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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!

 

489 responses to “Home

  1. Devon Eastland

    I just heard about six blue jays calling like mad in my backyard (Holden, MA) and went to see if I could figure out what was up. The object of their interest seemed to be a gray squirrel that had recently been killed, lying on the top of a log, throat torn out, but otherwise intact. We have red tailed hawks and foxes in the yard. No idea how Mr. Squirrel met his end why the jays were so upset, but I thought of you and your work! Thanks for everything you do!

    Devon

  2. Paula Marr

    I have spent many years studying their behavior. I have 4 generations that I feed everyday. During winter months I go through approximately 70lbs of cat food a month. Breeding and fall I supplement with fruits and horse grain. They recognize me when I’m within easy 5 miles from home and they let me know!! I love every spring when I meet the next generation I KNOW ME BABIES LIKE THEY KNOW ME AND YES THEY ARE HIGHLY INTELLIGENT!!!! I’ve watched them use things & solve something’s beyond my comprehension. I may sound crazy but I’ve always felt a respect and a connection with them. Not only have I been opportunities to watch my four generations at my current location but I’ve ALWAYS watched,learned and fed them for well over 25years they are the one of my life that I feel blessed to have them in my life❤️❤️❤️❤️ Not to mention that my neighbors have no moles because my crows eat the bugs & worms that attract them. That’s my story and I wouldn’t change anything!!! Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story!!!

  3. Susan S.

    At sunset, the resident crows in the neighborhood’s tall trees in Northern California, have a burst of activity where they fly from one tree to another, seeming to visit different trees (different families?). The flying is impressive as well as the crowd aspect. Any insights into this behavior?

    • Sounds like typical pre-roosting activity, which is admittedly a big hole in our understanding. There is a group at UW Bothell that is working on better understanding the function of pre-roost gatherings. Hopefully they make some headway!

  4. Sylvia Freeman

    I have a question. The other day I saw a murder of Crows, maybe 25 or so, sitting in a yard. Three of them had their wings fully extended, sitting upright, in irregular three lines, one in each line. The others were sitting close by or walking around the ones with outspread wings. I was driving so couldn’t stop and take photos but the image stays with me. Do you have any insights to this behavior?

  5. Glassy C.

    I am so sorry for such a morbid question, but does anyone know if it’s common behavior for crows to leave the carcass of their young in someone’s yard? This is the third time in the past month we’ve seen a young female bring an almost mummified youngling down and leave it on our front bench. It’s honestly quite sad, and this all started out of nowhere, is there anything we can do?

    • You’re in the right place for morbid questions. It’s common that birds will eject dead/weak nestling from the nest, but what you’re describing is something very different since it’s not the breeding season and these are not fresh carcasses. I need to know more information to make an informed guess as to what’s really going on. For example, you said it was a young female, how do you know? Are you sure the dead baby is a baby crow and not some other bird? Would you be able to provide photos of the bodies? I don’t mean to imply that your interpretation of things is wrong, but I’ve learned over the years that double checking all the details is the best first place to start.

  6. Valerie Tomlin

    I have cultivated a relationship with a family of crows where I live in Jacksonville, FL. I have observed them burying the raw peanuts I put out for them. The peanuts grow in our garden and yards in the neighborhood. I am wondering if that is their intent? When I feed them roasted peanuts, they eat them. Has anyone else noticed them “planting” crops before? Is it possible crows are capable of an agrarian society given the means?

    • Hi Valerie, what you’re seeing is called caching. That’s when animals bury food for later use. This is a common behavior across corvids. Crows are an example of an opportunistic casher, which means they bury excess food but don’t rely on that food for later and most of it never gets recovered. Pinyon jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, and Canada jays are all examples of obligate cachers which means they rely on their food stores come winter and recover almost all of them. The fact that you see them cache raw nuts but not the roasted ones is either a coincidence or a product of confirmation bias. I’m sure if all the cheetos they planted in our gutters grew into trees though they would figure out how to farm 😉

  7. George Burnstein

    In the past 2-3 weeks I have experienced a major increase in the number of crows that come for a little snack time. There is a consistent group of about 20…now Im getting about 60+… there seem to be three groups that chase each other around… a lot of fighting when they fly over to me… is it the change in seasons or is this normal. Sitka, Ak. UAS campus..
    Also.. normally there are a few established raven pairs that will come down and take some peanuts along side of the small original crow group… now they have moved about 50 yds away and will not come anywhere near the crow riot. George B

    • Hi George! I just gave a talk in Sitka few months ago, I hope you were able to attend! Sounds like a seasonal thing. Crows group up more in the winter. And it doesn’t surprise me the ravens are staying the heck away. Crows attack ravens and 60 against 2 are not great odds!

