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!
804 responses to “Home”
I would love to share my daily life with my crows. It’s been 7yrs and many hundreds of pounds of cat food,fresh fruit…ect. My observations are incredible and I have a very tight murder unit! I interact with them at home and they will see me at a local store or park and let me know they know I’m there! I have too many story’s to tell,but I love my crows old & new. I truly do spend a lot of time just watching their interaction with me & them selves ❤️❤️❤️
I have been feeding peanuts to a family of crows for about 35;years in my back yard.
I feel honered t have witnessed a crow funeral.
I heard this huge crow ruckus on the street Next to our house about 300 feet away. I walked down there and saw about 10 crows raising a huge crow ruckus from a wire above the ground. I look down below where they were sitting inside dead crow. I later read about cross funerals and realized that I had just attended one.
I recently moved to the North GA mountain’s. I first noticed my crows while they were fighting a 4-5 foot long black snake away from the tree that held their nest. Soon after, there were three crows that frequented and lived close to my back yard. I have always felt a pull to crows….but that is for another discussion. This year, they are now a family if 4. I have been reading and am totally amazed at the intelligence of corvids. Is there anything that I can observe or do do help with research? I dont interact or interfere with them because I dont want to upset their balance, but I am do fascinated by them and love to watch them. What can I do to help?
Hi Marmie! Thanks for your interest in helping. I don’t personally have any ongoing research projects or know of any citizen science projects. So Instead I’ll encourage you to share your stories with your community and focus your efforts and spreading the good crow word to fellow birders and nature lovers 🙂
I have a small group or murder of crows that hang around the marina where my boat is docked and are quite accustomed to me.
I’ve been feeding them yummy table scraps and peanuts. They recognize my car from quite a distance-as I pull into the parking lot, they fly down to my boat, waiting for me.
So I as they become further accustomed to me, they become much less wary when I’m around. Now the seagulls that also inhabit this area also are quite keen to share my provided treats. They, being larger than the crows would usually bully them out of the way, grabbing whatever I would provide.
The gulls ruled the roost until about four weeks ago when I noticed the crows becoming quite aggressive, dive bombing them, actually getting literally in their faces, crowing, calling, dropping their head and raising their wings in an intimidation display. They would be directly in front of the gull, beak to beak, almost touching it. I’m assuming this was due to fledglings in a local nest. Anyway, those fledglings now part of my group that I regularly feed.
I’ve tried everything to dissuade the gulls from stealing “my crows” food, and will throw buckets of water or squirt them with a hose, driving them off. When I first started doing this, both gulls and crows flew away, but I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The crows seemed to realize that the only times the water came out is when there were gulls around!
Now, when I bring out the hose or a bucket of water, the crows simply sit there and watch until the gulls have flown away, and after the gulls have retired, will jump on my proffered treats. Interestingly, the gulls recognize me too, when swimming close to the boat all I have to do is turn to look at them and they will pivot to swim away.
It’s fascinating, that these crows actually have learned my intentions:
Gulls unwelcome=water. Crows welcome=no water.
Now, I have a question for you-buckets of water are not very accurate. The hose is, but not very convenient. Do any of your readers know of a squirt gun or water cannon that is easily filled that will shoot us a brisk stream of water 15 to 20 feet? This would be perfect for gull removal.
I’m sure that the crows would get very used to my new water distribution method in a short period of time…
I do not agree with your way of “sorting” who gets to eat or not. I have managed fine finding the right time to give my local crow family their breakfast cashews. Some times a wood pigeon, blackbird or a jackdaw “get a beak in”, but so what?Live and let live. Feeding your crow friends works best if you make sure to have eye contact first, you could also have a special verbal signal. Do not put any food out before you have contact.
You obviously have not been around Seagulls!
I’ve been enjoying reading your blog ever since a crow couple decided to nest in the planter box outside our 3rd floor window in March (we’re so lucky!!) I think they’re Northwestern Crows based on our location (Vancouver, BC) and their calls. We’ve enjoyed watching the babies grow up, and now learn to fly, scavenge, and play in our neighbourhood. We’re still providing some food in the planter box, so they’re visiting regularly to eat.
We’re hoping they’ll want to come back to nest again next year. I read that they don’t reuse nests due to risk of parasites. Should we be dismantling the nest at some point to free up the planter box space for them for next nesting season? If we remove the nest, will this big change scare them off from coming back to feed?
