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!

775 responses to “Home

  1. Clay Kemper

    Do crows learn from their mothers how to catch worms? Do they learn from observing robin’s? They are so well adapted to varied environments and eat just about anything.

    Check out that photo (I think it is real) of a crow riding on the back of a flying bald eagle. It is amazing.

    • Crows know how to forage for those kinds of food innately, but they certainly learn other foraging strategies from watching other crows! That picture is real BTW, those moments are fleeting but do happen not all that uncommonly, during a bout of harassing a raptor.

  2. 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?

  3. 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!

  4. 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?

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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?

  9. 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?

  10. 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

  11. Cameron Broderick

    I’m on the south side of Chicago in Chatham/Avalon, with a crow fledgling walking around in the yard. The parents were around all day cawing and cheering him on, and “protecting” him from me/my dog. I went on some errands and now that night is falling, mom and dad are gone. Is there anything I can/should/shouldn’t do? He is seemingly healthy and uninjured, super cute. Anyone know if mom and dad are coming back?

    • Mom and dad are coming back! Baby will take cover on the ground overnight while mom and dad stay in the trees. They will reunite in the morning. Just keep the puppo under control until baby learns to fly in a few days.

      • lisbakke

        Hello! I have been feeding 2 crows for about 6 months now in Seattle. They work cooperatively and will scare off other crows that come to our house. Is it likely they are partners?

        I’m really enjoying their company, we have a daily ritual where they come to the tree outside my window and caw to wake me up in the morning, then they join me for lunch on the deck later in the day.

        I was wondering if you have any fun ways for me to grow my relationship with them? Ways to grow our trust, or maybe things that I could slowly work on teaching them, or just generally anything of that sort! Do you have any calls that the crows know? Do they have any calls that you think might be their name for you or a greeting to you?


      • Hi! Yes they are probably partners. A fun thing to try can be to set out things for them to explore and play with the, especially the juveniles. For example small figurines made of clay or the like. You could also devise some food puzzles and see if they have any interest in that. They can be really scared of new things so don’t overdo it though. As far as calls, you won’t have much luck trying to imitate them, but they do recognize your voice and it’s possible they’ll make a special contact call for you!

    • Alafair

      The mom and dad are watching over him, many baby crows land on the ground their first flight attempt

  12. Susy Cremers

    Hello, I have just joined. I love Corvids. I am grateful for this research and your web page. I have been watching and feeding a local group for 20 years. I have only recently been able to recognize individuals due to their unusual markings, Specifically two mature crows, who are irregular but repeating visitors with white markings and there is one regular, distinguished large crow with a large lower beak. I am not sure whether he is deformed or is simply old,.He is certainly notable and a character. Yesterday I was delighted to see what I believe must be his partner and fledgling who was noticeable by its small size, awkward movements, and constant squawking at its parents. I assume it might have been its first time out of the nest. I just wanted to share that. Oh and I also wanted to share that over the two decades I have been watching I noted a decline in the local crow population of Ballydehob. Hundreds of crows would congregate outside my house every sunrise for 10 years. In 2010 this murder began to decline. For the last 10 years, I have been seen the population reduced by 90%. Now the corvids seem to mix and mingle when food is available. My visitors range from small groups of crows, Jackdaws, and the lone magpie or an odd couple of hooded crows. I live in southwest Ireland in a small village near the sea.

    • Hi Susy, sometimes post-roosting locations change. It’s possible they’ve found a spot they like better for their morning coffee. I’m jealous of your jackdaws and magpies though!

  13. Jim tully

    I love these buds!

  14. Cindy Arnett

    I have a young crow that has been in my yard for a few days and can’t seem to fly yet, it hops around and tries to fly but doesn’t seem to get more than a foot or 2 at the most. I am not sure how it got in my side back yard as it is all fenced off and a few trees around so it must have fallen into the yard from the tree above. I think the original nest is a very large tree in my neighbor’s yard as I see the mother fly from there. The mother keeps coming back every morning and several times a day to check on it and encourage it to fly and sits on top of the fence watching sometimes, and another bird will join sometimes as well. It has taken shelter near my trash can and recycling bin and I have a folded table that is near there I was planning on getting rid of and it sits on top of it most of the time and below on the ground where there is some shelter. My neighbors trimmed some trees a few days ago by the fence so there are a few branches on my side of the fence on the ground. I can see it from my bedroom and bathroom windows have gone out there times a day and checked on it and provided some water and birdseed and I read wet dog food is good too, as I have a Sun Conure in the house. I am not sure what to do as it doesn’t seem to be able to fly. How long before it will learn to fly? I have 2 small dogs and have to take them out back to do their business but I keep them away from the side yard then back in the house they go. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Hi Cindy, first thank you so much for being conscious of your pets during this time. You are a superstar neighbor and friend to wildlife!

      It should be flying within the week. Any progress since you posted this?