      • George BURNSTEIN

        Was at your Sitka talk… have painted eyes on the back of my motorcycle helmet… although my “friends” would never swoop at me I hope

  8. Dan

    Hi Kaeli, love the blog!

    I wanted to feed my local crows and see the “food-on-a-string” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuPL5Vb0jkw ) retrievals in action, so I built a simple platform for peanuts and tied peanuts to the end of a couple strings (pic: https://i.imgur.com/0z5dIVK.jpg ). As you can see though, instead of crows, I got blue jays!

    I’ve been feeding the blue jays for a while now, but so far they haven’t figured out how to pull up the string with food. During feedings, they’ll sometimes swoop down to try and grab the peanuts out of the air (unsuccessfully), but mostly they just ignore them. I’ve read that blue jays are intelligent, but haven’t seen anything about their problem-solving ability in lab experiments like we see so commonly with crows. Could you speak at all to the intelligence of blue jays and how they compare to crows? I’m particularly interested in their problem-solving abilities as well as whether or not they remember faces like crows do.

    Thanks!
    Dan

    • Hi Dan! You know, I haven’t come across much work with blue jay cognition and as I have spent very little time around them I don’t have much of a frame of reference personally. I can tell you though that American crows are also really bad at the string-pull test.

    • Hi Dan! You know, I haven’t come across much work with blue jay cognition and as I have spent very little time around them I don’t have much of a frame of reference personally. I can tell you though that American crows are also really bad at the string-pull test.

      • crowmignon

        Hello Kaeli –

        About the string test – at least one crow (Northwestern crow) that comes to my balcony has mastered it, and it only took him three tries to figure it out.
        Not sure if this is of interest or not.

        I’d put the treat-ball out a couple of days before, and some of the crows had just become comfortable with it – this is the first time it rolled over the edge as far as I know.
        I *love* his ‘expression’ of dismay when it rolls over, and the way he seems to thoughtfully examine the situation (not that I’m projecting or anything).

        FWIW, I hadn’t given them any tasks involving string yet, so I was pretty impressed with how quickly he figured out that he needed to hold the string to pull it up the rest of the way.

        I’d love to hear any thoughts or observations you have about his behavior.

        Thanks for running this blog and sharing your knowledge!
        Keith

      • Hi Keith, I can’t seem to get the link to work. Feel free to try and post it to the Corvid Research facebook page!

      • crowmignon

        Oh dear, I’m making a complete mess of this – sorry!
        (Don’t have a facebook account – it creeps me out 😉 )
        The video is definitely public. Does this link work?

      • crowmignon

        Ackk! wrong link to the video!

        How do I edit a reply?!??!

  9. Kevin Wilkinson

    Hi. Do you have any contacts of researchers in or close to Portsmouth, NH or York, ME? I’m interested in volunteering so that I might learn about crow behavior in the wild. Thanks for your work, Kevin

  10. Cedric

    Hello, I’m a construction supervisor and back in October 2018, I started building a new garage for the maintenance of heavy machinery on junkyard site. A year later, we just delivered the building to the client and are working on resolving a few minor issues and a major one. In July I noticed a leak from the roof. I went on the roof to try and find the source but could not find it. Two weeks later when I came back from vacation, I went back on the roof in the hope of finding the leak. As I got on the flat roof, I quickly saw the problem. A roof that was only a few months old now had over 100 holes in it. What on earth happened during the two weeks I was gone??? Looking at the holes, I came to the conclusion that it was caused by birds, as crazy as it may seem! First experts we talked to said it could not be caused by birds, but the pictures I got from the hunting cameras I installed on the roof proved them wrong. There is depending on the day, somewhere between 5 to 12 crows hanging around on the roof, eating the calking, the roof membrane and the insulation. Different so called experts tried to give us some explanations, ranging from the crows doing this for fun to them eating the roof because the products probably contain silica. The damage is upwards of 150 000$ and we have to find a solution to fix the problem. We dont know for sure if changing the roofing material will fix it or if we are better of trying to get rid of the crows. So far the experts say we are really unlucky and got stuck with one of the smartest birds out there. Most solutions that would work to scare away other species would not work or may only work for a short period of time until they figure it out. Being located on a junkyard attracts a ton of different species and in large quantities. Recent sightings of crows in the area puts the local population at over 100 individuals. One of the brought up solutions that im not in favour for, would be to try and educate the local population by killing a few individuals and to show them that the location is unsafe. This is where your insight come in. Can we really educate the local population, whether is it by killing one or a few, or by some other passive way? And would the effects last? I dont like the idea of killing one and im also scared of the bird’s reaction to the situation. After all, they already did a ton of damage without us even provoking em. Can we even outsmart this smart bird?

