the front yard and squawked all day until I called the game warden and told him the crow refused to leave!” Is that common behavior for crows that have been taken in?

    • “Injured” can be a catch all word for lots of situations so I’m going to hazard a guess that it was a young bird. Young crows do readily imprint on human caretakers which is one reason I discourage untrained people from taking them in because, as your grandmother experienced, they can become impossible to release. Just my guess!

      • Brian

        I didn’t know they could imprint like that, so I wasn’t sure how likely the story actually was.

        You have guessed correctly! I don’t know how severe the injury was, but as an adult only one foot could perch. He lived a spoiled life. She was just as attached to him. She retrofit her house somewhat for him if I recall correctly so he’d have room to fly about if he wanted to. He died a few years ago, and she still gets upset when you ask about him.

  35. Dr. Swift,

    I have a couple of crows, Louise and Simon, who have adopted me and visa versa. We have known each other for at least 5 years or so.

    Lately Simon has been very present yet I have not seen Louise in about a week. They are fed meat scraps, peanuts and almonds. Simon has been very busy collecting food for his kids. At least that is my assumption. I realize it is nesting season and she may very well be staying close to home with the potential little ones.

    I am, however getting concerned about her absence.

    Any thoughts on this? I am hoping my theory holds true and she is staying close to home.

    I am pretty keen on keeping track of which one is which. That said, perhaps both are coming to my home in shifts, neither one leaving the nest unattended.

    Thank you for your thoughts on this.

    Hoping Louise is OK…

    Regards,

    Jim

  36. Jean C.

    Hi Dr. Swift,

    I have found this website looking for information, and youwill certainly be able to answer me! I was recently travelling around Australia and twice during the trip, I saw a raven giving a gift to another raven – a feather and a little stick. I wonder why they do that and what does that mean.

    Also, in Rottnest Island near Perth, I could watch something really funny: Ravens were discreetly approaching quokkas from behind to bite their tail, scare them and make them jump. It really looked like a game, do you think it is possible they were just playing?

    Thank you ! 🙂

    • There’s some evidence that corvids give each other nuptial gifts when courting. This isn’t a consistent thing though. They could have also been young birds engaging in some object play.

  37. Annette Schendel

    have you ever seen a crow family encouraging fledglings to fly? The past two mornings, several adult crows are very vocal flying around the area and it seems like they are encouraging the babies to get moving! Like come on, let’s fly! Watch us! and then land in the tree where the baby is and squack until they move too. So interesting. A little annoying at 6AM first light, but cool to watch. Is this a familiar behavior to you? have you observed this? Even the yearlings help as well. It’s a family event, Mom Dad I assume, and siblings. I know they are family- they frequent my yard I have one that was born in the tree on my property and comes regularly for a peanut and birdbath. I just love them. Mama is back because she vocalizes the loudest.
    Annette

  38. Azan Karam

    Hi mam,
    I recently saw a picture of Indian House Crow (Corvus splendens) with all normal plumage except with some completely white primary feathers.
    Will you explain what’s wrong with it.
    Thanks

  39. Hello Dr.Swift
    I need your advice.We found a baby crow, brought him home, read your blog, immediately returned him. 🙂
    But I am concerned about his feet, for the short time we had him I noticed his feet are mangled looking, I dont know if they are this way from sitting in the nest or if he truly has deformed feet.
    My neighbor felt bad for him the other night it was raining, so she put a little shelter near by him and at night he has been going in it (also we have a lot of cats that live in our gated community) there are big crows in the tall pine tree where he probably came from but they dont seem concerned about him. I pray he was not rejected and pushed out of the nest.
    My son took a short video of him and also pictures of his feet. Would would mind taking a look and giving me your thoughts?
    https://alafairxvx.wordpress.com/2019/05/21/baby-crows-feet/
    Thank you

    • Hmmm. The feet don’t really seem mangled, more like they just don’t work. Did you notice if it could grasp with its feet? In any case I doubt mom and dad rejected it. From the photos that’s a typical age for them to leave the nest (as you know from the article). But I supposed it is possible that it’s not competing very well for mom and dad’s attention if it has this injury to grapple with. Any changed since you last posted this?

