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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!

 

264 responses to “Home

  1. wayne

    Hi
    A dying crow was in my yard and a few crows were in the trees for a couple of days, sun up to sun down cawing non stop, the injured bird perched on a low wall, I gave it food and water but it wouldn’t eat. My dogs became very curious so before they got pecked I wrapped the bird in a towel and took it to a wooded area about a block away. Since then one crow has waited for me everyday, following me and cawing until I go inside. Today I hid my face in a hoodie and wasn’t bothered. What can I do to make piece with this bird.

  2. Jerry

    Help…the crows on my block hate me. Two crows were chasing a rabbit and I intervened. Those crows go wild when they see me. How do I get on their good side. Also do the crows in Seattle area migrate in the winter or will I be hated all year?

  3. Edie Aguilar

    Hi, thanks for this. I have been friends with a family of crows for over 2 years, at my office in Marina del Rey, CA. I’ve been feeding them and interacting with them quite a bit. They know my face and my car and even follow me around sometimes. Recently the city cut down some of the trees they hang out in and they disappeared for a while but now they’re back and they have babies. My question is this: I believe the one I call the “dad” (he’s the big guy) is bringing his baby to me to maybe introduce us? I think maybe he’s trying to teach the baby that this is a safe place and you can trust her? Because “dad” will now watch from tree above. He stands back and watches as I come out and put nuts and grains in their favorite hiding places. He seems to be observing the interaction between me and his baby while also keeping watch for him. The reason I thought of this is because he will let the baby eat most of the food, then they take a little nap (pretty close to my door) where we can see each other. Could this be possible?

  4. Sarah Kettlewell

    My daughter rescued a tiny hatchling Hooded Crow, presumably the runt, and hand-reared it. It is now 2 months old and free-flying, while living and feeding with the family. It is a delightful pet, ingenious and charming. The young children are treated as siblings and they all play together. But a serious problem has arisen. Moss loves ‘helping’ people especially with gardening, and she has started worrying neighbours in their gardens by trying to land on their heads and swooping down. The neighbours are afraid that as they try to avoid the bird they may stumble and fall.
    Is it possible to train the bird so that she only flies onto you when specifically invited?

    • Hi Sarah. So sadly, you’ve run into the problem with hand raising rescues intended for release. The imprinting process often makes them too comfortable with people, and as they get bigger people they stand a higher chance of someone misunderstanding their friendliness as aggression and hurting them. If this was a pet, it would be more than possible, but as you’ve released to essentially be “free” you won’t be able to train this kind of specific behavior. I would discourage you from physically interacting with the bird further and hope that it gets the message not to touch people.

  5. Jeff

    Living in central Vancouver I am and have been swamped with crows for decades. This spring however I found myself questing after some new bird species vocalizing in the backyard firs.
    The ringneck turtledoves had appeared four years ago and I thought another climate-change canary, so to speak, had arrived.
    It’s been months now and the unambiguous vocalizer is a typical-lookiing crow with a nest in the trees.
    The sound it makes, the only sound, is sort of an “OIK!”
    The call follows the usual three-pause-three pattern of his/her conspecients but is an invariant OIK.
    Any similar examples in your experience?
    Will be listening for the progeny.
    J

    • Hi Jeff, crows make a lot of funny sounds so this may be nothing. If you can get a recording you’re welcome to email it to me and I’ll let you know if it is unusual or not.

  6. Hi!
    Found you on I Can Has Cheezburger? when they posted your Twitter responses to the strange-looking crow photo. I AM SO EXCITED TO HAVE FOUND YOU! (Yes, I shouted. Illustrates how excited I am.) Looking forward to binge-reading your posts here as well as following your new posts as they arrive.
    Today is my 60th birthday, and I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that finding your blog is the best gift for me as I celebrate this milestone. I really wanted/needed something new and exciting to learn; this fits the ‘bill’ perfectly.
    Thank you so much for all you do.