  11. Linda Pulford

    Hi, I am a volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center in CT. We have a non releasable American Crow (Eddie) and he is very shy. Since he will be a permanent resident, my job is to ‘socialize’ him and get him as comfortable as possible with us. He hides behind a stump whenever anyone enters his enclosure. I have been working with him for about 2 months and now he will consistently come out and eat a live roach (very attractive) from a bowl when I offer it to him and he will comfortably hang out for about 20 minutes hopping about with me while I am standing still about 8 feet from him. For the other care givers, he still hides when they are caring for his enclosure or bringing him food. I am his safe person. So, now that he is getting comfortable with me, I am trying to figure out next steps. Can you suggest a logical next step for Eddie and me? Eventually, I would like to get him to perform a simple trick or just sit on a glove. Thanks!!!, Linda

  12. Mary Lou Kandigian

    Back in the fall of 1995, my preschool daughter and I witnessed a crow funeral in our front yard. It lasted more than fifteen minutes and seemed to be ceremonial rather than a warning. The dead crow was under a large spruce tree and the other crows seemed to be getting close to the dead one and paying their respect. Then some of the crows picked up evergreen beaches from the ground and covered the dead body. There seemed to be a watch of some sort where some birds stayed near the body for a long time. My daughter and I watched fro
    Inside our minivan for at least half an hour. We didn’t want to get out and disturb whatever was going on. It was fascinating to watch. I wish we phone video cameras back then! Not many people believed is when we related what we had seen. After hearing you on the Short Wave podcast, I don’t feel crazy any more.😁

  13. We have a cabin at 9,500 ft in southern Colorado. It has been there for 13 years. This summer we had a bird attacking every window on the ground floor (7 large windows total) leaving the windows looking like a Jackson Pollock canvas . I thought it was a blue bird – as they are very territorial during nesting. In July we noticed a raven tapping at the window, then later that weekend a screen was ripped. I still thought it was a blue bird, since I did not think ravens would fight their own reflection. Last weekend we actually caught a raven in the act. It had been fight itself for long enough to have left blood on the window and on the porch. Is this normal behavior? How can we encourage it to stop?

    • Ravens are both highly territorial and bad at mirror tests (as are most birds/corvids) so no, it’s not unusual. You need to stop or break up the reflection. You can films that apply to your windows and look more opaque from the outside but transparent from the inside. Or you can just put up black paper (but on the outside not the inside). Just don’t go the UV route since most corvids are unique among songbirds for their inability to detect UV.

  14. Liz Ramsden

    I have a young son (7) who is particularly interested in crows. We have raccoons and crows in our neighborhood, and my boy is fascinated by their interactions. The raccoons are frequently trying to nap in the trees in our backyard and the crows come make a racket until they leave. He’s asking me how he can learn more about crows. He’s a really observant kid and I would love to foster his interests.

    I was wondering if you know of any outreach group in Seattle that works with young kids to help them learn about the natural world and birds or crows in particular?

  15. Joe Garrow

    I’ve lost out twice to attend your special presentation on corvids. I get the notice, but within a few minutes all of the tickets seem gone.
    If another presentation is being planned, please estimate in what month it might occur. I’ll really watch for it.
    Thank you.

  16. tara

    I dunno if you’ll see this or have time to reply, but I have a question about crows near the UW. I catch the bus near montlake, and i’ve noticed one or two crows who will happily eat out of my hand if i’m carrying (unsalted, unflavored) nuts. Is it likely these crows are this way because of habituation to researchers and such? I’ve befriended a lot of crows vie feeding, but even individuals i’ve known since fledglinghood won’t eat out of my hand!

    • Hi Tara, no research wouldn’t be the cause here. We keep a firm distance between ourselves and our subjects. These are either released, imprinted crows, or someone in the neighborhood has been conditioning them for years.

  17. Becky

    Hello, Dr. Swift.
    I’m a Wildlife Rehabilitator in Oregon. Two months ago I got in a crow who had an advanced case of bumblefoot, and the feet were deformed. I lanced the abscesses, soaked daily in Epsom salts and administered antibiotics for a month. The bumblefoot has cleared up, but the feet are still deformed. He has been in a flight cage for a month now. He can perch well with one foot, but not so well with the other. He doesn’t walk well. He can fly down and pick up food, but doesn’t walk more than a few steps without wobbling and almost falling. I am torn about releasing him, as I’m not sure if he can make it in the wild. How important is the ability to walk to a crow? The decision to release him or put him to sleep really hinges on this question. Thank you so much for any advice.