      • Cindy

        Yes, the little crow is now up in the tree! I I think it hopped up on top the fence and over to the other side in the front yard next door is where I think the original nest is at where the mother flew back and forth to my yard from. The tree is very tall and can be seen for a few blocks. I heard the little crows voice calling yesterday when I took my dogs out for a walk in the morning and followed the sound. I know the specific sound this little crows makes as I heard it.calling it’s mother several time each day and I learned the sound of her call. I looked up it the direction and saw it on the top of the smaller tree across the street from the original nest and it was with it’s mother and it’s sibling. The sibling have a different sound but I can tell its the sibling as they are the same size and the voices have the same level of pitch. I can hear the little crow several tines a day and in the morning it wakes me up as it did when it was in my yard. All is well with this little crow!

    • Julia Yampolsky

      Do you still have the crow?

      • Cindy

        The little crow is up in the original nest in the next door neighbors tree. I get to watch it and it’s sibling and mother playing on top of my neighbors roof which the large pine tree where the nest is located, and is very close to the roof line so they can fly to the tree and back down to the roof and to the other small trees near it. I see it walk over to my front yard occasionally by the fence where on the other side is where it hung out in my yard and I hear it calling and talking to the sibling several times during the day. 🙂

  15. Gaby

    Was given this link by a bird club, I am looking for a corvid translator? I have a raven friend (wild) who meets me daily, and though there are a large group of crows and ravens who I watch, he/she is the only one who has always done this. He flies to a piece of higher ground, and makes very low quiet, chuckling, grunting noises, whilst bobbing his head backwards and forwards repeatedly. I have only ever seen this one bird do that, he only does it when he has found me and comes close, I have never seen him doingit to another bird. (The crows are very respectful of the ravens) Is it dominance behaviour, territorial, or just chat?? I understand he has addapted it as a way to ask me for food, but what does it mean originally? It is frustrating me that i have known this bird for so long and do not understnad his basic behaviour.

    • Hi Gaby. Boy if you ever find an actual translator do let me know! In the mean time I can offer that, based on your description, it sounds like a kind of wow call. That would be helpful to know, but they use wow calls for a whole variety of purposes and I am unable to decipher what all they mean. But you’re right that it seems that in this context its is likely using it to connect with you. I receive many similar stories about crows. Wish I could be more helpful!

  16. Bob Margulis

    I have two questions. I know that different birds have different molting strategies and that our local crows are starting to molt. Could you explain their molting strategy?
    Also, I saw a crow outside the UW/ Allen Library with a red over yellow band on its left leg and a silver band on the right leg (I assume that one was a federal band). Although I was relatively close I was unable to see any indication of an alphanumeric code on the red/yellow bands. Do you know what study they might be long to?

    • Hi Bob, crows molt once they are done breeding. So if a crow is already molting then its nest probably failed. Like other songbirds, crows exhibit an annual complete, asynchronous molt.

      As for the banded crow, basically all the UW crows with a 4 band combo are from the facial recognition study from over a decade ago. In other words, you can assume any banded crow on campus is at least 13!

  17. muffy

    I have a fledgling crow in my yard that is missing an eye. I found it under the tree that the nest is in. I took it inside to look it over and cleaned the eye wound as best I could. I kept it inside and fed it until I could put a basket in the tree to keep it off the ground so my dog wouldn’t kill it. I put it out there the next day and the parents found it but didn’t seem to be feeding it. It cried for a long time and finally hopped out of the basket and wandered around the yard.

    I contacted a local wildlife rescue and they said they would probably euthanize it. Right now, it’s in a fenced area under a plum tree. The parents know where it is and will defend it but are still not feeding it. The top is open and they can go in and the baby can fly out when it’s ready.

    I put some water in with it and some scrambled eggs and canned cat food. I also scattered some corn around on the ground. So it has food and water but I’m not sure if it’s ready to eat on its own. It drinks water from the bowl but doesn’t eat. I feed it a few times a day by hand so it doesn’t starve but I don’t want to make it too tame.

    The crow nest was attacked by a hawk about 3 weeks ago which is how I assume it lost an eye, and it’s been on the ground for a week. The eye looks pretty clean now and I think it will survive. I figure the parents must have been caring for it while it was in the tree so i’m not sure what’s going on now. I see them still feeding the other babies that are in the tree. But this one cries all day and they ignore it except to defend it from me or the dogs. Is it normal at this stage for the parents to ignore it for long periods of time so it learns to eat? Or do they reject injured babies?

    I’m just not sure what the best course of action is to give it the best chance. If i let it go hungry for the whole day will it start foraging on its own? Or will it just starve and die? If the parents are defending it, does that mean they will feed it too?

    • muffy

      The baby crow hopped out of the fenced area and was sitting in the yard yelling. One of the parents came down and I thought it was going to feed it but it just grabbed the baby by the wing a couple of times and flipped it over. Then it left again. Idk what that means.

    • Hi Muffy. Unfortunately I don’t have much experience with this specific kind of situation. I’d love to know what happened though. Did the parents ever start feeding it?