  7. Hi there,
    Such a pleasure to read your work.
    I’ve been working on a relationship with my neighborhood crows and in particular a pair that seems to call our home their territory. They know me and talk to me and are good and demanding about getting fed. It’s been fun.
    I was devastated to see, a few days ago, that one of the pair was hit by a car and killed on the street right in front of our house. The mate spent some time with the corpse in the morning and we disposed of the body late in the day.
    I’m wondering if the remaining crow will re-pair? Will he or she stay in this territory. So far s/he has remained and spends just as much time around our house, calling and waiting for food, but always alone. Now I’m seeing a lot more crows hanging about and a handful of scuffles and I’m wondering if a turf shift is afoot?
    Mostly I just want to know that this widow will be alright on his or her own. And I’m hoping that s/he finds a partner.
    Thanks,
    Rebecca

    • Hi Rebecca. Gosh, i’m so sorry to hear about your crow friend. That sucks it really does. The mate will most definitely find a new partner, possibly even in a span of time that most people would find offputting. But I can’t tell you if it will stay on the territory. Often it is very difficult for them to hold on to it alone, but that really depends on where you live. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.
      -K

  8. 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

  9. Jason Zackowski

    Hi Dr. Swift!!!
    I’m Jason Zackowski, the dog dad of Bunsen Berner the Science Dog. We’ve started a podcast about Science/Dogs and Animals. Every episode we have an “Ask an Expert” section when 4-6 questions are asked of an expert! Your research is fascinating (as is Crow/Bird intelligence)!
    Would you be willing to on the Podcast as a guest? It would take 25-30 minutes of your time and we can work around your schedule!
    The podcast is called “The Science Pawdcast.”
    Thanks for your time!
    Jason and Bunsen

  10. Angelo Caon

    Hi Kaeli. Love your info about crows and birds in general. Just thought I’d post a comment about ravens and crows that you may not be aware of. I worked in Bhutan for a while where there are a lot of crows and ravens. The raven is the national bird of Bhutan. At one time the killing of a raven in Bhutan was a capital crime. Indeed the crown worn by the king of Bhutan is surmounted by a raven. You can see a photo of the current king (‘K5’ as he is affectionately known in Bhutan) wearing his raven crown here : http://www.bhutanandpartners.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/official-portrait-with-Raven-Crown.jpg

  11. jeanette

    hi my name is Jeanette recently I saved a crow that was injured and I called places nobody would help so I finally found this place that would take them to a facility that somebody told me that what happened was the similar situation and they put the bird down so being is that nobody would help that was the only solution I’ve had and wouldn’t you know it they put him down cuz they said he was very underweight it was paralyzed on one side and he had pox all over and tell you the truth if you see the photo he’s hurt a wing that’s all and he was fine he’s not malnutrition I don’t believe them I wish I could send you the photo

    • Hi Jeanette. Unfortunately there’s a lot of cases where rehab facilities just don’t have the time or resources to help animals that require would intensive care, or who will never fully recover from their injuries (like if a bird will never fly again). In these case they do just put them down. It’s tough, but rehab facilities work in triage mode and sometimes they have to make tough decisions.

  12. For the past 10 years I live in Haines Alaska for the summer. This year a crow befriended me, he would fly close by when I would walk and hop along the ocean near by. He then became my freind and I would feed him from my hand. Not to long after more birds arrived, finally the sqwaking new horns who were now flying. This process went on for 6 weeks. Every morning and evening the befriended crow and the flock would arrive. Suddenly they disappeared. No trace anywhere. I did notice a dead crow on the road the next day, possibly hit by a car. Any ideas why they just left? Especially the crow I befriended?

  13. Mary Katherine Smith

    Dr. Swift,
    I have been following general corvid research for a long time, read all the books, and have been a respectful distant observer. I have always wanted the chance to interact with a raven or crow but haven’t had a chance until now. I have been invited by a wildlife rehabber to spend time, train, rehab (?) a crow that has no chance of returning to the wild. He doesn’t get to spend any time outside a small cage and doesn’t have much interaction. I don’t know much more. Can you give me some ideas of where to start? I will meet him tomorrow and I plan on just sitting near him, talking to him, and determining his favorite treats. I would love to eventually be able to have him out of the cage, interact, and do mentally enriching activities. What would some beginning goals and steps? I appreciate any help you can offer. Thanks in advance! I should note that I am a certified, well-educated positive reinforcement dog trainer so I am used to small steps being rewarded in big ways. I just want to make sure I get off on the right foot.

  14. Adrian

    Dr. Swift,

    A big thanks to everything you do to share your knowledge. I’m not sure if this has been asked before, but what is the fastest and most efficient way to get the worst relationship possible with a murder? What are the most extreme results of having a bad relationship with crows? Simply curious as I have heard lots of stories of crows stalking and harrasing individuals they dont like. Thanks!

    • Hi Adrain. #1 is kill one. #2 is that large groups will routinely scold and dive bomb you whenever they see you. They’ve also been know to poop on cars or other modes of transportation.