    • Hi Becky, walking is crucial for a crow as that is how nearly all foraging is done. If you haven’t made a decision yet let me know and I can put you in contact with a very accomplished corvid rehabber that may be able to offer more specific advice.

  18. Elisabeth Sjöberg, Surrey, UK

    Hi Kaeli Swift! As a dedicated crowcrazy/corvidophile, I love your fab blog. Thanks for sharing your extensive knowledge and making it a pleasurable and fun read too.
    Are you going to share your research into Canada Jays on this blog? I hope so!
    I have a couple of questions concerning young crows and roosting:
    1. How old would a fledged crow be before it goes to the roost with its parents? When the young are fledged (but not yet flying well) are the parents spending the night in the territory near it or flying of to the common roost?
    2. Here in the UK at this time of year (early December) my local crow family, “Kraka”, “Krok” and 2 youngsters go of to the roost at 4 PM and arrive back in the morning at 7.30 AM for breakfast(cashews) with me, a magpie and 2 jackdaws. This is a very long night. Just like I can not sleep 15 hours in a row, I guess that the same goes for crows? So what happens during these long nights? Do the crows wake up and socialize like humans did in medieval times, when people slept in 2 periods during the night? Are there sound recordings from crows roosts?
    I would love if you have some input concerning this.
    Kind Regards.

    • Hi Elizabeth! Let me take this one by one.

      1) By fall they can go to the roost. So about three months after fledgling. I haven’t tracked this personally, but it squares with when we see the roosts increase tremendously in size. The parents do not go to the roost while they have fledglings AFAIK.
      2) A big part of the early evening is spent socializing. It’s not until well after dark that any sleeping happens. I don’t know whether they wake and socialize during the night but I have never heard this. Good questions! Now I want to double check with my friends that have observed roosts.

      • Elisabeth Sjöberg, Surrey, UK

        Thank you so much! Very useful. Nice to know that the parents stay near their fledgelings during the night. Good parenting!
        Concerning giving “my” crows a gift for the holidays: Would it be ok to buy some berries? I was thinking blackberries or blueberries, would this be good?
        Happy Solstice to you and thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  19. Victoria Grossack

    I understand that some species of birds swallow small stones in order to help digest their food in their gizzards. Do corvids do this?

  20. Eleanor

    Two years ago I started to fed crows in my back yard. About 3 months later (Christmas Day) a murder of crows (close to 100) landed on my front and back yard. They were not looking for food but just sort of looking around. We have a family of six crows in the lot next to us and a couple of ravens across the street. We live near Mount Saint Vincent University that has thousands of crows that live near by for close to 100 years. I was wondering if you could explain their action on that day. It was truly amazing!!!!

  21. Elisabeth Sjöberg, Surrey, UK

    A Happy New Year to Kael!i Thanks for all the corvid knowledge and fun you share with us on your blog!
    Also a Happy New Year to all my fellow crowcrazies. Peace and fun to all birds and their human friends.

  22. SB

    Years ago I lived in a 3rd floor apartment that was on the edge of a huge city cemetery. Thousands of crows roosted there every night. One evening, before they’d settled in for the night, we heard what sounded like a short burst of heavy rain, even though it was perfectly clear out. We went outside and discovered that ALL of the crows had seemingly defecated at once- bird poop EVERYWHERE! Never happened again that I know of while we lived there. Is there an explanation for this synchronized pooping??!

  23. Susan Seluga

    I regularly feed my neighborhood crows and this past spring I supplied food for a couple to feed their babies. Several weeks later, it looked like the parents dropped off their new kids at my yard along with an older sibling (?). The young ones really couldn’t fly well and sat on the fence the entire day. Once in a while a parent would come by and the young ones would clamor for food. I had thrown out food and I remember the parent would drop down into the yard and squawk a signal for the young ones to come down and they would. The parent would pick up food and the young ones would put up a fuss to be fed, but the parent wouldn’t feed them. They would fly off. Anyway, I don’t know if the young ones were brought to my yard because it was friendly place, or if because it had food or both? Were the parents trying to teach them how to get food?

    I feed the crows everywhere I go. They recognize me and my car wherever I am at work. I used to have to call them to come for breakfast but now they have sentries on the lookout since I have to park in different places every day. I feed them at the grocery store. If I see some on the side of the road while driving, I’ll throw out a handful of peanuts for them.

    I love all the corvids. I miss the red-winged blackbirds that used to come to my yard when I lived in New Mexico.

