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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 uniquely accessible animals that offer 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!

684 responses to “Home

  1. Lynn

    Dr. Swift, I have heard that there is a spot in Renton that crows roost in during the fall and winter. Can you tell me where that is – would like to go see that.
    Thanks!, Lynn

    • Hi Lynn, it moves around but tends to congregate near the Ikea.

      • Ains

        I have two crows that I feed regularly, they come to this tree in my yard around 8-9am. I don’t know if they are a pair or just friends, but the smaller one always waits for the bigger one to eat first. The small one will caw when I first throw out the nuts, and then some time later usually makes two, softer “honk” sounds. They’re not super deep, medium in pitch, but sort of sounds like the crow is saying “honnnk, honk”. I’ve never heard the other one make this sound, or any other crow in my neighborhood do this. Are they male and female? What’s up with the honk noise?

      • Yes, sounds like contact calls between a male/female pair!

    • Erica

      If you go down to Boulevard Park at Southcenter near the intersection of West Valley Hwy and Strander Blvd you will see thousands – right now (Jan 2021) this is where they all are congregating as the last stop before they head in to the roost which has moved a couple times since early summer when it was closer to IKEA. It’s pretty incredible to see as they stream in from all directions. The flock coming in from the North and NorthEast is the biggest and streams in for 10-15 mins.

  2. Hi!
    I just posted a photo in the group and you were so kind to answer my question!
    You also mentioned this group for learning more about corvids. I would love to join!0

  3. sarbjeet kaur

    It was very informative program on webinar, I would like to share some of my experience and photos about their behaviour
    .

    • Hi Sarbjeet! You are welcome to share stories here, but unfortunately you cannot post photos. If you’re on Facebook though, you can search for the Corvid Research Facebook page. There you can share all kinds of stuff!

  4. Thom Gerst

    I really enjoyed your corvid talk last night. In an age of wide-spread disinformation it was a pleasure to hear nuanced, fact-based responses in sometimes wonderfully complex sentences.
    Have a great time in the Mariana Islands. I’ve been to Palau diving twice and find that part of the world thrilling. This seems like a perfect moment for such an adventure.

  5. Debbie Weissman

    Hi-I saw your talk yesterday for Minnesota Audubon. It was fun and fascinating. I live in Albuquerque and I notice that every fall/winter many crows-probably hundreds but not in large groups-fly south in the morning and then fly back north in late afternoon . They’re quite high in the sky. I’m wondering if they go far to look for food or what’s going on. Thanks

  6. Doug Nafziger

    Hi. A couple of us have noticed a few “Caramel Crows” in a specific neighborhood. Since these are supposed to be somewhat rare – and that there are at least two individual birds -wanted to share this here. Would post photos if I can figure out how to do so.

  7. Jeff Smith

    Hi, Dr. Swift – I enjoyed the Crow talk you gave earlier this week for Portland Audubon. Made me recall this bit of crow humor from 20 years ago by Ian Frazier, “Count on Crows”. I think you’d enjoy it!
    https://www.utne.com/community/countoncrows

  8. Doug Graves

    Hi. I’m tracking down a study about corvid intelligence I remember reading about around a decade ago. The experimenters had a setup with two buttons that would sometimes dispense treats when pressed, but one was more likely to give a treat than the other. The crows (I think it was crows) eventually learned to just always press the button with the better chance. I can’t find the study or the article I read about it, so I’m hoping that I’m not just misremembering and this description rings a bell with an actual corvid researcher. Can you point me to the paper? Thank you!

  9. Cynthia Wilson

    As a child, my dad brought let me bring home a crow that had been hit by a small airplane. He built a cage for it outside. After 5 months of talking to the crow and saying my name the crow could say Cindy. I was devastated that a neighborhood bully poked my crow to death with a stick

  10. m

    Hello!

    What do crows and ravens look like under a blacklight?

    Thanks!

  11. Barbara Blount-Powell

    I have a group/family of crows that make my small farm (horses, free range chickens) and environs their home. I have learned to listen to many of their warnings as they tell me when predators (coopers hawks, foxes) are on the prowl. This year one of the crows started making a most unusual call, almost like a peacock, late morning, or mid afternoon. It was more mournful than a warning….he/she did it for several months, then recently stopped. I have recorded it, but no one seems to recognize it. Any ideas? I can email a clip.

