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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!

 

318 responses to “Home

  1. Devon Eastland

    I just heard about six blue jays calling like mad in my backyard (Holden, MA) and went to see if I could figure out what was up. The object of their interest seemed to be a gray squirrel that had recently been killed, lying on the top of a log, throat torn out, but otherwise intact. We have red tailed hawks and foxes in the yard. No idea how Mr. Squirrel met his end why the jays were so upset, but I thought of you and your work! Thanks for everything you do!

    Devon

  2. Paula Marr

    I have spent many years studying their behavior. I have 4 generations that I feed everyday. During winter months I go through approximately 70lbs of cat food a month. Breeding and fall I supplement with fruits and horse grain. They recognize me when I’m within easy 5 miles from home and they let me know!! I love every spring when I meet the next generation I KNOW ME BABIES LIKE THEY KNOW ME AND YES THEY ARE HIGHLY INTELLIGENT!!!! I’ve watched them use things & solve something’s beyond my comprehension. I may sound crazy but I’ve always felt a respect and a connection with them. Not only have I been opportunities to watch my four generations at my current location but I’ve ALWAYS watched,learned and fed them for well over 25years they are the one of my life that I feel blessed to have them in my life❤️❤️❤️❤️ Not to mention that my neighbors have no moles because my crows eat the bugs & worms that attract them. That’s my story and I wouldn’t change anything!!! Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story!!!

  3. Susan S.

    At sunset, the resident crows in the neighborhood’s tall trees in Northern California, have a burst of activity where they fly from one tree to another, seeming to visit different trees (different families?). The flying is impressive as well as the crowd aspect. Any insights into this behavior?

    • Sounds like typical pre-roosting activity, which is admittedly a big hole in our understanding. There is a group at UW Bothell that is working on better understanding the function of pre-roost gatherings. Hopefully they make some headway!

  4. Sylvia Freeman

    I have a question. The other day I saw a murder of Crows, maybe 25 or so, sitting in a yard. Three of them had their wings fully extended, sitting upright, in irregular three lines, one in each line. The others were sitting close by or walking around the ones with outspread wings. I was driving so couldn’t stop and take photos but the image stays with me. Do you have any insights to this behavior?

  5. Glassy C.

    I am so sorry for such a morbid question, but does anyone know if it’s common behavior for crows to leave the carcass of their young in someone’s yard? This is the third time in the past month we’ve seen a young female bring an almost mummified youngling down and leave it on our front bench. It’s honestly quite sad, and this all started out of nowhere, is there anything we can do?

    • You’re in the right place for morbid questions. It’s common that birds will eject dead/weak nestling from the nest, but what you’re describing is something very different since it’s not the breeding season and these are not fresh carcasses. I need to know more information to make an informed guess as to what’s really going on. For example, you said it was a young female, how do you know? Are you sure the dead baby is a baby crow and not some other bird? Would you be able to provide photos of the bodies? I don’t mean to imply that your interpretation of things is wrong, but I’ve learned over the years that double checking all the details is the best first place to start.

  6. Valerie Tomlin

    I have cultivated a relationship with a family of crows where I live in Jacksonville, FL. I have observed them burying the raw peanuts I put out for them. The peanuts grow in our garden and yards in the neighborhood. I am wondering if that is their intent? When I feed them roasted peanuts, they eat them. Has anyone else noticed them “planting” crops before? Is it possible crows are capable of an agrarian society given the means?