      • muffy

        The crow is still out there. It perches on the basket all day and hops down to hide in the ivy at night. Parents are still paying attention to it, but I don’t think they are feeding it. It still cries for a long time before I go feed it. I see the siblings up at the top of the trees, but this one is still staying on the ground.

  18. Ryan

    Recently, I had assisted a crow several times with her fledgling.
    – First, I had to keep him safe at night in a cage, when he couldn’t get up to any safe place (lots of cats, racoon and possums are living here, plus an owl).
    – Second, she called me in after he hoped kind of far away (he was still just hoping along the ground and still very weak) – she saw me from about 500 feet away, flew to the tree branch immediately above me, cawed a couple of times and flew back where she was. When I got there I had to fend off a squirrel.
    – Third, she come to a tree over my place, calling me out loudly, and asking me to follow her, and after I did, there was a cat I had to remove, the fledgling was on a sloped tree – an easy walk for a cat.
    – Fourth, I noticed that the she brought the fledgling back to where I live (within 50 ft) as compared to where, say I saw him the last time (about 1000 feet away, different apartment complex),
    – Finally when learning to fly there was a moment he could no longer fly. I approached him and offered meal worms. Usually he loved them (during his nights with me), but this time he grabbed one and could not really get it in. I finally figured he was dehydrated and dizzy (very hot days, this is California), so I gave him water, which he drunk, and become noticeably better, ate some worms, and bounced away when she called him. She observed me feeding him the entire time from a tree nearby.

    And now that the baby is flying I think she is scolding me every time she sees me. ( I read this as scolding). She is very loud and angrily, even madly peaks the three she is on while scolding me. Surely this isn’t a sign of gratitude, is it?

    Nevertheless, she does get food from me (during the fledgling ground time I was giving her tasty pieces of lamb ribs (BBQ), and still feed her now (I only give her something once a day).

    Could you give me a clue why she didn’t seem to appreciate anything I did ? (If I am reading her signal correctly, – all though she had never dive bombed me). I am at a loss. Either this means “hello my friend”, – a very angry hello at that, or if this is scolding then why come for me all this time? Could have picked anyone else to help her. Very confused and amazed with the apparent intelligence of these beautiful birds.

    • Hi Ryan, what an interesting story. The crux of your questions seem to be: are crows capable of asking for help and are crows capable of expressing gratitude. I think the simplest explanation in both cases is no. What you interpreted as asking for help might just have been a protective parent cawing at danger and you happened to be at the right place at the right time to help. Likewise even though you did a good thing, this bird doesn’t really care. You’re still big and potentially dangerous and better safe than sorry. It’s not a very romantic answer, but it’s probably the best explanation for your experience.

  19. alicia

    I live in a rural town in central Ontario (Canada) and earlier today a young crow hopped onto my porch. It became obvious it could not get itself aloft although I do not know whether it was due to an injury or whether it was still learning to fly. I called our local animal shelter who came over right away. They found another young crow dead on the lawn about 12 feet from the porch. We began looking for a nest as I had seen a pair of crows in one particular tree in our yard earlier in the spring, before all of the leaves came in. To my sorrow, we found a dead crow hanging in the branches of a tree about 25 feet off the ground. We retrieved it and the shelter employee said it was also young and was fairly freshly dead because although it was decomposing, or had been eaten, its insides were still pink. This seems like a strange set of coincidences although perhaps the crows were still fledglings and had died relatively naturally. The surviving crow has been taken to a local bird refuge and I hope it will recover. This morning we had noticed that the crows were talking a lot more than usual, my teenager commented on this about two hours before the crow appeared on our porch. Do you have any insight on this?

    • Hi Alicia, seems like the young fledged and unfortunately just had some immediate bad luck. Only about 50% of this year’s babies will survive, and for these parents the odds were not in their favor.

  20. Stacy Reinert

    This is wonderful! I am also fascinated with crows. I have developed a wonderful relationship with my backyard crows and have gone through 2 seasons of offspring with them. I feed them eggs or peanuts everyday and love watching them. I found your blog by researching if crows mourn their family members after a street over I saw a crows had been hit by a car. The young have been social and flying all around for about a week now and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was one of “my” crows. I returned home and there is one crows in my big tree with its head down, just treating.
    Can’t wait to read all your findings. Thank you,

  21. Megan Watkins

    Hi! Thank you for your lovely research, whenever somebody is surprised that I love crows I always tell them about your experiment and about how smart these guys are! Growing up I actually had crows bring me stuff because I would regularly leave them shiny objects!

    I have a very serious question (in my world) I live in southern California and I have a massive array of birds that I love and feed. I was super duper excited when I started to get clothes in the area, so I started to leave out peanuts for them. The girls are starting to come to my yard but I am noticing that the other songbirds act super skittish and some of the smaller ones seem to have stopped coming around. I know that corrvids are scavengers / predators, but I was really hoping that there was a way I could both feed the crows and not reduce my tiny songbird population. Is it possible that separating where I feed the birds is enough? Thank you so much! I love how much you geek out about these birds.