Here’s some videos of our crows if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkygO9AVma2FEbvi0vyMQDQ
Thanks for your advice!
Hi Nicole! Oh that’s a good question I don’t readily know the answer to. I can’t think of any reason that removing the nest (without them seeing you) would pose an issue, and I would be incredibly curious if they renest there as a result. Ravens certainly like to renest on the same ledges year after year. So I say go for it and please check back next year and let me know what they do!
My friend had some cat food sitting outside. It had two shapes, Xs and Os. The cats didn’t eat the food, but the crows did. They only ate the Os and left a bowl full of Xs. This happened more than once. Is there a reason why they don’t like the Xs?
Maybe the flavor is different?
That could be. I told her to taste it and see if there is a difference.
I was just wondering if you could suggest any ways to enrich the lives of the crows that hang around in our street. At the moment we throw out some food for them and I’ve ordered a bird bath which should hopefully give them somewhere to drink and wash. Anything else I can do?
Also, there are a number of different birds in the area. There are pigeons and also smaller birds (I’m not sure what they are). Do you know if birds normally coexist peacefully? When we put food out, they never seem to fight over it although the smaller birds tend to run away when the larger ones come down.
Any help with this is appreciated!
Hi Brian! Offering food and water is a great start. I have a friend that likes to put out little ceramic creations her kids make for the young crows to play with.
As for coexistence, the answer is that they will absolutely coexist but that will include crows eating those smaller birds when possible. That’s a normal part of their role as an omnivorous predator, but it’s very difficult for some people to stomach. They will usually do this via nest predation though and not by hunting and killing birds at the feeder area.
Hi Brian, FYI on the bird bath – I ordered two nice ones with the same intention but the crows ignore them and prefer the big metal dog water dish on our porch to dunk food and drink – the dogs love the leftovers 😂
I live in the Metro Vancouver B.C. area where I have been entertained each Spring by crow families building a nest in the evergreen trees close to my patio. This year however, something happened which I’ve not seen before. There were several crows making such a racket. Flying about and what seemed to be very upset. The next week, one crow started at sun up with a terrible sqwauking that went on for hours. He was joined by 2 or 3 other crows who seemed to be there as support. They faced the nest ( it is empty). It was so loud, several neighbours came out to investigate. This poor crow comes back to the tree and carries on with non stop sqwauking facing the nest. It has been over a month now. Is this behavior mourning? It is clearly distraught. My question: what is this behavior? How long will it carry on?
Hi Carol, do you have photos or videos of the event?
The crows around the grain silos below lower Queen Anne (Seattle) seem to make a game out of hectoring the occasional bald eagle. It seems more like sport than territorial. Is this play? What are some other examples of corvids “playing”?
Hi Jim, I have a whole post on this! https://corvidresearch.blog/2015/03/16/crow-curiosities-do-crows-play-and-why/
Hi! There is a crow in my back yard who doesn’t seem like it can fly high distances. It often lays down on my deck , shed or in the grass. It still eats and is alert. My local wildlife rescue said there isn’t much we can do unless it completely stops flying. I was just wondering what causes a crow to lay down on the ground? I’ve never seen a another crow do this. Thanks!
Hi Julia, do you have photos? Sometimes sunning is mistaken for illness induced lying… https://corvidresearch.blog/2016/09/06/why-crows-sunbathe/
Hello ! It’s so nice to see this blog. I’m fascinated by crows and feed them at home and at work (when I used to go to work, now it’s all work from home) and just generally enjoy their company.
I have a crow couple nesting in a tree in front of my house. I tried feeding them but they didn’t seem to want what I gave. Then I realised they had plenty of food but very few water sources. I put out a water dish for them that they now use regularly to wash and soften their food before feeding their kids (who should be ready to test their wings soon). I even managed to feed one by hand once but the second time was less successful.
I was really happy with our relationship. I’d give them their space and if I came out to the balcony they’d stay right where they were and carry on doing what they were doing, completely unbothered by my presence. Sometimes we’d watch the world go by downstairs ‘together’.
That’s what I thought we were doing today when I went out to the balcony door a phone call. One of the crows was in its usual spot in one of my trees. It started approaching me slowly. I thought this just meant it trusted me but then it perched on the door frame just behind me and when my back was turned it swooped me!! I felt its claws graze my head before it returned to its tree and started making its way to the door again.
