A few months ago I was both bewildered and delighted when someone emailed me some photographs of a brown crow that regularly visited them. I had never seen such a bird myself, and was eager to arrive at an explanation for the crow’s strange caramel-colored appearance. If you follow the blog, you know that I came to realize there was little to offer by way of explanation. Instead, this color abnormality presents a rather fascinating mystery of conflicting opinions and an overall dearth of science.
So, after penning my answer I tucked this bird away in the back of my mind and moved forward with the science more relevant to my PhD. Namely, testing how different crows across the Seattle area respond to dead crows.
To this aim, I spend my days wandering the neighborhoods of Seattle looking for crow families to use for my experiments. Since I need lots of data points it means I encounter lots (think hundreds) of individual crows. And wouldn’t you know it. Sometimes the twain shall meet.
Its mate first caught my eye because, of course, I was looking for black things, not blond things. Even after I registered the bird, I instinctively thought pigeon. But then it called, and I realized what was happening.
I FOUND A CARAMEL CROW! And not just a caramel crow, but a caramel crow with a mate and three fledglings. A black mate and three black fledglings. Which suggests that whatever is going on is either recessive or not genetic. It also shows that, for at least this one caramel bird, the color abnormality did not prohibit it from successfully reaching sexual maturity or finding a mate. After speaking with the neighbors, it appears “Blondie,” as they call it, has been in the neighborhood for several years and it’s possible she’s not the only caramel crow, though I never confirmed any others. Outside of that, I can’t say much more from a scientist’s standpoint that I haven’t said before. So I’ll simply finish the post with a photo story of Blondie. Enjoy!
The next batch of images are probably one of the most hilarious bits of fledgling dramatics I’ve ever seen. It is a scene familiar to many parents I’m sure. Forgive me for taking my scientist hat off, but I couldn’t help but add some anthropomorphic captions.
58 responses to “My first caramel crow ”
Go ahead and add captions – they’re hilarious, and spot on! What amazing luck that you found Blondie! The pics are just wonderful! Thanks as always!
oh I remember that earlier post …how wonderful to find another such coloured crow within such a short space of time and to witness the ostensible evidence of likely recessive gene/s(?) and the lack of genetics in the fledglings.
Just in time to honor the Supreme Court decision that allowed mixed race marriages.
Is it a form of leucism? We have leucistic magpies here where all the black markings are lightened (although they show as silvery grey not blonde/caramel). They are often called “ghost magpies”.
Hi Tanya, no it’s not, but that’s partly because scientists recently made the definitions for certain color abnormalities more specific. You can read more about what this is (and isn’t) here: https://corvidresearch.blog/2017/03/02/have-you-ever-seen-a-caramel-crow/
Reblogged this on Musings by Mikey and commented:
fabulously fun, interesting and beautiful.
fabulously fun, interesting and beautiful post
What a lovely crow! It’s a great story; hope you’re able to keep an eye on it for a while. It’s fun to be able to recognize a bird as an individual. I had a piebald dark-eyed junco that came to my feeders every winter for five years. I mourned him the year he didn’t return.
What a beautiful crow! I had no idea there were other color variations from black & white. The pictures are really great!
I recently had two crows take ownership of my yard (in Seattle), I assume there’s a nest nearby because they’ll yell nonstop at anyone who gets close. Is there any way for me to form an alliance so I can use my yard? It’s where we keep our trash/recycling and I’m growing vegetables so I can’t abandon it for the rest of the summer. Will they get used to my presence?
Hi Lisa, this late in the game it’s probably that they have fledglings, not a nest. Which is good news for you because fledglings move around a lot more. Bribery seems to work well to keep the peace. Offer a small handful of nuts everyday. Good luck!
This is awesomely amusing & spot on! I think that fledgling must know my cat! “Hello, it’s been 15 minutes, I can see a bit of the bowl on the bottom iF I hit the bowl with my paw and look at just the right angle, therefore I may starve to death or suffer agonizingly from fatty liver disease! Help! Help!”
just saw a caramel crow in Camp Verde Az. Was able to take some photos
Cool! You can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
I found your site after spotting a Carmel crow near Seward Park.
I have seen the same bird! Got some good photos but haven’t had time to put them on the blog. Will get to them in the next couple weeks though!
Just saw what must be the same one at the Ferdinand Street Boat Launch on Lake Washington Blvd just across Andrews Bay from Seward Park. Came across your blog while looking it up.
I found your site after Googling Brown Crow today. I saw one this morning in Concord Vermont in the woods with another Crow, was unable to get a picture of it though. I was so amazed at what I was seeing I didn’t even think of taking a picture. But it definitely was a cream-colored Crow as in the pictures above.
Aren’t they awesome!
There is a Carmel eating peanuts in the AM at my Seward Park home. 54th ave S. and S Hudson St.
Yes, I’ve seen it! I need to post my photos
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I live in a neighborhood outside of San Marcos Tx that has a caramel crow. I kept trying to identify it as some kind of hawk until I saw it hanging out with the other black crows and realized what it was.