  40. While on opposite coasts, my roots lie within Oregon! We have an imprinted Raven Ambassador, Bertram, who is magnificent. I would love to hear any advice, lessons or wisdom for studying such magnificent animals. Thank you!
    My Best,
    Sarah

    • Hi Sarah have you read Mind of the Raven? Heinrich talks a lot about the experiments he did with his captive birds. Not all of them will be useful/feasible but some might be good fodder for enrichment activities. If you email me I can also put you in touch with a friend that also has non-releasable raven ambassador. My email address is on my homepage.

  41. Rob Cairns

    Hello Dr. Swift,
    I just watched the PBS video on crow “funerals” which featured your research. I wondered if you could provide an opinion on recent crow behaviour we just observed in our neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario. Two days ago (Sunday morning) around 7 am we were awakened to a loud bang and our house power went out. I went outside and found a crow screeching continuously in a tree across the street. Another crow was circling. We discovered a dead crow at the bottom of a power pole which contained a transformer down the street. Apparently the crow was pecking at it and got electrocuted. The birds continued to circle and screech for another half hour to hour at least.
    Now here is the weird part. This evening (around 7 PM) the same thing happened. A crow was pecking on the same transformer and again was electrocuted. No crows were screeching but we saw one crow in a distant tree.
    I’ve been living in this neighbourhood for over 30 years and this is the first time this happened .
    If you are interested in commenting on this we would greatly appreciate your input.
    Is it possible that this second crow was one of the ones that was there on Sunday? If so, would they be trying to determine why the first crow died? Is it possible that this second crow was the first crow’s mate? Do crow’s commit suicide ? Or is this all a coincidence? (We certainly have a hard time believing this). Note that one of the linesmen stated that it is less common for crows to trip breakers at transformers but the large ones have been known to blow them due to their larger wingspan.
    We are now concerned that this may happen again; do you think crow behaviour would lead to another dead bird?
    Many thanks for your consideration on this.
    Kind regards
    Rob Cairns

    • Hi Rob! So not to argue with your lineman but in my experience this isn’t that uncommon. It would happen a few times a year at one place we lived at in Kirkland and I’ve seen it in other parts of the city as well. My guess (and this is like a total guess) is there was something on the transformer that looked like food or nesting material and two different crows happened to make the same mistake. It’s weird that it happened in such quick succession but stranger things have happened. Has it happened again since you wrote this?

      • Rob Cairns

        We haven’t seen a repeat thank goodness. I take it that when the first one was killed that the behavior of the other bird (loud and for quite a while) is not unexpected.

  42. David B. Grinberg

    Dr. Swift: can you kindly share any insights into crows’ interactions with, and affects on, humans in densely populated urban areas? Why do some crows all roost at specific locations, like a high-rise apartment buildings. Does refractive light from CDs and loud clapping deter crows from roosting? Any other suggestions for deterring crows? Do crows hold grudges against humans? Thanks.

    • Hi David! Ok you put a lot out here to unpack. So…crows affects on humans in urban areas. There’s really none to speak of other they can be annoying to some and delightful to others. But there’s been no disease outbreak, for example, caused by living near crows or coming into contact with crow droppings. That said, wash your hands/wear gloves when dealing with animal feces or dead bodies just to be safe. As for the why’s behind the roosts yo should read this article: https://corvidresearch.blog/2017/12/08/15000-crows/. Reflective light from CDs can work, as does big (like big-big) googly eyes. Loud sounds (louder than clapping) can also work. Finally yes, crows do hold grudges against people. Grudges can be cause by harassing individual crows, picking up baby crows, or handling their dead. Hope this helps!

  43. Linda

    Hello I want to know if crows commit suicide? While driving one day, a crow stood in the middle of the road and would not move. Knowing how smart they are, we assumed it would move but didn’t. We were so upset when we hit her.

    • It was probably either a sick crow or a baby. I know how much it sucks though. You just feel so bad. In any case I doubt very much that crows commit suicide though you’re not the first to ask.

  44. Clayton Cromley

    A couple of juvenile crows with limited flapping skills found themselves hemmed in to the outdoor atrium just outside my office building in Arvada, CO. Their parents are quite actively protecting them. I’ve taken a couple of trips down there to try to herd them up. I can get close enough to grab them but am not a trained handler so guessing I shouldn’t. The sibling with better skills has since made it out. One left, and I’m weighing whether to leave him alone or try to get him into a box and release him where his sibling is so the parents can herd them both. The one that’s left cries for his parents and can only fly a couple feet at a time. Dunno what kind of predators might stalk him here at night. What do you recommend?