I’m pretty devastated by this betrayal but I’m also wondering what’s going on. There seems to be some crow drama afoot as there are several more crows in the area who aren’t usually around. They seem to be standing guard or keeping watch or something and they are frequently communicating with each other. I checked the nest and all the babies are there so it wasn’t a fallen fledgling. I can’t see anything on the verge of death either so it’s not dinner. They’re very agitated (and they’re up past their usual bedtime) and i can’t tell why. Surely not because of my 15 minute phone call…
Hi R. Don’t take this personally! It’s so easy to feel like we are completely on the same page with crows and then, bam! They remind us that while their relationships with us are intimate, they’re not pets and have they boundaries. Why the shift in behavior, I cannot say. Perhaps there is an unseen predator hanging around, like a raccoon. They sometimes take up residence in trees to wait out the daytime and can cause quite a stir!
In http://avesnoir.com, what happen to “10 Really Weird Crow Facts” and some other articles?
I don’t know? That’s not my website.
I just saw the most amazing thing. “My” original
Crows lost their territory around my home. There is now a new crow family around with four youngsters. I’m pretty sure I know which of the mated pair is the dad. Since there are young ones, I make them scrambled eggs every morning, along with dog food, and sometimes cheese.
The smallest youngster was having a hard time getting to the eggs, due to other crows flying around and landing. The “dad” grabbed a mouthful of eggs and deposited it on the ground in front of his fledgling. As he did this, he made a bow!
I’ve seen this done with mated pairs, but never to a fledgling. Is this normal behavior with fledglings? I assume he was letting the fledgling know that he didn’t consider it “his” eggs, but his youngsters food?
Hi Cheryl. Hmmm I suppose that could be. Usually at this stage they’re still just feeding directly though. Did the kids then eat it?
Kaeli, Actually, the 4 fledglings had all been getting their own eggs and cheddar cheese. None of them were being fed, to my observation, when this “event” happened. In all likelihood, the parents were still procuring food/feeding them, for the remainder of the day, until they were served dinner:) The fledgling that the dad presented the eggs to appeared to be the smallest, and likely the youngest. That fledgling seemed to need lots of extra attention from the parents, and did “aw” the most, and likely did still get fed other times during the day. The three other fledglings still seem way more developmentally advanced than this little fledgling.
After the “dad” laid the eggs at the fledglings feet, he bowed, then turned and walked away. The fledgling ate at least part of the eggs by him/herself. I was truly astonished! It’s like he was being a “servant leader” 🙂
Thanks for all your research and for your blog! I love watching these birds hours daily, while doing tasks. They are always full of surprises.
I have to share another fun story. I put out a small pool for them, and I have a bird bath. A couple of weeks ago, the “dad” sat in the birdbath, while two of the fledglings “played” in the pool. It was so cute! The adult looked pretty content cooling off for like fifteen minutes!
Thanks for all the great info in your blog! We have a pair of crows living in our backyard and I was wondering about whitish/gray spots on their breasts. Is this something typical? See https://bst.smugmug.com/Events/202007-Crows
Hi there, I actually have a whole post on this! https://corvidresearch.blog/2014/07/09/crow-curiosities-what-causes-white-feathers/
We have 5 crows that hang here. Three have white spots on them. Two of those have matching spots. How rare is this?
Hi Tracy, that’s not uncommon. Here’s a post with more information about that if you’re interested: https://corvidresearch.blog/2014/07/09/crow-curiosities-what-causes-white-feathers/
We have a new neighbor as of 2 months ago. We’ve gotten pretty friendly and I think he/she is a Carmel crow…love to share pix with you.
Alki Beach Seattle
Hi Ben, you can share them to the Corvid Research Facebook page or group!
Just found crow in street on Capitol Hill, seems unable to walk, feet curled up, but alert. Flapped a bit, but didn’t fly. Lifted with gloves to bushes by side of road, is that all I can do? Is it too late in season to be baby tumbled from nest? Any thoughts on curled up feet? Might it be poisoned? Appreciate any info.