    • Hi Megan! So in lots of places, even places with super robust crow populations (like Seattle) it’s totally possible to have a high trafficked bird feeder and regularly feed crows. How’s the native plant cover in your yard? If you’re adding a predator in the mix (which crows are and will be perceived as such by smaller birds) then it’s crucial to provide plenty of cover to the smaller birds. That can go a long way to make smaller birds less vulnerable while attending the feeder. To be clear, crows rarely take healthy birds. So when I call them a predator I’m not putting them on par with say if you had a cooper’s hawk in your yard. But it can still be enough to make other birds wary.

  22. Bill Kuhn

    On Thursday, in South Seattle/White Center, I saw a crow taunting a female duck with her four very young duckling. The duck tried to shield the ducklings, and I looked away. Next thing I knew there was a big commotion, and a crow had swooped in an carried off a duckling – I saw it dangling from the crow’s beak. I couldn’t believe it. And when everything calmed down, I saw that a second duckling was missing. Of course, mama duck continued as if nothing had happened.

    I didn’t know crows would actually attack small birds – is this common?


  23. Frank Seehale

    Appreciated your article in todays Seattle TimeS Parade Mag. I live near Hood Canal and one spring I had a mother Raven drop off her two kids near our bird feeder. They were very noisy, begging her for food but she left. So I started them on soggy dog food. Next morning they were on the deck begging loudly for breakfast, more soggy dog food. Although they could fly they stayed for several weeks, playing with our pots of flowers, tossing my drying socks around, and eating twice a day. I found if I sat quietly they would come within 8 feet of me and seemed curious when I spoke to them. One morning they were gone and haven’t returned. We do see Ravens fly bye but none have stopped for a free meal. Amazing birds and very clever. Thanks again for your research and article.

  24. Barbara Kimm

    I live on the Eastside not far from the UW and love the crow research you all do. My question is where do our local crows go in the winter. I thought they stayed locally. However, last Spring I was feeding two local crows. They were very polite, sat on my railing and asked for their food. Later they brought three crows with them and showed them where and how to ask for the food. I noticed the three were fledglings and when they were comfortable asking for food the original two never came back. They fledglings wanted food every four hours like babies but I only fed once a day. However, it became pretty pitiful when they would sit in the rain for hours and beg. One of the three never cawed, he only clucked much like a chicken. When they got a bit older I would clap and they would come for their food with the clucking crow the dominant one. This went on until October when they suddenly disappeared. No crows came to feed all winter. In May the clucking crow appeared but randomly and rarely. Almost like he just wanted to visit and he never stayed and soon I never saw him again. I recognized him because he would always cluck for me. He is gone now and I miss him

    • Hi Barbara, ours crows are resident, yes. In fact our winter populations swell with birds arriving from Northern Canada. But individually they do move around. I’m afraid I can’t tell you where your particular birds went, but it’s a question I get asked frequently so try not to take the disappearance personally.

  25. Audrey Aboulafia

    Thank you for this blog! I love corvidsand have my favourite neighborhood crew here in Magnolia! I have fed the original couple for about 5 yrs – one has a band on their leg. I can’t tell boys/girls. The banded one will “talk ” to me regularly within 4 ft on my deck. Their babies come to my yard now also for nuts. The banded crow also brings me polished rocks and sets them on my deck railing. Is that a treat or thank you? They are so smart!!!!

    • Hi Audrey! We refer to them as “gifts” but I don’t meant imply that it’s an intentional act of gratitude. I don’t know why they do it. But it feels pretty special! I can’t tell boys/girls apart either. There’s a small size difference but there’s so much variability that it’s risky to try and rely on that. Enjoy your buddies!

  26. Toby Cooper

    Hi Kaeli, I have a story for you. It relates both to your work on funerals and to Marzluff’s work on recognition.

    For introduction, I did graduate work at Michigan in the Bird Division of the Zoo Dept a long time ago. My MS thesis was on New World jays but I dropped off the PhD track after Earth Day, 1970, to go be an eco-professional in Washington DC, working for endangered species and wolves and whales and such. So I admire your accomplishments in a world of avian research that I never quite got both feet into.

    So here is my story. Way after DC, I lived in Northern CA. This was +- 15 years ago. Every day before work I would go for a run of about 2 1/2 miles. One day as I set out, I came upon a dead crow lying on its back in the road. I stopped to investigate. It was apparently just fledged out of the nest as its flight feathers were in the last stages of peeling out. Such a shame. Like you, I love crows.

    So, not wanting a zillion hungry reducer-organisms to miss out on a road kill, I picked it up by one leg and tossed it into the tall roadside grass and continued running. Big mistake. The kid’s (presumed) mamma was watching from a tree on the other side and she launched herself and all her friends at my indiscretion. The mob, led by the female who had a recognizable shape and voice, chased me for more than a mile.