  15. Kathy

    I love our neighborhood crow family 2019. A family of 6: the 2 parents and 4 babies. (They all look like adults now.) This morning early I saw one crow hollering at a still black object on the ground. My heart sank. I walked out and the dead crow was not yet in rigor mortis. Couldn’t tell if the neck was broken. Looked to be a healthy weight. The rest of the family was in the trees watching me. I hope they do not now associate me with death.
    I retrieved a couple plastic bags, picked up the dead bird, brushed off a few ants, sealed it up in the bags and put it in my freezer with the intention of getting a necropsy done.
    Did I rob the family of a funeral?
    The necropsy I hear will be a couple hundred $$ and no agency in Duluth Minnesota is interested in dead crow’s at the moment. I’d like to rule out poisoning. I’d also like to know which family member it is.
    All around a sad occasion.

    • Hi Kathey. Well, it’s not generally good to take a body away while the birds are still present. It does interfere with their process. I can’t give any advice on where to send the bird. But feel free to report back here with the news if you are able to get one done.
      Best,
      Kaeli

  16. Kim kendal

    Hello Dr Swift,
    I am learning gobs from your corvid information and pop up quizzes – thx so much! Not sure what this all means but a shaman once journeyed for me and discovered raven as my totem animal so I’ve continued to try and learn as much as I can about these characters. Can you please let me know where to buy your products (stickers, upcoming magnets)? That would sure be appreciated : )
    Cheers and thx – keep up the excellent work!

    • Hi Kim, I’m so glad you enjoy them! You can find my products (when they are in stock) at my Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CorvidResearch.

      On another note, I’m inspired to hear you have such a deep connection with these birds, that’s a really special thing. That said, I have indigenous friends and colleagues who have counseled me on the harmful appropriation and use of sacred words like totem and spirit animal from folks outside their communities. Out of kindness and respect to them, I have switched to using the term patronus and encourage others to do the same. Even when the experienced was guided by a shaman, more often than not those shamans are not claimed by the communities they are representing or borrowing from. Not trying to shame anyone, just offering a way you can help make indigenous communities feel more seen and respected while maintaining your special connection to these wonderful birds.
      Best wishes,
      K

  17. Elisabeth Sjöberg

    Hi Dr Kaeli Swift!
    Thank you so much for sharing your research!
    Concerning FEEDING, I have great, positive response from my local crow family (Corvus Corone as I am in the UK) when I feed them unshelled cashews, while having breakfast. I can see them cache some under the roof tiles of the house opposite.
    ” My” crow family (2 chicks this year, 3 last year) seem to tolerate and even be FRIENDLY WITH A WOOD PIGEON – feeding together and sitting on the same tv arial close together. Is this normal?
    I have also seen one of the crows (not very seriously) fight this pigeon on a roof top, while the 3 other crows were watching around it, like it was a fight in a school yard. But this was only once.
    CROW REVENGE: “Our” crows consequently poops down the roof and chimney of a very crow unfriendly man(shouts, throw stones) in our street, wich a grey green broad streak of crow poo bears witness. HaHa! Fun!
    Kind Regards, Scandinavian crow fancier in Surrey, Greater London.

  18. Eline Meindertsma

    Hi,
    I have recently developed an interest for crows and other such birds. So I really want to get to know more about these birds. So I was wondering what a good place to start would be. Are there any books I really should read, or documentaries I should watch?
    Thank you!

  19. Nicholas

    Yesterday I saw a maybe 7 crows all gang up attacking another crow. They were killing it right in front of me so I broke it up and the crow got away. Why do you think they would all gang up on the single crow like that?

    • Could be for a variety of reasons. Crows will sometimes kill previously injured crows. They will also attack crows that come into their territory. Can’t say what the reason is in the case. But it’s not all that unusual.

  20. Emily Jackson

    Hi!! So in my last house we had a real collection of birds that used to visit the garden which we’d feed, we were lucky enough to have back birds nesting!! However, we also had wrens and robins and, on more than one occasion I’d see a specific robin feeding one of the adult wrens. Tbh it’s been playing on my mind and Google has no answers. Does this usually happen; interspecies feeding? Xx

  21. Patrick Flynn

    Hi there, I am a veterinarian and have just received a master’s degree in Anthrozoology and am just fascinated with these birds. I walk my dog every morning and there is a group of about 30-40 crows that are active in about a 4 block area. They leave us alone but monitor us closely. As soon as I come out with the dog, I am now aware of a change in their conversation. They make a very distinctive HAha sound when they have a visual on me, and as I walk, they call it out to each other and the birds who can’t see us stop saying that word. Do we know if their vocabularies are unique to specific murders, i.e. do they all speak the same language or am I hearing something that’s not there. No matter what, they are an amazing class of birds.