Yikes, definitely a bird in distress. PAWs is operational, but my guess is it’s not long for this world 😦
There is a group of crows that visit my backyard daily. ( I feed them peanuts and they like my bird feeder). They are always the same crows and there is something wrong with each of them. They seem to work as a team and take care of each other. One has no foot —- just a stump. One is lame… his foot is twisted behind him. Two or tree have a lot of white on their feathers… like they have been splattered with paint and the underneath of their wings are more white. One has a mangy ruffley neck that is white.
We have lots of glossy black ravens in the area but these do not hang out with them. At first I thought that they had beef affected by pesticides but they appear to be fairly healthy. Can you give me your thought on this and what I should perhaps be leaving out for them other than peanuts. I have left fruit but they are not interested.
I live in Carmel by the sea, ca.
Hi Donna. So foot injuries are pretty common because they happen a lot but are not usually lethal the way wing injuries are. The white feathers can be caused by a great many different things (see here for more on that: https://corvidresearch.blog/2014/07/09/crow-curiosities-what-causes-white-feathers/). As for food, anything high in fat/protein and with limited processing is good. Individual crows have different tastes, so play around with what your group likes!
Hi- I have a “Feeding Crows in the Time of COVID” question for you.
I am a fan of crows (and people who study them). We live in an urban neighborhood not far from UW.
It’s kind of a long story involving a one-legged crow who showed up in our yard freshly injured over two years ago. We started feeding him/her, since we were not able to help in any other way. Eventually, it morphed into us feeding maybe 12-15 crows once or twice a day. The group size stayed about the same for those two years.
The one-legged crow has survived all this time. We consider him or her a “friend.” Unfortunately, our friend now has up to fifty or sixty other friends who essentially never leave the immediate vicinity of our yard. I think this is partly because of the pandemic- it *seems* like there is less food available in general. Our neighbors are less than pleased with this situation. Several have recently made it known that they want the feeding to stop. Now.
My question is how much of an impact will it have on the crows if I just stop feeding immediately? I have not been feeding much over the last two days and they are mostly still hanging around. Will they find food elsewhere? I am ASSuming/hoping so. Since you don’t see too many dead crows lying around (mostly fledglings), there must be more food than I think. But I would feel better hearing you say that the crows will be fine without my feeding..
Hi there! So short answer: they will almost certainly be FINE. Crows eat human food, yes, but they also eat a ton of bugs and luckily the pandemic has not affected our yards! And unfortunately unhappy neighbors have succeeded in taking crow feeders to court over perceived damages, so I would heed your neighbor’s wishes now before the problem gets worse. I’m sorry they’ve put you in that position, as I know it’s hard to cut these relationships off. Limiting feeding to only a pair, and to only a handful of food a day, can really help make sure you’re reaching a good balance between your own needs and those of your neighbors. Which truthfully includes other kinds of wildlife as well. So give it space, 6m or so, and then you can see if you can pick up just feeding one to two here and there again.
Thanks, Dr. Swift!
I do truly feel better hearing your answer.
Been trying to only feed Peg Leg. Which of course means the one-legged crow and whoever else is hanging around. We still have lots of crows in the immediate area (waiting), but numbers going down.
Aware of at least one lawsuit over damage (Seattle area). No-I don’t want to end up there. In fact I spent two hours cleaning poop off neighbors’ asphalt parking strip yesterday-a real joy! So I plan to heed your advice!
Great presentation last night! Love your enthusiasm coupled with your vast knowledge, and your ability to present information to the layperson.
Thanks Robin! I really appreciate that.
Just curious: I know that crows recognize our faces (and I do have a lovely and faithful crow following). But, these days we have no faces. We have hats, sunglasses, masks, maybe more. No visible face. What else are these creatures recognizing??
They can absolutely recognizing clothing, and I suspect their learn things like gate too!
‘Gate’ or ‘gait’?
I agree – a couple of years back, they had no trouble recognizing me in a full Halloween costume, which included a face mask.
Could have been by gait, or my backpack?
(Admittedly, my location and predictable schedule walking to work made it a lot easier too.)
I am building a light hearted websites about corvids. Am I allowed to make references to your articles or videos you ever recorded, also with John Marzluff? I will not copy anything, just making links. The website is just in development stage, in Dutch, and not accessible from the outside world right now.
I certainly will accept “no” as answer, no problem.
Hi Ben, you are of course welcome to link to anything I’ve made public. Good luck with your site.