    • I don’t have a super good picture of the situation but you are fine to fish it out and put it with the sibling. Just cover your face when you do so you don’t get harassed by the parents later. Then just leave it alone. If it finds it’s way back in just let it be. As long as mom and dad can reach it will continue to get fed and grow and should be able to clamor out soon. Thanks for looking out!

      • Clayton Cromley

        Thank you so much, Dr. Swift! I think I’ve been “made” by the parents, but I’ll park on the other side of the building for a while. 🙂

      • Clayton Cromley

        Parents are still on guard but don’t seem to be feeding him. I just put out some blueberries, mixed unsalted nuts, and oatmeal for him. Here’s his general affect today: https://youtu.be/kNBdWLG_31s

        We’re trying out the name Brandon. 🙂

        PS loved your ep of Ologies!

      • It’s in good shape and has energy which suggests the parents are feeding it. My guess based on the size is that it will be able to fly within the next few days. Keep me posted!

  45. Jacque larrainzar

    Hi!
    I listened to your podcast on crow funerals.
    I have had a few magical experiences with crows an Ravens.

    My favorite. I lived in Seattle,was for a few years and one early afternoon I saw a guy kicking some sort of bird. I want over to stop him and he said it was a crow. A car had hit him and he was putting him out of his missery,he said. I call the cops, he got arrested for animals cruelty and I took the crow home.
    Next morning my house was surrounded by hundreds of crows. I brought the little guy outside for them to see he was okay and they hanged out around until he got better and I released him back to his family. Ever since crows around Seattle became like family to me.

  46. Clayton Cromley

    Day 3 and Brandon acted like he wanted to try flying but there was so much undergrowth in the outdoor atrium he couldn’t get himself much of a runway. His frustration was all we needed to see; three of us hiked down and coaxed him into a cardboard box. Two minutes later he was out on the lawn stretching his wings where his parents could still keep an eye on him.

    I went out a few hours later and heard his familiar voice, but this time it was coming from about 15 feet up a fir tree. Yay!

    • Clayton Cromley

      For the next several days I got hazed as I left the building. After several days with no interaction, I received my final farewell: I left the office and noticed three crows standing around a mud puddle. I was walking diagonally away (but had turned my head to look) when the largest of the three IDed me, screeched a warning, and flew toward me to a branch over my head. At the same time the two smaller crows silently took off in the other direction (with lower launch angle) and ended up in the copse of fir trees where their nest had been. I praised the big one on its parenting skills, but it refused the compliment.

      Since then nothing, which is perfect. I would like to believe the young are integrating into the local scene and Mom & Dad are off relaxing.

      P.S. Brandon and his sibling ended up famous, with a picture and article in the employee newsletter.

  47. Hello Mrs Swift, I hope all is well with you. I had an interesting incounter with a couple of crows and was hoping you could shed some light on it. I was walking through a parking lot in the Renton area and had a crow land on a car right in front of me. At that moment for an unknown reason I had an impulsive reaction to swipe at the crow. What surprised me was the moment I did I was hit in the back of head by a second crow. I know these birds are intelligent but that was weird. I’m Hoping you could share some insight. Thanks

  48. Annette Schendel

    Hello, do Crows/birds in general keep their beaks open when they are too hot? I noticed one crow and another smaller pheobe sitting on the fence w/their mouths open for periods of time. It has been very warm here upper 90 degrees. I have filled the bird baths w/fresh water several times in the day-

  49. aldentalley

    Dr Swift, I have a pair of crows which come to my backyard wanting handouts. That is usually unsalted peanuts in the shell, but sometimes cheese or meat. They like the meat best. Anyway, I put the treat on the railing around my very small deck, and I’m enticing them to come closer and closer to me as I put the treats closer. When it’s too close, a crow will sit on the backyard fence and caw several times. And usually he/she will wipe the beak on both side on the fence. Why is that? They don’t seem to be cleaning the beak.

    Steve Talley

  50. Dr Swift

    The two crows who adopted me about 4 yrs ago, and visa versa, have three healthy new fledglings.

    I am noticing, however, a new younger face in the fold who is not a fledgling. He or she seems to be helping Mom and Dad (Louise and Simon) out with raising the kids.

    I read somewhere that the parents kids will come back to help raise the new baby crows.

    Does this happen often?

    Thank you!

    Jim

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