    • Susan Seluga

      Also, I can tell I have many young ones in my yard this winter. If they don’t recognize a piece of food, they are afraid of it. Sometimes they will come to peck at it and if it moves because of their “peck” they jump back in alarm. They are also very wary of me in that they won’t fly down to the peanuts until I’m in my car and begin to drive off. I watch them in my rearview mirror. There’s always that one crow, however, who defies my presence and swoops in and grabs the food. I want to know that crow. 🙂

  24. SteveC

    I’ve developed an interest in crows over the past several months. A few things I’ve noticed are: 1. One crow will perch on my fence and start cawing to get my attention inside the house. I’ll throw a few handfuls of peanuts (in shell-unsalted) out there. The crow will fly off to the woods without taking any of peanuts, but will return in a few minutes with the other 4 crows in its family I assume, then all will feed (or fly off) with their peanuts. 2. There is one crow (I assume one) that seems to like to come very close to my back door, maybe 6 or 7 feet away from me and starts cooing like a dove in different tones. This is while there is food (peanuts or unsalted cashews) on the ground. They also love red grapes, holding them down, spearing them and ripping them apart for a snack. 3. Probably about 90% of the time, they will fill up with 3 or 4 peanuts and fly off, and the other 10%, hold the peanut down and spear it to eat the nut inside. May be nothing new, but just sharing my observations as a new crow watcher !

  25. David Goodier

    Hello! Love your work and I was hoping you could back up a hypothesis I have.
    I live in Terre Haute, IN and we are home to one of the nation’s largest crow roosts in the US around this time of year. Like most other cites that have these large concentrations there are some problems that arise that I’m sure you’re more than well aware of.
    Terre Haute has tried all the usual tricks to scare them away from areas that are an issue but have ultimately settled with “crow cannons”. (Roughly twenty or more loud rockets fired into the air in various parts of the downtown at various parts of the day to scare off large groups.) They work about as well as you’d think. In that it doesn’t and it terrifies the local pets and people. It has been business as usual to the crows for years.
    SO, instead of constantly underestimating the intelligence of our corvid pals don’t you think a more transactional approach would work? I’ve been kicking around the idea that sending a car that feeds them hot shelled peanuts (or whatever is cheap and they love. Kibble?) instead of firing the cannons. Over time they remember the cars and learn to follow them to locations where there aren’t as many cars or pedestrians and they get to eat. Or something along those lines. Might have to show them you’re cool first.
    I figure that even if it only teaches them to leave the roost for a bit it does the same thing without all the noise pollution. Thoughts? Thanks!

    • Hi David, I certainly think baiting crows to a more ideal roosting area would be worth a try. BUT you would first need to select a spot that would make an appropriate roost location and then you could get to the business of moving the roost. I actually think this would be worth investing research into because if you could create roosting habitat (there’s sill a lot of mystery around how crows select the exact spot) then you could incorporate that into city planning for the purpose of long-term crow harmony.

  26. Brandon

    I have been feeding a mating pair of crows (best I can tell) that visit my work most days for a few months now (unsalted walnuts mostly, fresh fruit sometimes) and I have noticed an interesting behavior.
    When only the female is around and I toss out some food, she will fly down from her tree and hop around the food, but not eat any. She will then caw for the male, sometimes for several minutes until he returns. If he does not appear right away she will usually fly back up to the tree to continue calling.

    Only when the male arrives will they both pick up the food and move away to eat.

    If it’s just the male, he will eat alone, not calling or waiting for the female.

    I’m not sure what the benefit of this behavior would be. Safety? Do crows have a hierarchal system?

  27. Cheeri Chapman

    OKAY NOW… The Ides of March is official over! 🥱
    Here is something VASTLY more interesting than Covid-19

  28. Jill

    The crows in my neighborhood are very upset with me…. I’m hoping you can offer some advice.
    We forgot a bag of trash on our porch for a day. I carried it to the cans when I got home from work, but not before it had been picked. Around 30 minutes later I ran to my car and noticed bird droppings on my car. No biggie. The next morning, there were droppings all over my car. This was a week ago, and I still find bird droppings on my car door handles and my windshield every morning.
    One particular crow throws a fit every time it sees me. How can I make them happy again? Or at least bribe them to stop targeting my car?

  29. Victoria Grossack

    Just a remark – unfortunate how similar “corvid” is to “covid” – may everyone stay well.

  30. I have no doubt that corvids are smart enough to pass over piñon pine nuts that did not develop, I (and a blog reader) just wonder how they know. I would like to publish your response in a blog comment, if that is OK.
    https://www.southernrockiesnatureblog.com/2020/03/pinones-1-smart-birds-how-do-they-know.html

    • Hi Chas, just to be clear, are you asking to publish (credited) my response to the question you just asked on your own blog? I don’t know the answer off the top of my head but I’ll do some searching while I await your reply.