    Memories came back of when I was a small boy in Connecticut and would see crows do this to a fox once in a while. But this was different. A fox is known enemy. Here, I was being held accountable for a dead baby and I was, you know, totally innocent.

    OK, there’s more. The next day I set out as usual and when I got to that same spot, mamma crow and her mob assaulted me again, all the way around my run. And the next. And the next. Although the mob dwindled, mamma crow rallied the troops after me for several months, finally losing interest as the Summer waned.

    OK, still more. The next year as the days lengthened she was back. And the next. And the next. Mamma crow ran a solo campaign of retribution on me for four more years. I guess if I had thought to wear one of Marzluff’s masks, she would NOT have recognized me as the real me and I would have gotten off scott free.

    Anyway, hope to meet you some day. I live on Orcas. We have a raven who snoops around but no resident crows.

  27. Megan

    I have a silly question. I bought a crow caller, to use when I feed a family of crows in my backyard/woods behind my house. I can’t seem to get the call right. I actually sound a bit like a “crow duck” or as I say a “broken” crow. Lately I have noticed one special crow that I will hear making the sound almost exactly as I make with the caller. I felt like oh dear, I’m messing up nature. But is it possible that this crow is actually calling me? I feed them peanuts and the occasional fresh fruit every few days. I never know if they eat the food. Recently I was walking the neighborhood and found a very large pile of peanut shells in the road. Could these also be from my crows? Any insight you can provide is appreciated.

    • I can’t say if it’s imitating the call specifically to call to you, or if it’s doing it for other reasons. They are capable of being excellent mimics though for sure! The peanuts shells could be from you or from a neighbor, if there’s another crow feeder nearby.

  28. Jalene King

    Please add me to your email list

    • Hi Jalene, you need to do this yourself. It’s easy though, just navigate to the home page and there’s a link on the righthand side. Let me know if you can’t find it, and thanks for wanting to follow!

  29. Clint Steed

    Last year I was returning to my car in a parking lot as I have done and continue to do almost daily. I heard a low growl and then felt a bump on my left shoulder. Startled, I then saw a crow spread it’s wings and fly away. I reacted thinking a car or person altered the crow’s path and it accidentally flew into to me, but, no car or person was around. I followed the crows path to a light standard and we stared at each other for a bit. Thinking that was weird, I continued to my car, only in a few moments to hear a low growl and bump on my right shoulder. Stupefied, I followed the crows flight back to the same light standard. We stared at one another for a bit. Reflecting on “The Birds” I hustled to my car and closed the door. The crow watched me depart.
    It’s never happened again. I’ve never harassed a crow. One followed me around the yard cawing, I cawed back, a couple of years ago. I have a family of crows that feed in my yard and are unimpressed by my appearance in the yard. I’ve had other crows drop baubles at my feet. I have no idea what the “Knighting” as I like to think of it, was about. Any Ideas what brought on my experience?

  30. Georgia Browne

    What a great blog! I have had a friendly relationship with a small family of crows for a few years. The first one I noticed would just watch me in the garden, silently, and fly from point to point for a better view, sometimes flying right over my head to get a better view. I started offering him snacks at the birdbath and that carried on for a month or so. I didn’t see him for a few weeks, and then one day I looked up in a tree and there were 4 crows silently watching me. I think perhaps it was he and the babes. The next year more babies, and more interactions. Lots of awkwardness and hilarity at the birdbath. I think the original crow is teaching his offspring that this is a place of food and safety. All of the crows are appreciative, I think, but the original crow has a particular behavior he does with me, a bowing and tail spreading, and a “bao bao” sound that I mimic back. We can chat like that for some time! He likes to sit on the telephone wires above my garden and preen himself, or make little chortling sounds. After 4 years of this crow family, they now seem to have a sentinel for the yard, and give me a warning when someone is walking up the street – particularly energetic when there are dogs. It has been a grand experience, and I feel completely lucky. I’ve hours of video, hundreds of photos – all such a wonderful way to experience these fascinating creatures! As I type this I hear him bao-ing outside! Thanks for the blog, and for this community.

  31. megansea

    I wrote a few blog posts about the crows that live in our Seattle neighborhood. We named them Bertram and Corvina, and they became our outdoor pets. We moved, but they’re still around, and when we come back for a visit, they fly right over and greet us. http://meganseagren.blogspot.com/2011/03/meet-bertram.html

  32. Jeannie

    I’ve been feeding crows (about 10) in my backyard for about a month. I have a large terra cotta saucer which I fill with fresh water a couple of times a day. It is very hot at this time of year in north Texas. I feed them corn, peanuts and grapes (they love the grapes!). They sometimes will gather on the fence and scream loudly when I change the water or put food out. Are they thanking me or getting ready to tear my head off?? Recently I found a pair of bird feet and legs in the water saucer. Later that day, there was the remains of the dead body there as well. It looked like a crow, but was the body was smaller. I’m curious
    as to what had happened?

