Crows caught play wrestling

I’ve posted before about the generals of crow play behaviors, and it’s something I’m routinely delighted with as the kids of late summer start testing the limits of their world and their peers.  Adult play (or what I’m fairy confident are adults) is something I’ve encountered far less often, however.  Even more rare is a camera on hand to capture what’s usually a rather fleeting behavior.

You can imagine my excitement then, when yesterday not only was I present to witness either two adults or one adult and one subadult play wrestling in the grass but I also had a camera already rolling.  Granted the footage isn’t great (it’s an old camera and they were far away) but you can make out enough to see what’s happening.

Here’s a play by play of them moments leading up to and during the event.

  • I had been following a family group of three, presumably composed of two territorial adults and one subadult based on mouth lining color and general behavior (allopreening).
  • Two of them were foraging when they joined together and began to roll in the grass.
  • No audible calls were given, which I would expect if it had been a malicious attack.
  • You can see moments where one crow appears to have the upperhand and then willingly falls to its side to allow a shift in power and continue the play.
  • The roughhousing only stopped after the third bird flew overhead and gave a short loud ‘caw’.
  • After they disentangled they continued foraging near each other rather then taking chase, another indication that is was mutual and fun rather than antagonistic.

Pretty cool right?!


Filed under Crow behavior, Field work, Just for fun, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Crows caught play wrestling

  1. Is it considered play when a crow sticks its head in the snow and fluffs around like it’s in a birdbath? Or is that more like a grooming activity?

    • Great question, Susan. If it looks like bathing it probably is. ‘Snow bathing’ has been documented in a variety of birds, particularly snow dwelling species like ptarmigans. That being said, corvids are well known to engage in other kinds of snow based play like sliding, rolling and sledding.

  2. George Zullich

    Great story, they do play… I was young I had a pet crow and we often played with balled tin foil. Years later I was posted to a radar station on a Vancouver Island mountain and noticed crows peeling paint off the a radome and then flying higher up into the wind and dropping the chip in the updrafts for the others to catch in mid air.Remembering the foil balls I went into the mess hall quickly grabbed some foil and was soon tossing small foil balls up, telling my friends to watch the fun. Sure enough the balls were substituted for paint chips and then continued their games in the mountain updrafts…

  3. Love hearing these stories and would love to see some in person.

  4. S

    You’ve probably seen this video before, but I thought it was interesting. Dog and crow playing with each other:

    • I have seen this before and it always delights me. But interestingly enough, this bird isn’t actually a crow or even a corvid! This is an Australian magpie which is a kind of butcherbird. Goes to show corvids aren’t the only ones with some charisma up their sleeves!

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