  31. I have a crow question, the crows in my neighborhood have been very active past few days, probably time of year with nest building, etc. amongst all the cawing and flurry of activity there has been a steady caw from one crow up in a tall tree (Im guessing, thats where its coming from ), but I cant see him/her there is a nest up there but dont know if coming from there.
    The caw has been continuous and non-stop for over 24 hours, it is a single caw with three seconds in between, I heard it before I drifted off to sleep, I heard in middle of night when I got up to get a glass of water, I heard it first thing when I woke up, I heard it all day and all night again, and now it is morning and im still hearing it, it never changes pitch, or tone. What does this mean?
    Thank you in advance for your answer.

  32. Dr. Garry Kraft

    Do crows recognize individual’s cars?

    I have about 3-4 Crows that I regularly feed unsalted peanuts and other treats at the marina where I keep my boat. They know me and when I’m walking down to the boat they come perch on the surrounding masts cawing and waiting for me, or when I’m in the boat make enough noise until I respond.

    I’ve noticed though when pulling into the parking lot they will be flying down to my boat and waiting for me. I am sure they cannot see me, the driver, from that distance and I’m assuming it’s that they recognize my
    car(s), I have about 2-3 different vehicles that I use regularly.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  33. Steve C

    Spoiled crows….most of the time I give them peanuts (in shell) when they come cawing for my attention, but sometimes they stay perched on the fence, keep cawing and ignore the peanuts totally. Then I’ll put out a bunch of red grapes and they’ll all stop cawing, swoop down and enjoy them “dining in” or most of the time load up with 2 or 3 big grapes for take-out. They have trained me well.

  34. June

    A crow has built a nest right in front of my bedroom window, and next to my balcony. I know crows can be aggressive when they have fledglings, and because of Corvid-19, I’m going to need my balcony space. I easily reached over with a broom handle and destroyed the eggless nest, without the parents to witness.
    My question is, will this become a battle of destroying their nest as they try to rebuild?
    I don’t want them to keep expending energy in a spot where I won’t let them build. It would also be a matter of time for them to catch me doing it, and creating crow enemies which I also don’t want.

    • Hi June,

      First for other readers, it is allowed under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (under which crows are protected) to destroy eggless nests. Once they laid though you are in violation with the law.

      Ok back to you, June. The answer to your question really depends on the pair. Some birds will find a new location right away while others are hellbent on the spot they’ve picked. A good way to thwart them is to temporarily (like a week or so) make your balcony inhospitable to building. Can you put something in the spot where they were building? Obviously this needs to be something they couldn’t readily tamp down or build right on top of. So something with an irregular shape would be ideal.

      Good luck!

      • June

        They tried rebuilding, and I interrupted them. I came out onto my balcony, and they took off to the power lines across the street, watching me. I made eye contact, leaned over to the tree they were trying to build on, and shook the tree really really hard. All while making eye contact with them.

        They stopped trying to build there. Smart creatures.

  35. Hi Kaeli, I’m having trouble finding information on a specific behavior I observed, and I’m wondering if you could help me or point me toward some resources that might help. I recently started feeding a group of 4 crows in my backyard (at least I think it’s the same 4 crows). The other day, I went out to see if they were around so I could feed them, and one crow showed up and sat on a snag in our yard about 20-30 feet from me. (I’m gonna call him a he for simplicity, but I have no idea what sex the crow was). For probably 2 minutes he kept doing the following behavior: he would make a little click sound 4 times in a row and then bow and fan out his tail feathers. The sound was almost like a quick little tap sound. It was relatively quiet, but I could still hear it. I couldn’t see any other crows around and he appeared to be looking right at me. After a couple minutes, he flew to the roof of our neighbor’s shed where he was a bit closer to me and did the same thing for one to two more minutes, and he still appeared to be looking at me. I had only fed these crows (or any crows) twice, so it seems like there isn’t enough history for him to have been begging, though I suppose it’s possible. I watched him and talked to him a bit and threw him a peanut, but he didn’t go after it. After he was done with his display, he flew away and not long after 4 crows showed up. All 4 crows ate. I’m assuming the crow that was bowing is part of that group of 4, but I really couldn’t say for sure. Any insight you have would be greatly appreciated! I love crows, and I’m excited to get to know the ones in my neighborhood!
    Thank you. (Sorry if this a duplicate, I was having some issues with my computer.)