    • Hi Jeannie, sounds like they’re just excited for food. As for the body parts, crows commonly soak food in water before consuming it. I’m afraid finding bodies in the bird bath is not an uncommon experience!

  33. Chris

    Kaeli, I heard your talk at Science Pub last year and have wanted to ask if you’ve read Brian Doyle’s fiction “Mink River”? The story includes a talking crow named Moses (a nun taught him how to speak), and he is the most endearing character in the book. This is a passage where he explains the difference between crows and eagles:

    I am of the clan of crow, Moses explains to Kristi. They are still sitting on the porch, Kristi stroking his back and Moses humming with pleasure. I am no eagle, says Moses. God forbid such a thing. The clan of raptor is a mean clan. Their minds are small. Their horizons are meat. They take pride in their violence. They tear and shred each other with no regret or compunction. Their hearts are limited. They have no sense of time. They have no perspective. They have no past and no future. They are never sad, having no past to mourn and no future to fear, but they are never happy. They glower and snarl. They live for blood. What kind of life is that? They glory in power. What kind of life is that? They have no humor and their affection for their children is measured out in meat. What kind of life is that? Whereas my tribe is motley and chaotic. My tribe is dense and tumultuous. We argue and tease and wrangle and goof and fly upside-down. We are brilliant and stupid. We are lonely and livid. We lie, we laugh. We are greedy and foolish. Sometimes we all sing together. We tease dogs. We can be cruel but never for very long. We just can’t sustain it. If we could sustain and organize our cruelty we’d rule the world. But what kind of life is that? We all fly home together at the end of the day. We have no kings. We have no outlaws. We have no ranking. We have no priests. We have no status. Age confers nothing in our clan. Size confers nothing. We have no warriors. We have no beauties. That’s just how it is. We all look the same. Our stories go on all day long. We remember everything. Out life can be maddening. It gets loud. We never agree on anything. We bicker. We play jokes. We take chances. I have often taken refuge with your tribe just to escape the hubbub of my tribe. Your tribe is better able to be alone. Lots of you are alone. Lots are lonely too. The old nun who raised me, who saved me from death in the mud, my dearest friend, she was alone and sometimes lonely, but she fought loneliness with calm ferocity. She was a most remarkable woman. You look like her. She was a most remarkable creature. You have the same eyes. It is remarkable. Is her soul now in your body? I do not fully understand the ways of human beings. They are a curious and remarkable tribe altogether. They are capable of anything. I know that much. They are a constant surprise to me. They are a constant surprise to themselves also. They appear to live in a state of constant amazement. This makes them refresing and infuriating. But there is a greatness about them sometimes. More perhaps than they know. Or a capacity for greatness. More than they know. It’s confusing but I know this to be true. I have learned that much in all these years.

  34. Dallas DiLeo

    Any chance of a link to the June 7 Seattle Times article that’s not behind a paywall?

  35. Marie

    Greetings, Dr. Swift:
    Actually, this is a question rather than a reply.
    I live in Oregon, in an area which might be described as Subirdia.
    We are fortunate to have several species of corvids in the area, with crows being visitors to our garden. Generally, they are pretty reasonable guests, although we’ve had to put away the birdbath as they use it for meal prep (to wash bread and fried chicken scraps)- smart on their part but yucky for us.
    However, I have noticed that when I put out slug bait (“Sluggo”, which is supposed to be non-toxic to critters), they pick it up. As they will also pick up small bits of pumice, I suspect they are thinking the slug bait is also grit for their craw. They must like the size, because they clean it up rather quickly ( I have taken to placing the bait under over hanging edges of plants so they will be less likely to see it).
    My question: if crows regularly ingest iron salt slug bait, will it harm them?

  36. Barbara

    I just read the Seattle Times article on my favorite bird, Mr. Crow. Wonderful. I have a question: My home is surrounded by forest. Recently, the crows have been in a group, screeching, “attacking”, diving and zeroing in on a certain tree top…This has gone on for 2 days. What are they doing? We do have hawks and eagles around. Are they protecting their nest? Any ideas?

  37. Barbara

    I just read the Seattle Times article on my favorite bird, Mr. Crow. Wonderful. I have a question: My home is surrounded by forest. Recently, the crows have been in a group, screeching, “attacking”, diving and zeroing in on a certain tree top…This has gone on for 2 days. What are they doing? We do have hawks and eagles around. Are they protecting their nest? Any ideas?

    • Hi Barbara! Yes, they are absolutely protecting their nests from the raptors that are sitting in the treetops. If you watch long enough you’ll eventually see them fly off after they tire of the crows’ harassment, and you can get an ID on the particular predator they were dive bombing.