  12. Al M.

    Chasing down imaginary “culture criminals” and alienating your readers. Good job!

  13. I have a large flock (at any daytime moment, there are 10-50 of them about) of what appear to be unmated teen ravens who live on my property. They love that the ridge I live on has lovely thermals to ride most days. They have become pesky, stealing food from livestock, and tearing up tarps and patio furniture. Any suggestions on how I can keep them entertained and thus less destructive? I have pictures of some of their antics and destruction but don’t see a way to post them here. I’m really not trying to get rid of them… they protect my chickens and turkeys from raptors.

    • Hi Sarah! This is such a tricky line to walk. There’s probably not much you can do re: stealing food from livestock other than probably impractical changes to how you feed them. As far as destroying the furniture, ravens are very neophobic (scared of new things) so experiment with adding tinsel, googly eyes, or depictions of optical illusions to furniture and see if that helps. Good luck!

  14. Britt James Fellner

    I have always been impressed by the crows in Renton, Washington. I have been observing, feeding, photographing and sometimes interacting with them. I sincerely hope I get the chance with a raven. There are some lucky individuals whom put some cool videos of ravens in slo mo… very cool. Some flyers twirling upside-down… really cool. I am always impressed by the intense reasoning ability, humor and observational abilities of corvids…always will.

  15. Marie Hutchinson

    I love birds, but Corvids are my favorites. I would love to know more about them.

  16. Paul McCarter

    Squirrels vs crows. I’ve observed some of our squirrels this season digging up their treats and each squirrel had two crows following it. When the rodent would unearth its food the crows would attack it and chase it off stealing it. I observed 3 sets doing this yesterday. Sadly when I tried to get video it was through a screen and was too far to get good detail.

    Is this known crow behavior? I understand they are smart but this looked orchestrated. All 3 groups were within about 30 meters.

  17. kei paer

    Hello! I’ve always had a love for crows, they’re everywhere where I live too. This is going to be a specific question as it happened earlier today and I’ve been unable to find any answers with what I’ve searched. I was walking down the sidewalk, passed a crow digging beside me, looked at it, and it, made direct eye contact, yelled at me, and flew off to a tree. That was a little startling on its own, but as I was walking further, there were more flying to the trees I was walking up to, and as I actually looked up I swear a good three of them (in separate trees) were staring at me and cawing to each other. I’m pretty sure it was just odd timing, though them seemingly following me made me a little spooked I had done something to make them mad. Apologies if you have answered a similar question beforehand, I did check first but I figured this might’ve been a little too specific of a scenario.
    (Note, I can’t describe the call too well, I forgot to write down what I would describe it as after it happened and I have a terrible memory. I do know it was short, and didn’t sound too different from the general caws I hear from them everyday apart from the length)

    • Hi Kei, this is the kind of super specific question that I get asked a lot (you’re not alone in wanted to better decode your birds!) but that I simply can’t answer. Maybe it was a fluke, maybe they felted interrupted by you, or maybe they took your stare as a threat (they are wary of the human gaze). It’s frustratingly impossible to ascertain from a single anecdote. Sorry to disappoint!

  18. Sitting Here

    Hello!

    We have some crow neighbors. Over the years, we’ve watched many fledglings mature, shedding their juvenile “begging” voice for more dignified caws, coos, and rattles.

    I’ve noticed that one of last year’s fledglings still whines and begs and generally sounds/acts like a little kid, for lack of a better word. It struck me that I’ve never noticed this before. I guess my question is: for how long does an average crow use their baby voice?

    • In my experience offspring will continue to beg from adults as long as they remain in the natal area. So it could be for a year or more! That said, they can also make proper adult calls by this time too.

  19. Valentina Nicolae

    Hello!

    I live in Leipzig, Germany and I’m receiving visits from a limping crow (Corvus cornix, according to wikipedia – the one with the back and belly grey) since November. I’m feeding her nuts, cat food and eggs (which btw should I boil? I haven’t so far). The thing is, I’m moving to a new place in March about 2,3 km away from my current address. I’m kinda entertaining the idea of “taking her with me”. And I believe I read somewhere that, if you accompany the giving of food with a sound you can upon relocation use that specific sound to call them. My question is: How exactly do I go about that? Do I wait until I see her around, then put the boombox on the terrace and then the food? I have to say that I’ve been doing it the other way around, that is I wake up, change her water, put the food out and when she comes, she comes. And what type of sound is recommended? I had a Finnish folk song in mind.