    • Hi Fred, so they behavior you describe is pretty common. There’s one publication that states it’s actually a female specific call, but I’m not sure I believe that. It’s some kind of contact call, but I can’t tell you what it’s for. I agree thought that it’s unlikely for you to have a rapport with this bird for it to be calling to you. And that’s not how they beg for food.

      What makes this behavior so hard to explain is that we see them do it in all kinds of contexts. For example, I saw them do it when they were with their mates, when they were alone, while feeding, after preening, after funerals…it’s a big list.

      Sorry I can’t be more helpful here. But the good news is maybe you’ll be the one to come up with some good ideas about it ! 🙂 Enjoy the crows

  36. Dr. Garry Kraft

    Do crows “play” with other species of birds?

    Surrounding the parking lot at our marina are a number of trees. There were several crows in one tree, and the adjacent tree had about 3-4 pigeons. A pigeon would fly out from their tree and immediately be chased by a crow. They would fly an extended loop and then back to their adjacent trees. Then a crow would take off, using the same trajectory to be followed by a pigeon.

    This particular behavior went on for about 10 trials, pigeon/crow then crow/pigeon. There was no food involved and no aggressive behavior seen, just chasing. Everything then kind of petered out and the birds all went their separate ways.

    Play?

    • They do, but it’s often not clear if the animals they are playing with are reciprocating. I’ve seen a number of games with pigeons that were quite fun for the crows, and not particularly fun for the pigeons.

  37. verukasalt2525

    My sister and I live in two different states (NC and FL) but were talking last night and happened to both notice an increase in crows in our yard/neighborhood lately and wondered if there is any correlation with the COVID-19 pandemic? I know there is less air traffic, probably a lot less air pollution, less cars and people out and about – is this causing an increase in bird movement in general and the crows are just loud and noticeable? thanks for your thoughts

    • It’s hard to say. It’s possible that an absence of people or a re shifting of where people (and their trash) are could be changing their movements. Might also be a coincidence. I’m ill prepared to say!

  38. Nelson Agudelo

    I will like to send pictures of a crow’s feet that are mangled and covered entirely with a white wool like matter. He picks at these frequently.
    He visits a small feeder first in the A.M. and then other crows follow. But he always eats first and has difficulty standing.
    Pls advise as to how to post the pictures.

  39. Nicola

    Hi,
    I wonder if you can help me. I absolutely LOVE crows. I was so happy that a pair of crows began building a best in a tall tree of a garden two doors down from me a couple of weeks ago. I watched them every day busily collecting nesting material. I put some food out on my lawn for them and was lucky enough to have them drop in to eat and collect some nesting material. Yesterday I looked out my back window to see that the tree they were nesting in was being cut down! I ran round there (whilst adhering to social distancing) and told them there was a bird’s nest there so they would have to stop. They claimed they hadn’t seen anything (an obvious lie). I told them there was definitely a nest there and that it would be a criminal offence for them to continue cutting down the tree with this knowledge. They thanked me for letting them know. However, later on I saw they had continued anyway. I was devastated. The crows are still hanging about but obviously with no nest. I am still putting out food for them. I have a very large poplar tree in my garden and I wish they would nest there as I will keep them safe. However, it does not have its leaves quite yet so I don’t know if they will nest there. I’m so worried they may be due to lay eggs and have nowhere to do it. Is there any way I can help them? Is there any way I can encourage them to use my poplar tree as a home for their family?
    I would be incredibly grateful for any help you can give me.
    Best Wishes,
    Nicola.

    • Hi Nicola, I’m sorry that happened. Even if there was a way to tempt them to nest someplace specific, I would leave the renest decisions up to the birds. And don’t worry about them giving up all together this year. It’s early enough that they shouldn’t have any issue making a second attempt!

  40. Hannah

    Hello!, I have a question about those cute birdies. :^)

    I live in the bustling part of downtown Portland, OR. Ever since the coronavirus happened, the crows have been carrying on louder than I’ve ever experienced. Especially late at night / early in the morning. Do you know what could he causing it?

    Thanks!,
    Hannah

    • Hi Hannah! Well, that’s hard to say. Because of the timing there’s a good chance it has more to do with the breeding season than Coronavirus. I really can’t pretend to know!

  41. Victoria Grossack

    I have read that some birds have highly specialized tongues. For example, hummingbird tongues help them suck nectar; parrot tongues are fleshy, like ours, and that helps them mimic human sounds. Is there anything special about corvid tongues?

  42. Victoria Grossack

    The blog has an interesting article about the divergence and admixture of the northwestern and American crow “species.” I’m sure the differences are obvious for a geneticist to see, but are there differences that we poor humans can detect with our eyes? Or differences in behavior?