  22. Rebecca

    Hello! I am searching for information about how I may help a fish crow we are caring for. We take in animals that the wildlife rehabbers could not return to the wild. This crow was found with a broken wing (at least) by a woman who kept him for several years and never brought him to the vet, so his wing healed strangely. I strongly suspect he had a spinal injury as well. His diet was awful. He kept falling off his perches and getting stuck on his back or sides, causing him to panic and somewhat damage his feathers. He has been snipping/plucking his feathers, and we are at a loss as to what to do. Now he is on a correct diet, in a shorter flatter cage so he will not fall while while we try to get him to let his feathers grow in right. I am having some success with building trust, he has gotten on my arm in exchange for his favorite treats, and is quite happy with that trade. I am also using some feeder toys that he seems to enjoy. However he just seems to be unable to leave his feathers alone. I am trying my best to get him into better shape but I do not know what else to do considering we are limited on space and perches because of the falling.

    He has the most peculiar behavior he does periodically where he almost seems to be itchy, and that is what makes me concerned about mites. He puffs up and kind of waddles his wings and body almost like he is bathing or something, but he is on a perch. It is truly strange, and that is the main thing I wanted to ask you about. I have checked for mites in several different ways and have been unable to find any. We used to offer him a shallow dish of water to bathe in, but he fell into it and almost drowned due to the limited mobility, so he only has access to that when he can be supervised.

    You are the expert, and I am really hoping you have some insight because he truly is a bright bird, and I have developed a liking for him and I would really like to help him.

  23. Helen Engelkamp

    Hi, I have had the most wonderful 3 years with my crow and his partner and every year their new babies. I had him visit directly the next day after my beloved bengal cat passed away….I was mourning the loss and he turned up in my backyard for the very first time. He has one foot missing. He had as talked to me many times and we both have a huge bond. I can call him by name Leroy and he will come to me. Since being on holidays for 3 eeeks I worried every day that I would not see him ever again. I left food out for him but other magpies are too quick. He did turn up only once and grabbed grapes and he did not come back that night like he he normally would. He seems he only comes now when I call him. I am worried he has changed anas he would come by every day at least 4 times daily. Will he ever return to his previous way. He looks in windows to find me when he wants food. He is so so beautiful. Can you help me? I love Leroy. Helen

    • Hi Helen, in my experience a three week absence has little effect on a crow’s bond. i have crows near my office that I go half a year without seeing and they don’t seem phased. If his behavior has changed, it my very well have nothing to do with your vacation. Just keep being persistent and see what happens. Best wishes for you and your buddy

  24. Mary B.

    Hi there! I just listened to your episode on the Ologies podcast, and I loved it! Big fan of crows and ravens… I have a family of crows I’ve been watching on my property since I moved in a year and a half ago, and I’ve got a question. Last year, I could have sworn there were 5 crows in the group. This spring, I’m only seeing 4 that stick together and one lonely guy that comes to the yard to eat at different times of day and in a different location from the main group. All of them seem to avoid the corner of the yard they frequented last year (which had the game camera, so I miss my funny crow pics!). The group and the loner each keep to their very specific areas when they come to eat and chill in the 1 acre yard. Now, I totally could be mis-remembering or had possibly miscounted last year, but if not, do you have any ideas as to what might be going on? Assuming the lonely crow was last year’s 5th crow. Do crows banish members or something? Is he just being a rebel, making his own way before he realizes family was all he ever needed? Is he embarrassed by his parents and doesn’t want to bring potential girlfriends home yet? He makes me a little sad… I feel like it’s strange seeing just one crow by itself. I make sure to put sunflower seeds and a few peanuts in each location just to take care of them all.
    Anyways, thanks so much for just being awesome and potentially taking the time to read/answer this! 🙂

    • I would not assume the 5th crow is the same bird. Seems like you’re describing a territorial pair and their auxiliary helpers. Turn over with helpers is common, so it might be a totally different group or just this one is different. In any event, it’s normal and nothing to be sad about. It means last year’s helpers are off looking for a permanent mate and fulfilling their fill suite of crow behaviors 🙂

  25. Annette Schendel

    NOVA- Bird Brain- on Netflix- fun to watch- lots on crows

  26. Nate way

    As a kid about 30 years ago on a large farm in southern Indiana, I shot a crow from a lone tree about 100 yards from the back porch. The next day I witnessed the cacophony of 50 to 100 crows in the tree line that was about another 50 yards beyond this lone tree. I sat and watched as crows came one at a time to perch on the limb above the dead one. They would spend from less than a minute to several minutes on the spot, then fly back to the tree line with the others while the next bird flew to the spot above the dead.
    I watched this for a few hours off and on, could not tell if any made a return trip. I checked again the next day, but the tree line was not full of crows and none came to perch over the dead one. It was still on the ground.