    Moreover, should I even be doing this, or would I intervene too much in the crow’s life and nature’s cycle? An ornithologist told me you’re not supposed to feed birds from March until October, because that’s the warm season and they can very well manage by themselves.

    On a different note, can the type of crow that I mentioned form a pair with a raven? Because I sometimes see her together with this raven and at first I thought maybe they’re a couple, but then I noticed she seems a bit scared of him – hopping away from he feeder when he lands, startling when he moves this way or the other (I’m totally assuming their gender, I have no clue which one’s what).

    Thanks!

    • Hi Valentina. Personally, I wouldn’t try to relocate this crow. If it’s a territorial adult it will be fruitless to move it because it will be bound to the territory. If it’s not then you might be endangering it by bringing it into another pair’s existing territory that might act aggressively towards it. Thats said, I’m less familiar with the social dynamics of hooded crows. As for the partnership with the raven, while hooded crows and carrion crows hybridize, there’s no evidence as far as I know of them hybridizing with ravens, so I doubt that’s what’s going on. They might just both be young and unattached and hanging around the same area.

  20. Sylvia Morgan

    I love how smart corvids are and love to learn as much as I can about them!

  21. Manmeet Singh

    Why crows don’t mingle with other birds while feeding on grains? Yesterday I captured a video of it in Delhi, India. Unable to get an answer. They sat on tree crowing but hesitant to join pigeons , parrots & peacock in eating grains near car park .

  22. Garth Cummings

    What can lead crows to establish a new roost?

    There’s a strip mall across from Santa Clara University whose parking lot is now home to dozens of crows in every tree at night.

    There are far fewer people in the area now because of the pandemic. Could that explain it?

    • Hi Garth, it likely has more to do with changes in the vegetation structure than with the pandemic. But we really don’t know much about how crows choose roosting sites or why they occasionally move.

  23. Terry Lee Siverly

    I am so fascinated with crows. I feed them several times a day. I think they follow me when I leave my house to meet friends at a café just blocks away. My friends are skeptical. Especially if I’m at an outside table. I see them staging in tall trees with a clear view of me at the table. I only need to look up over my shoulder into the trees. I’m not sure how many times it’ll take to convince my friends? I’m so glad to know that if I reduce the amount of food they won’t starve. At this time I’m providing 40lbs of dog food every 4 days. That’s about my limit but I’m such a push over.

    • Hi Terry, I strongly encourage you to reduce the amount of food you are providing. A handful of food a day is plenty, I promise they won’t starve! Feeding them too much can cause both ecological and human conflicts that we should strive to avoid. Still, I appreciate the desire you have to keep them happy!

  24. Hello-

    I just had a friend send me a current picture of a caramel crow in the Seattle area. I’m wondering whether it was the same one you had happened on. (I know you can’t answer that ) 😊

  25. Etoile

    Hello!
    Thanks for your work!
    I would like to know, can we use your photos of crows as profile pictures, please?
    Best regards

  26. Patrick Hollister

    I saw a brown crow this afternoon. Is the a hybrid of the American Crow? A different species? A mutation? It’s face was black. It was pecking the grass for bugs like other American crows around it

  27. Holly

    In the large oak tree behind our home every year a crow will sit and just caw at perfectly timed intervals ALL DAY. Trying to understand why, is it mating, hungry baby, warning others?? Any ideas that might satisfy my curiosity would be greatly appreciated.

  28. nathan white

    Hello! I had a question about crow nesting. I’ve noticed my two crow friends (Bernard and Florence) doing some behavior that leads me to believe that they’re nesting. They’re always together so I’m fairly convinced they’re a mating pair, and they’ve been flying in and out of a bushy tree near my house.

    I think that their babies may have been born today- there’s a huge group of crows making a big ruckus and flying in and out of the bushy tree, in contrast to a normal day when its only my two crow friends vising me.

