Crow curiosities: who is begging in April?

Right now, in early spring, you may have noticed a crow or two fluttering their wings and making the classic “waaah, waaahhh” sound that roughly translates to “feed me, feed me”!  Although it’s tempting to think these are young crows, it’s far too early in the breeding season for fledglings to be on the loose.  So who are these juvie doppelgangers? Adult female crows.

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Begging juveniles like this one won’t be roaming around the PNW until mid June and later.

During the nest building stage you may hear females making these sounds just while on the ground foraging with their mate or while perched near the nest like this female was.  Why do they do it?  It’s essentially a way to prime the pump and remind their mate that they’re going to need to be fed once they’re saddled to the nest and can’t forage as much for themselves.  Once they are actively incubating, they’ll continue to beg only now it’s really a demand for the food they need and can’t get for themselves without risking their eggs getting too cool.  Although males will take a turn on the nest, they do not have a formal brood patch and can’t do much more than temporarily keep the eggs insulated.

Although it’s tempting, hopefully now you won’t be fooled by this April trick!

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A male returns to the nest with a bill-load of peanuts for his hungry mate.

4 Comments

Filed under Crow behavior, Crow curiosities

4 responses to “Crow curiosities: who is begging in April?

  1. Christian

    Hi Kaeli,
    saw and filmed this kind of behaviour 9 days before you posted this.
    The crows in this place in Germany are carrion crows (or hoodies), but here they are just the counterparts of the brachyrhynchos species from North America, so they act very similarly. This time I didn’t hear any sound while the female fluttered like a “juvie Doppelgänger” ^^. But then, the male (Herr Boss) offered her a snack-bit and Frau Boss high-tone-gaggled clearly in this short process of being fed while the true young beggars sound as if they get *literally* suffocated. 🙂
    Thanks for the interpretation and your interesting blog!

  2. Sarah M.

    Hi Kaeli: Unrelated April question. We live in Maine, and have noticed a sharp-shinned hawk routinely buzzing our birdfeeder looking for a meal this week (he was around last spring, too) and every time, it seems like one or two crows are chasing him. Are they trying to interfere with his hunting? Hoping to steal a meal? We have also noticed that the crows seem to bother the bald eagles who nest here …are they just not fond of raptors?

    • Sarah, that’s a common observation and a great question since its one I bet a lot of other folks have too. Although in some cases they may be trying to confuse/irritate a predator to the point of dropping its kill in the hopes they could steal it, primarily they are just trying to get rid of them because raptors are big time crow killers. Eagles, red tailed hawks, coopers hawks, owls, etc., will all gladly take down and eat an adult crow. A sharpie is a bit small to kill an adult but they will absolutely depredate a nest if they can find one. So the short answer to your question is that mobbing (the technical term for crows grouping up to pester predators) is primarily a defensive behavior. Let me know if you have any further questions!

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