Thank you for your contribution Dr. Swift. You enrich so many! I was feeding some local scrub jays in the Ballard area who would come by my house on their daily route. Their timing was fairly predictable. It’s so interesting to see them strategically stash their nuts so meticulously in places that rats, squirrels, and other birds were unlikely to venture. I got the main one to come within a foot or so of me but the shy spouse only swooped down only once in a while. I eventually found their main spot 5 blocks away. There was a whole gang there! They seemed to have moved on for now and apparently they don’t migrate so I have hope they’re just in an adjacent neighborhood and will be back. They’re probably looking for the best food spot and completing with the crows, gulls, pigeons, starlings, flickers and others is no easy business. Regardless, it’s been challenging for me like many others lately and that scrubby couple really helped pick up my mood for several months. I read an article saying they came up here in the nineties. Do you think that they will become more prominent around here? Are they reacting to global warming? Do you think any other warmer weather corvids might come up here? Conversely, do we have a danger of losing some to Canada?
The scrub jays have been on the move a while, and I absolutely expect them to stick around and increase in number. Likewise the Steller’s jays have been moving down south. I think it has more to do with habitat modifications than climate change. I suppose some of the southern jays could head up, but I suspect they’ll be kept out not by the weather, but by competition with other corvids. I don’t think we stand to lose any corvids to the north. The main risk of climate change for crows and other corvids is the increased spread of West Nile Virus rather than changes to weather.
Thank you! Movement of bird species is fascinating and depressing at the same time. Are there any studies going on that you’re aware of on how covid is affecting bird populations? I imagine pigeons and gulls are taking the biggest hit. City crows can move to the suburbs as the food supply in the city shrinks. I often wonder if old city crows have any type of “wtf is going on” moments at this unprecedented time, but I’m probably anthropomorphizing and misunderstanding the nidopallium.:) I can’t wait til science learns more about corvids’ thoughts though! I read a study that showed scrub jays have metacognition abilities so who knows what else is going on in there.
I have enjoyed having a rookery in my garden very much this year and watching the families grow. They have left now, but still visit announcing their arrival with a LOT of noise! I hope they will all be back next year. Obviously, some of the fledglings didn’t make it and I suspect there were a few fights that were lethal, so I found 7 dead rooks (mainly large fledglings, still with fluffy heads) over the summer. I know that death is special to them but is it known how long I should leave the body before moving it under a hedge to rest in peace? I have been leaving the bodies about 5 days but do you know at what time the body ceases to be so important to them?
Many thanks, Fiona
Hi Fiona. It’s tough to say because we haven’t formally tested how long it takes them to respond to and process deaths from familiar birds. But in my experience, they move on from juveniles quickly. I’d say 5 days is plenty and you’re free to let them meet the earth under your hedge. Thanks for caring enough to ask!
is it normal for a small crow to randomly attach itself to a human shoulder and refuse to budge. What would be the reason for this behaviour? See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgFYqJ6A1NE
Hi Eliane, no, it’s not. This happens when a young crow has imprinted on a person.
I volunteer at an animal hospital and there is a raven in the aviary with pox. It is REALLY bored. What can I give it to play with?
Sorry I missed this Janelle. While it will be very neophobic with new toys, anything for toddlers works pretty well!
Hi Kaeli and “corvidophiles” (crow crazies)! Hope you all had/have a lovely summer.
Since getting interested in corvids, I find that one of the first things I do arriving at a holiday destination is checking out the local bird life.
Just like you on holiday make new, human friends, I try to interact with the local corvids, if they want to interact with me, that is.
This summer I spent in a lovely village in the UK Midlands, no crows in town (but plenty in the fields outside) but a pair of jackdaws on nearl every chimney in town, keeping an eye on the goings on.
Having breakfast in my B & B room, I do what I do at home and drop a handful of cashews (natural non salted, non roasted) out the window after having established eye contact. And enjoy the jackdaws swooping down and their merry chatter. After a couple of days, I employ the binoculars, camera and notebook and have some lovely corvid memories. And hopefully the jackdaw families had a fun/tasty summer interlude as well.
Cashews are genius at making corvid friends, be it at home with “your” crow family or visiting the Tower of London – no reason to give Raven Merlina and her friends junk food – and very easy and clean to transport, besides they get eaten(or carried away and stored for later)so quickly, that you do not irritate non corvid fancying neighbors. There is zero mess.