  38. Elisabeth Sjöberg, Surrey, UK

    Happy Solstice Kaeli!
    I loved the post on Corvid Research Facebook page about crow vocalisation and have a question concerning young crows and calls.
    My local crow family( Corvus Corone.parents plus one helper) have 3 young, fledged around 25 of May and now very sweet, healthy, happy and playful – this morning one of them flew down on top (!) of its parent, that was sitting on a chimney. All three of the young ones perching on the tv antenna 1 meter above the parent. I wonder if the parent jumping kid is the same one that pulled its sibling’s tail yesterday. So much fun to watch from my drawing table.
    When will a young crow develop the deep caw, with the pumping movement?
    Just now it seems that the youngsters are saying something like: “Grrr, Grrr, Grrrr”. Very sweet and a good try but hardly cawing.
    I think I have the crow word for fox: Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah, insessantly “Rah” with no break in between. Hear it every morning.
    Thank you for showing the 2 Corvus Corone in “CROW or NO”. Concerning the Hooded Crow, that was easy for a Scandinavian. Where one of my friends live in Copenhagen, there is a huge garden/court yard for the whole block in the middle. At one end lives a Hooded Crow family at the other a Carrion Crow family, my friend feeds them both. Double up!

    • Hi Elisabeth! Aren’t their childhood antics so fun? One of my favorite things in the world for sure.

      The crows will get into their more adult vocal range by the end of summer, but I don’t know enough to offer a more specific answer than that. Glad you enjoy the game!

  39. Stacy Reinert

    Hi!!! Quick question here…
    I have a family of 5 crows with 3 young ones (so cute they sound like puppies almost when mom or sad feed them). However one has a large black bump or lesion on his beak. Just wondering what’s that’s all about? He eats fine and seems acclimated. Is this common?
    Thanks for sharing all your knowledge
    ~ Stacy

  40. Steve C

    There’s a crow family of 4 in the pine trees behind my home in Florida that I feed regularly. Behind the trees is an open grassy area for several hundred yards. Early on morning last week, I heard a commotion of fast, higher pitch cawing and noticed the crows were flying above a coyote that was passing through the open field. The other times that I’ve heard similar commotion was if a hawk or a cat was nearby which could present a threat, but wondered why they’d get so excited about a coyote, unless a fledgling was on the ground. This all continued for 10-15 minutes. Do you think that was the case?

    • Hi Steve, it’s possible there was, but they can be pretty generally protective/defensive too. Especially during the breeding season, there doesn’t even need to be a kid specifically around for them to get aggravated over any large wildlife.

  41. Brooke


    I’ve been wondering something for a while. When this season hits and the fledglings arrive. Do they also fly All the way home to roost at night with everyone else or do they stay behind in the nest? Does an adult stay with them to watch over?

    • Hi Brooke, sos if eggs or young are in the nest, the adults will remain at the nest at night. Once they fledge though that really when your question comes into play. I’m not 100% sure when the fledglings start going to the roost, but it doesn’t seem that most families do until September, at least in Seattle.

  42. David Warrender

    Been feeding a local crow about a year.now, the crow always looks if i call, it has just taken a mate, its like watching a cople of human teenage lovers, they never stray far from each other. Sometimes they sit up against each other, sometimes they fight trying to pin each other on their backs.
    One thing they seem to enjoy. Is annoying the local pigdeon and magpie community.
    Why would they do this when pidgeons are of no danger to them

  43. Erkan Selim

    Hello i am 15 and OBSESSED with crows. My area is populated with many hooded crows i wonder if there’s any way i can build trust with one or two of them. I’ve gone out to my balcony (i live on the second floor and there’s a nest at the tree infront of the balcony) I’ve made them eggs given them nuts. They never eat it when im there ( i know im bigger and a threat ) but is there any way to make them get used to me and i think the fledgeling is on the ground now because i saw it and an adult swan dived at me it was majestic 🙂

    • Erkan Selim

      The crows are scared of anything that moves so it feels like its going to be hard to get them used to me

    • Hi Erkan, just give it time. And don’t make eye contact with them while they eat. If they are otherwise persecuted or harassed by anyone in your neighborhood, expect that they will be all the more wary to trust and it might take a great deal of time.

  44. Alafair

    A crow either broke or injured his wing yesterday by flying into my upstairs window. I live in a gated community and followed him with a lightweight fitted sheet to throw over him if I could get close enough without any obstructions. I followed him for a couple hours but he was fast on his feet.
    I gave up and posted on Nextdoor for any sightings and some additional people to help. He was spotted 4 hours ago and I missed the notification.
    When I do see him again; any suggestions? Suggestions on how to capture him and where to take him after I do?

    • A broken wings almost always means that even if you got it somewhere they would just euthanize on arrival. It’s just very difficult to repair broken wings to the point that the animal will ever fly again. Since you can’t release un-flighted birds, and it’s very hard to rehome them, they most often just get put down.

      • Alafair

        I have several questions if you wouldnt mind; Do you think he is in pain? He has been spotted looking for food a couple day ago, if just left alone will he just die? Could a vet remove the wing If i were able to catch him and found a sanctuary? Do broken wings ever heal on their own?
        Sorry to throw all that at you i want to do what is best for this guy/girl.
        Thank you

      • I would absolutely be painful and if left alone it will die. A flightless adult crow is not long for this world. If you found someone that could take him then I bet you could fine a vet that would attempt medical mitigation of the injury.

