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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!

 

237 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. Annette Schendel

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

  21. 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

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