    • Hi Valerie, what you’re seeing is called caching. That’s when animals bury food for later use. This is a common behavior across corvids. Crows are an example of an opportunistic casher, which means they bury excess food but don’t rely on that food for later and most of it never gets recovered. Pinyon jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, and Canada jays are all examples of obligate cachers which means they rely on their food stores come winter and recover almost all of them. The fact that you see them cache raw nuts but not the roasted ones is either a coincidence or a product of confirmation bias. I’m sure if all the cheetos they planted in our gutters grew into trees though they would figure out how to farm 😉

  7. George Burnstein

    In the past 2-3 weeks I have experienced a major increase in the number of crows that come for a little snack time. There is a consistent group of about 20…now Im getting about 60+… there seem to be three groups that chase each other around… a lot of fighting when they fly over to me… is it the change in seasons or is this normal. Sitka, Ak. UAS campus..
    Also.. normally there are a few established raven pairs that will come down and take some peanuts along side of the small original crow group… now they have moved about 50 yds away and will not come anywhere near the crow riot. George B

    • Hi George! I just gave a talk in Sitka few months ago, I hope you were able to attend! Sounds like a seasonal thing. Crows group up more in the winter. And it doesn’t surprise me the ravens are staying the heck away. Crows attack ravens and 60 against 2 are not great odds!

      • George BURNSTEIN

        Was at your Sitka talk… have painted eyes on the back of my motorcycle helmet… although my “friends” would never swoop at me I hope

  8. Kevin Wilkinson

    Hi. Do you have any contacts of researchers in or close to Portsmouth, NH or York, ME? I’m interested in volunteering so that I might learn about crow behavior in the wild. Thanks for your work, Kevin

  9. Cedric

    Hello, I’m a construction supervisor and back in October 2018, I started building a new garage for the maintenance of heavy machinery on junkyard site. A year later, we just delivered the building to the client and are working on resolving a few minor issues and a major one. In July I noticed a leak from the roof. I went on the roof to try and find the source but could not find it. Two weeks later when I came back from vacation, I went back on the roof in the hope of finding the leak. As I got on the flat roof, I quickly saw the problem. A roof that was only a few months old now had over 100 holes in it. What on earth happened during the two weeks I was gone??? Looking at the holes, I came to the conclusion that it was caused by birds, as crazy as it may seem! First experts we talked to said it could not be caused by birds, but the pictures I got from the hunting cameras I installed on the roof proved them wrong. There is depending on the day, somewhere between 5 to 12 crows hanging around on the roof, eating the calking, the roof membrane and the insulation. Different so called experts tried to give us some explanations, ranging from the crows doing this for fun to them eating the roof because the products probably contain silica. The damage is upwards of 150 000$ and we have to find a solution to fix the problem. We dont know for sure if changing the roofing material will fix it or if we are better of trying to get rid of the crows. So far the experts say we are really unlucky and got stuck with one of the smartest birds out there. Most solutions that would work to scare away other species would not work or may only work for a short period of time until they figure it out. Being located on a junkyard attracts a ton of different species and in large quantities. Recent sightings of crows in the area puts the local population at over 100 individuals. One of the brought up solutions that im not in favour for, would be to try and educate the local population by killing a few individuals and to show them that the location is unsafe. This is where your insight come in. Can we really educate the local population, whether is it by killing one or a few, or by some other passive way? And would the effects last? I dont like the idea of killing one and im also scared of the bird’s reaction to the situation. After all, they already did a ton of damage without us even provoking em. Can we even outsmart this smart bird?

  10. We have a cabin at 9,500 ft in southern Colorado. It has been there for 13 years. This summer we had a bird attacking every window on the ground floor (7 large windows total) leaving the windows looking like a Jackson Pollock canvas . I thought it was a blue bird – as they are very territorial during nesting. In July we noticed a raven tapping at the window, then later that weekend a screen was ripped. I still thought it was a blue bird, since I did not think ravens would fight their own reflection. Last weekend we actually caught a raven in the act. It had been fight itself for long enough to have left blood on the window and on the porch. Is this normal behavior? How can we encourage it to stop?

    • Ravens are both highly territorial and bad at mirror tests (as are most birds/corvids) so no, it’s not unusual. You need to stop or break up the reflection. You can films that apply to your windows and look more opaque from the outside but transparent from the inside. Or you can just put up black paper (but on the outside not the inside). Just don’t go the UV route since most corvids are unique among songbirds for their inability to detect UV.

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