In mid September I will go home to “Kraka” and “Krok”(my local crow couple) and their now 5 month old youngsters.
Yesterday I watched a young crow and black squirrel. It looked as if they were playing. The squirrel walked past the crow on the grass and when the crow noticed him, walked after the squirrel over to a maple tree. The squirrel stayed about a foot from the bottom and would peek out around the tree at the crow. The crow would then hop straight into the air about a foot or two spreading its wings briefly. The squirrel would go to the other side of the tree and all was repealed about a dozen times . None of this looked threatening or hurried. When the squirrel went a few feet further up the tree the crow walked over, picked up a leaf and tossed it into the air then would look expectantly at the squirrel. Again repeated several times. When the squirrel finally gave up ignored the crow,
the crow hopped up and down a few more times then flew across the road to perch on the top of a street light to preen. It certainly looked like play with neither aggressive of frightened.
Hi Kaeli — with the recent influx of this persistent smoky toxic smog my crow friends are looking truly bedraggled and pathetic and acting jumpy and overly territorial within a much smaller domain than usual – they don’t seem to want to move around more than they have to. The other birds around (jays, sparrows, even the local Cooper’s hawks) are also behaving differently too in a variety of ways, all of them telegraphing what looks like discomfort, disorientation and high anxiety. They are clearly stressed and we have already found several dead around the neighborhood. I realize birds that live wild have to contend with these unfortunate realities. It’s likely to be a very challenging autumn for all our outdoor friends and anything I’m doing is at best a butterfly bandage on a chainsaw wound but i want to do anything I can without causing harm. I’m keeping a consistent feeding schedule with extra raw proteins and lots of circulating water out between bird baths and makeshift buckets that I clean and refresh a couple times a day attached to the fence posts but that’s all I can think to do right now. Is there anything else I could do during this intense period of air pollution to aid them in getting by?
I really enjoy your talk today at Birdfest! Thank you!!
I live right next to the Southwest County Park and have a lot of birds around my house and yard. I am interested in differentiating between crows and ravens when they are not standing next to each other.
Saw the last half of your Birdfest presentation. Very interesting and you did an excellent job of presenting and explaining throughout.
Hi Mike, if you are on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, find me at Corvid Research and play #CrowOrNo each week to practice!
Hi, Dr. Kaeli,
I’ve been following your twitter for a bit and really enjoy knowing more about our corvid friends.
I have a question regarding a (I think) crow that shows up almost daily. I live in an urban area and they perch tehmselves in tallest antenna of the tallest building, always alone. They would usually just loudly caw, now they also immitate gulls and another call that sounds like water drops, which I don’t recognize. Are they lonely? I’ve never seen any of their crow friends. And should we feed them or just leave the crow alone?
Thank you for your time! 🙂
Sounds more like a territorial bird than a lonely bird to me. I’d wait and see if it starts showing up with a second soon!
Have you ever heard of a case of blue jays gifting people who feed them? I have been getting an occasional nickel size stone or a similarly sized piece of coloured plastic in my platform feeders. I got another one today. I always assumed the birds were maybe playing with the items and left it in the feeder by accident but after seeing gabi mann’s story, i’m wondering if the gifts are being left for me. From what I can read on the web, Jays typically aren’t known for this, so I’m confused. Is it more likely they are gifting each other in the feeder than leaving the stones and plastic for me?
I have with crows but not with jays. Wouldn’t surprise me though!
I was recently on a mountain in Wales watching a lone crow flying in the lift generated by the wind blowing onto the mountainside. The crow flew left and right to stay in the lift band, which I too was using to keep a radio controlled glider in the air.
I noticed during a break in my own flying that on each pass, the crow would perform a half-roll to inverted flight, say ‘Caw, caw’ and then half-roll to upright again. A little later it was joined by a second crow and they started doing the same manoeuvre and call in unison.
I’ve seen crows do different aerobatic manoeuvres, but this was new to me. More usual is a sort of tumble, which they seem to like to do in groups. The manoeuvre is prefaced by folding of the wings to increase speed. They often use their feet as airbrakes as well.
Are they just having fun, or is this to do with mating, or something else?