  27. Krista Hart

    Hello,

    Do you know if you will be speaking again at the Alberta Rose Theatre in Portland Oregon? I heard rumors there may be another show in the fall since the summer one was sold out.

    Thank you very much!

  28. Joleen Sloniker

    In the 1990’s when my son was going to high school and then to the U of Washington crows would dive bomb him. We lived about two miles as the crow flies (no pun intended) from the U. Every time he go off the bus which was a block away from our house they would dive at him. There was a stand of very large trees and that were about two stories above him. The trees were up on hill. It’s always been a mystery in the family why they did this. No he did not have a sling shot. We all saw this happen many times. It never happened to anyone else. I know they are very smart birds but we are curuous

  29. lynnebailey

    I’m so happy I found you!

  30. Elle O.

    Hi Kaeli,

    I have been reading but not posting because NO CROWS. I moved out to the Kitsap Penninsula and there are lots of birds. I hear owls hunting at night right outside my window. I have many chickadee, sparrow, juncos, kinglets, thrushes, towhees, wrens, and stellar jay friends, but no crows. The crows have shown up maybe twice and they ate peanuts but they’re just not regulars. What am I doing wrong? Do they just not like the other birds? I never had this problem before.

    Also, non-crow question: I have an indoor tree (large, silk). A couple of times a chickadee has come in to sit in my tree. The first time he got scared and I helped him “escape”, but the second time, he seemed to know what he was doing and wasn’t scared. He sat on the tree but eventually flew out. That same day, I was sitting on my deck, and he first landed on my Kindle. It startled me, so I moved and he flew off. Not long after, he came back and sat on my knee. I’m assuming it is the same bird, and I would think that the bird knows I’m a person, not a tree. Have you ever heard of chickadees doing this?

    I really miss my Gig Harbor crows and Cooper, the hawk. Please help :). elle

    • Hi Elle! I know how you feel. I recently moved out to the east side of Washington and I don’t have many crows here either. It’s been tough!

      As for your second question, chickadees take to hand feeding pretty readily and once they do they’re not very discriminating. My guess is that someone in your neighborhood has trained this behavior.

  31. That said, I have indigenous friends and colleagues who have counseled me on the harmful appropriation and use of sacred words like totem and spirit animal from folks outside their communities. Out of kindness and respect to them

  32. aldentalley

    Why do crows seem to gather in one place in the evening? Almost every evening we see two or three dozen crows heading mostly SW. What are they going to and why?

  33. Hi I was wondering how I can get in contact with you to ask about how you began learning about birds? I’m going to be starting a zoology degree soon and would like to pick your brain

  34. lwwebblog

    Hi there.

    Shawn from “Canuck and I” has had his friend (Canuck the Crow) not return. I’m wondering if you might give some relief to all of us viewers on his fb site on the possibilities that come natural for a Crow in its lifetime. People are pretty upset. He’s been an ambassador to Vancouver and was made a protected bird. What I meaning is a little education. Maybe just some posts on your expertise. Possibilities like migrating etc.

    We realize Canuck was not a pet and Shawn realizes that be Canuck is sadly missed. He’s pretty popular and Shawn has brought a great respect to all of us for Crows.
    Thank you.

    • I wish I could, but given that he is a territorial adult in a mild climate area, that his mate is still in the area, and that he is incredibly habituated to humans I really can’t offer anything positive. It’s extremely unlikely he just left. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for his return though. I know how beloved he is.

  35. So cute, to bad there becoming extinct

  36. Why do people need to kill animals like that. It’s very Disturbing and we humans should feel a shamed of our selves. In fact we humans are destroying nature.Animals and plants or trees were so much happier, but now, humans are making the animals scared. Sharks, people say there mean,there not. There so scared know they have no choice to be mean or in better words cautious. 😦 We humans need to STOP ASP, cause this is getting ridiculous. AGREE.

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