    My question is, do you think my assumptions are correct? And if they did have babies, do you know when I should expect to see them visiting me?

    Thanks for your time and I appreciate/admire your work! (-:

  29. Sean Ganance

    hello. I am beginner “researcher” and I am interested in researching the relationship corvids can have with humans and exactly how that looks/works. I am wondering if you could help me by giving me some information on groups doing research on this or if there is a way I could conduct my own study

  30. Darlene Reardon

    Love our crows. Grandmas always said to take care of them. (Hupa/Pomo) We received an old metal bottle one time! We were so happy!. We usually get little white pebbles. Amazing birds. Thanks for your time.

  31. John Darin Miller

    My wife recently witnessed several crows taking hard pieces of bread and dipping it them in water and then consuming them. Was wondering if this is something you’ve seen? Im guessing they by chance found that it made it easier to eat, being that i can’t think of a situation that they would have witnessed it and therefore mimicked it. Just curious.

    John Miller/Denver Colorado

  32. Karen Hancock

    I have a crow story for you. A crow family has been nesting in my yard every summer for four or five years. Protecting their nest from predators also protects my Runner ducks so they are welcome to share the duck food and claim any stray eggs my girls lay during the day. I also give them their own mealworms when the ducks get their treat. The crows have been very curious about my girls over the years, investigating their house and keeping track of their activities. This year we got a drake to head the flock. He’s a horny thing and his love making is a little rough. He’ll chase a girl around, grab her neck, throw her to the ground and mount. This evening a crow happened to be watching this event and apparently didn’t approve. It flew down and pulled Soda Quacker’s tail until he stopped. After chasing the crow off Soda went back to finish the job, but the crow flew back and repeated its attack! It went on like this until the other ducks ran over and outnumbered the crow. It looked very much like the crow was trying to protect my duck! Is it possible?

    • I think it’s more likely that the crow with simply excited by the commotion and was just getting in on the excitement or that it was hoping the female was dead and trying to distract the male so it could feed. BUT that said…anything is possible and maybe the crows have developed some kind of bond with the ducks!

  33. Vanessa Andrews

    Hello! I fell in love with my local family of crows and made the mistake of feeding them for most of the year. It is now nesting season and for the first time ever they are calling to each other at night – often around my house – just one or two screaming to another crow almost too far off to hear. Usually between 3am and 6am. It has been a total nightmare and I feel responsible and I’m sure my neighbors think I am, too. They seem to be bothered by something, they are not looking for food and they are not calling to me. They totally ignore me if I go out to get them to stop. It’s like they’ve gone mad and I can’t help but feel I somehow empowered them to feel comfortable enough to make so much noise. Is there anything I can do?

    • Hi Vanessa. So good news bad news. First, the reason they are hanging out near your house at all hours is because that’s where the nest is. The good news is that there’s no reason to assume that they nested near your house because you feed them. It’s very unlikely that your concern that you’ve emboldened them is true. Many a crow feeder is disappointed to find that “their” pair chose to nest elsewhere and many a crow ignorer/hater is surprised to find they nested in their backyard. In the urban and suburban setting, precise nestling locations have less to do with food and more to do with the availability of appropriate vegetation. So you can disabuse yourself of that notion that you’re responsible for this (which even your direct experience of being ignored suggests you’re not). The bad news then of course is that there’s nothing you can do about this. This is just what crows do during the breeding season. It’s just a matter of waiting it out and perhaps working to remind your neighbors that our neighborhoods are shared spaces with families of the non-human kind too.
      Cheers,

  34. I have two fledglings that have been in our fields for a couple of days. they have just ventured onto the road and one of them has been killed. As this is on a bad bend. I have brought the other one onto our yard, which is between the field and the road. The yard is quiet and I have put the fledgling in a safe place where the Mum can see it. I am concerned that as the evening comes though the yard is very open. Would it be better if I put it back in the field with the long grass for safety? I haven’t intervened or fed it apart from picking it up with some gloves on to transport it off the busy road. Thanks in advance

    • Hi Lindsy, this is a tough call. At this point I would err on the side of interfacing with it as little as possible rather than to guess at what the best spot for it to be is. if your yard is open then it will leave if it needs to. I wish it good luck!

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