Hello! I’ve only just found this post about the blonde crows as I have, in the last week seen one for the first time and was intrigued. Although to me, in the dappled sunlight he looked a beautiful gold! First spotted milling about on the roadside verge about a week ago, I have seen him twice since and been able to stop my car alongside him and get a really good look, he isn’t shy. We live in the countryside so the spot is quiet. He’s an almost magical sight. I’m in rural Hertfordshire in England.
Aren’t they so, so pretty? I agree it can feel so magical.
Have seen a caramel crow in our neighborhood in central Illinois several times, finally in our yard yesterday. Sparked my interest enough to Google. Thanks for the post.
I just saw one of those crow today. It’s so strange to see a crow that doesn’t have its natural color
I just saw a beautiful caramel crow at Seward Park on 6/14/19. I found this blog by searching albino crow Seward Park. This beautiful bird was feeding a youngster and I followed him/her to the water line to capture a few photos. Glorious!
Glad to find this blog ! I know Blondie and her family well . We don’t feed her at the house in deference to neighbors but we take treats across the street to the lake. If she doesn’t meet us I give a call and she and a couple family members show up right away. I have some good pictures but will have to figure out how to post them,.
You can post them to the Corvid Research facebook page! Can’t post them here I’m afraid.
Thanks for the info!
Saw a juvie caramel crow in the parking lot of the Seward Park swim area yesterday. So cool! I also first mentally registered it as a pigeon. It was alone for a few seconds, then a couple of black adults landed. Just as it was clicking in my mind-the famous caramel crow! Got some phone pics and video.
Interesting! There’s another caramel crow in the Seward area but it’s an adult. Curious it wasn’t one of the parents!
What did you see that made you think it was a juvenile? I’ve only seen one around the park and in my yard- Lucy/Ferdinand who now appears to be molting down to some really dark feathers. Very noisy. Or- maybe this noisy one is this year’s chick and I haven’t seen Lucy in a while… I don’t remember her/him being so loud. Kaeli?
Yep I saw him today, Yay
I saw a “caramel” crow today on the beach at Fauntleroy ferry dock. It was on the beach with other black crows, poking at the seaweed. Glad I found this article. Thank you.
I am currently working in West Seattle. I believe I saw this gorgeous bird here near Licoln Park. I would like to search for it on my day off to prove to people I’m not crazy. Am I in the right area?
You are. Ive heard several reports of a caramel crow in Lincoln Park recently.
I saw two of them this morning in a West Seattle park. I too first thought I was seeing a pigeon. But it quickly became apparent they were crows. They were hanging out with a bunch of black crows. Very beautiful.
PS your picture captions made me laugh out loud.
10/18; West Seattle shoreline park
I believe I saw Ferdinand while on a run today around a beautiful big wooded park. I’ve never seen a crow like this. It was a bit darker than Blondie.
just saw my first one in loyal heights in seattle!
I just filmed a Caramel Crow which I was calling a Capuchin Crow until now.
Will send photos and doc if anyone wants to see Capuchi.
We just moved to a new home in February and spotted a carmel crow on our property! She is so beautiful! We are so lucky she calls our woods home 🙂
I should mention that we are in Middle Tennessee.
I’ve recently seen a crow like bird at my feeders and birdbath, but it’s brown. I’ve searched my bird identification books and online, but have found nothing like it until your blog about Ferdinand! So beautiful! I am in Nashville, but ours strongly resembles Ferdinand.
Caramel crow sited this morning on Alki beach. The other crows treated it equally it seemed. Behavior the same. A little smaller than its companions. I did not hear it caw…
I am so happy to have finally identified the new bird at my feeders and birdbath! It’s a beautiful caramel right here in the Nashville suburbs!
You are hilarious! And I have had fledgling crows around my house and they do indeed yell at their parents!
I saw #Ferdinand this afternoon right where the clues suggested in retrospect. It was a chance meeting
S/he’s a beauty and the one I call Lucy. It’s a lucky day when she visits my house!
I was at the locks yesterday and saw a brown crow. Not sure if it is the same one but it was healthy and shiny. Have a few pics I snapped on my camera phone.
Nice John! It’s a different bird actually. It’s been hanging around Ballard for the majority of the year!
Do you know why these crows are brown?
Saw a light coloured crow today, what is the spiritual meaning please
Hi Justine. The wonderful thing about crows is that they mean different things to different cultures and and religious traditions. So the answer to that question very much depends on who you ask. Personally, I am not an expert at the symbology of corvids worldwide. If you do find a reputable source speaking to the meaning of light colored crows within the context of the authors own cultural/religious tradition I would be happy for you to share it here. I urge you to avoid websites/resources though that speak about this topic is a non-specific way (particularly those discussing Indigenous-American traditions). Those are usually not written by people from those cultural backgrounds and are often dubious at best and actively harmful at worse.
I have one here at my apartment complex. First noticed it about 4 months ago. I have lived here for 10 years. Moreno Valley, CA. So cool to see it.