  43. Hi Kaeli, I’m a decolonial anthropologist who works with both Indigenous Peoples and biological scientists on our shared & differential knowledges of & relations with corvids (especially crows & ravens) and canids (especially coyotes & wolves). Been following your wonderful work, and your collaborations with John Marzluff, over last couple years. Would be interested in sharing notes on research projects at some time. You can find my contact info at Dalhousie University, Dept of Sociology & Social Anthropology.

    Thanks for keeping this blog going!

  44. Suunie Sawyer

    Hi there! I’m looking for a productive crow research project at the Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, WA. The crows that surround the campus. I Any suggestions?

  45. mrsbananaslug

    I have a thought that a neighbourhood crow does morning and evening check directly over up and down the block, counting what’s out and telling everyone. Two caws for us, none either side, then a cacophony over the houses that had adults, kids and dogs. Today one sat directly over my head and cawed two different sounds, twice. I was there with my dog. And other instances.

    Has anyone heard of this?

    I wish I were young I’d go to uni just to research this! Lol

  46. Taylor

    Hi Dr. Swift, just heard your interview on Duncan Trussell Family Hour. Thank you for being an amazing scientist and human and for sharing your research about crows. I appreciated your perspective about valuing other species not based on their similarity to us but to their diversity and value in and of themselves. Being home during this pandemic has opened my eyes to the lively, dramatic world of birds that surround us and hearing about your research was fascinating and timely. Hope you and your loved ones are well.

  47. Fiona J

    Dear Kaeli, sorry to be a pain, i dont know what Ive done! I wrote asking about the safety of grazing my much loved pet sheep under a lot of “crows nests”. You very kindly replied asking if they were crows or rooks. I posted a reply and now i. Cannot find any of this thread anywhere on your site. I dont know what i did, but anxious for an answer. So,, that is my question – safety of my sheep. In answer to you – i am sure they are rooks. The rookery is at the top of pine trees and i can easily count about 2o nests. I have been watching them for some weeks and i think they have some fledgings now as i found one one on some branches near the ground (left it alone and it disappeared). I live in a rural location on the South East coast of Scotland. Do i need to stop my sheep from grazing under or next to them. And if so, when can i let them back? It will be awkward but not impossible to move the sheep till whenever ( but preferably not forever) . They do not have lambs. 2 are huge >110 kg and the other 2 are Shetlands – about 55kg and usually very quick . I am either carrying an umbrella or wearing a Kevlar Firemans type helmet if i am in the area but no bird has tried to attack me yet. Looking forward to your advice very much. Thank you, Fiona

    • Hi Fiona! So the short answer is that if you’re confident they’re rooks I really wouldn’t worry. Rooks are primarily insectivorous and I haven’t heard stories of sheep farmers having issues with them. Even among those stories, it’s really only relevant to fresh lambs or injured adults. I would not worry!

  48. John Treble

    We have recently had a pair of crows build a nest at the top of a maritime pine tree in our garden in the South West of England. The tree is easily visible from the house, so we have had a good deal of entertainment watching their progress during the coronavirus lockdown.
    One thing we have noticed is that very often one of the crows (we think it is the male), rather than fly straight to the nest, will fly to a low branch of the tree and then one by one fly up the five or six branches to it.
    This seems like a very energetic way of getting home compared to flying. Can you think of any reason for this behaviour? Is it common? The only hypothesis I have about it, is that maybe it makes the location of the nest less obvious to predators, but if I can see the crow doing it, then so can they.
    Any thoughts?

  49. Holly Barker

    I’m in DC. We have a raven that is straight up harassing our family. Stealing groceries, perching in uncomfortably close spots, depositing litter in our gutter (nest?), and just generally freaking us out. It’s got zero fear of humans (it’s bizarre). I feel like we did something to piss it off, and I have no idea how to make peace with it. Is there a way I can get this bird to back off? (This feels really silly, but I am 100% serious.)

    • I’m guessing there’s a nest nearby. Since the problem is that it’s super desensitized I don’t suggest feeding it. It doesn’t seem like it’s actually been physically aggressive though. Like are you getting dive bombed or it’s just a big bird that’s too close but is generally chill?

      • Holly Barker

        Thanks for getting back! No direct dive bombs yet. It just lands nearby and mean mugs us.

      • Then as long as you don’t feed or ask aggressively I don’t see any reason of things to escalate. Many people would be envious of your opportunity to closely observe this bird. Maybe you will come to see it as a positive?

  50. Katherine Schall

    I have a photo of a crow that has frequented our deck. He has a round knob, perhaps a growth on the top of his beak. May I send the photo to you for identification? Location is Crockett, California, the San Francisco Bay area

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