      • Alafair

        Me and my neighbors tried for dsys to catch him/her but was never able to then he/she disspppeared:(

  45. AHardiharhar

    Hi Dr. Swift:

    I love your research and would love to know how you got started in this field. I have always found crows fascinating, but it wasn’t until I worked with an imprinted crow at an animal rescue facility that I truly became enthralled. This crow in particular generally did not care for women, but I figured out that if I greeted her with soft singing and humming that she actually did like it and would recall me as a positive presence whenever she saw me. She actually repeated a few words as well from a former volunteer and imitated the sounds of other animals at the rescue as well. How did you get started in your research field and what advice would you have for others who might want to pursue Corvid research, perhaps on a different branch of the same tree? Thanks.

    • Hi there! I always liked animals and science but I knew pretty early on that I was more interested in the research side of things than the the medical side of things, as I was mostly interested in understanding how animals behave and interact, especially social animal. I’ve also always loved birds. So in college, when I first started reading about corvids, the marriage between those two things (social behavior and crows) really become clear. I then was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to meet crow expert and my future grad adviser John Marzluff. So my advice would be to network with as many corvid people as you can for opportunities. At the same time, think about the kinds of skills that your questions of interest will require and work on developing those skills with whatever species you can. Because in the long run, passion and knowledge on a specific species or topic is great, but that’s most often not what gets you into a grad program or in a career. Skills that can be widely applied, and that address emerging questions though, those are what make a career. I know because I followed the former path and am struggling immensely to find work now that I’ve graduated!

  46. gph

    I like crows a little bit less than I used to, as they seemed to have moved closer to the human population in these virus-dominated times, get up 90 minutes before I do and hold long, loud conversations…

    Anyway, this has easied off a bit (breeding season over?), and I’ve actually got a question.

    A young/small crow living near me seems to prefer walking to flying (it can fly, just doesn’t very often). When it wants to cross the road, it appears to wait for the pedestrian lights to turn green, or the audible signal to sound, berore crossing. Quite ofen, there are no pedestrians for it to emulate. Is it likely that it is really doing this, or am I being convinced by serial coincidence?

    • Tough to say. In Japan, carrions crows are rumored to use crosswalks, but this was never scientifically vetted as far as I know. So while it’s possible, I would say that for a young crow especially, it’s either a coincidence as you say, or it’s simply cueing off the halt in traffic, rather than learning the signals.

  47. Bob Morton

    I just read about your blog in the Pacific NW
    Magazine from the Seattle Times. Interested
    in any and all news about your studies. I feed my local CROWS leftover pancakes most every
    Sunday morning, it has become the same ones
    Coming each week – – all still very shy, when it comes to being the first to participate in the breakfast feed.
    Thank you for your time.

    • Welcome to the blog, Bob! I don’t have many ongoing crow studies these days (my graduate school days now over), but this is still the best place for on going information!

  48. Susan Nudelman

    We’ve been feeding crows for several years. One or other of the parents (we actually assume it’s mom) always brings their young to us for food at breakfast and dinner hour. They’ve tried for lunch, but I’ve laid down the law and it never works for them. Today as my husband and I were eating dinner we heard someone knocking at our back door. I thought it was my sister, and went to check. Lo and behold, “mama” was right at the base of the door, and her baby was watching hopefully from a table. Incidentally there was also a bluejay hanging out with them, too, which has never happened before. We quickly produced some food and are very curious to see if we will get a gentle rapping at our door tomorrow.

  49. Chan Lynn

    Any thoughts on what to do when happening upon a dead crow? There are no other crows around and no obviously signs of what may have caused its death. I don’t understand why there are no other crows nearby. With scrub jays they are practically screaming when someone goes wrong with another scrub jay. The crow looks like it maybe be a fledgling, but I’m not sure. It’s just dead on a sidewalk, unblemished as if it has fallen asleep there. I’ve reached out to the Audubon society but I’m not sure if there’s much to do right now except leave it, which seems so darn sad. It’s such a beautiful creature.

    • Hi Chan! Like jays, crows often have very visible reactions to their dead, but they don’t last forever. Eventually they need to move on. So it seems you have happened upon this dead fledging well after the crows had taken notice. My advice is to remove it under the cover of darkness and recycle it back into the earth via a shallow burial under a bush.

      • Chan L Random

        Thanks! I went back to see if it was still there and it vanished. Maybe someone did what you suggested and moved it in the dark.

  50. Geneviève Delisle

    I live in Quebec. I rescued a crow a month ago. I. Offered him security, food and helped him to learn how to fly and feed himself. Now, he flies in the neibourhood and come back everyday to have some kitty food. He stays for a while while my family, walk around us, ask for food, and then goes away. We called him (or her) Stella and it’s seems to understand his name. I wonder if it will stay around us all his life…

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