Incidentally, many birds show an interest in radio-controlled gliders when they encroach on their habitat. Raptors (e.g. peregrine falcons) in particular are often curious and will sometimes be very aggressive. They have been known to bring model gliders down. Seagulls, too, sometimes show an interest, or wariness. But I’ve never seen a crow taking any interest at all. Perhaps they are just too clever to be taken in.
Hi John, are you absolutely sure it was a crow and not a raven? That will impact my answer…
It was almost certainly a crow. The raven population of Britain is small relative to that of crows, although it has apparently been increasing rapidly in recent years. I have never knowingly seen a wild raven, although I have seen them at the Tower of London so I know how big they are. In addition, I had a good comparator in the air since the plane I was flying was a bit larger than crow size.
When you reply would you tell us how your answer would have differed if I had thought it to be a raven?
Do crows bury their dead? Or is their any similar behavior seen on crows or other birds that you have came across? Please answer.
I’ve had people report to me that they’ve seen crows place objects on their dead, but I’ve never heard of them actually burying them in the dirt.
We have crows who visit our urban yard… a mating pair and a few unpaired in summer and up to around 60-70 in winter. We have one who talks a lot and I can have conversations with him/her… he is quite a mimic with “many” different comments from the “predator movie” clicking to warbles, etc. Others just tend to “caw.” For the past couple of years, something strange has occurred… they have been joined by a small hawk. The first summer, we watched the hawk and one of the crows preening each other a lot. The hawk likes to chase one of the crows around. The rest of the flock don’t like him but they do tolerate his presence. He is about the size of the crows. I have a video on my FB page of some of the sounds by “predator crow” but have not been able to get a picture of the small hawk. I did get a few pictures of a larger hawk that came through hunting and spent some time in our Crimson King maple tree where the crows hang out. Any thoughts about these unusual behaviors?
I am completely stumped at this this hawk crow interaction you are describing. Would love to see a video!
The predator sound OTOH is quite common.
I will see if I can find any video that is clear. Most of the time they went so fast that I could not get a good capture with my minimal equipment. I’ll let you know if I can find anything. I know I don’t have anything of them sitting next to each other… just chasing… but I’ll look. I’ve not seen them now since fall, so anything could have happened.
Somewhere in downtown Renton there must be a treasure trove of walnut trees. The last couple of weeks it’s been a riot to watch the crows swoop through the streets with them in their beaks. They land on light posts and drop them from heights to crack them open and in a few cases have attempted to let cars do their dirty work by stooping on the wires above the road and dropping them just as a car is about to pass under. This is rarely successful but it doesn’t seem to stop them from trying. Leaving the nuts in the road and waiting for cars to roll over is another gambit I have yet to see pay off as they get impatient and return to the street lights to drop on the concrete if it doesn’t work in one go. I expect that once one of them figures out how to time a nut placement with oncoming car just right, though, the tables will turn when word spreads and everyone will be doing it. Their brains at work are so much fun to watch!
Just what I needed! Thanks
We live over in Bothell, and are blessed to see the crows leave their morning roost and stream overhead each day as they commute to their territories. This has led to a growing fascination with our local corvids, and some curiosity about researchers and what’s being worked on.
In research about crow calls, are stationary mics normally used? I ask because during the morning “commute” as each group goes overhead I hear what sounds like an identical call (and a few variants I recognise). This has led me to wonder if they have an “oral history” of sorts, with each flock telling of their experience as they go over significant places.
If this were the case, stationary mics would only get a crossection of calls that would be near-identical instead of a longitudinal recording that would give you a dataset of the entire litany.
One of the locals has a band on his leg, and seems in good shape. Almonds, cat kibble (and the odd bit of tilamook cheddar as a treat) seem to agree with them.
Oh that’s such an interesting idea Sean! I don’t know of that strategy being used before. The person to ask would be Doug Wacker of UW Bothell. His team is specifically targeting vocalizations. Next time I see him I’ll inquire!
A single Crow aggressively flew over my husband while cawing at him this morning while he was standing in our backyard smoking cigarette and cats next to him. Was constant alarming caw it landed on our roof so he came inside until it stopped cawing and flew away. Never seen it before and our house is surrounded by nothing but fields of dirt. What could this mean? We live in United states south Texas.
I’m guessing there were responding to the cats as opposed to your spouse.
Thank you for your wonderful post about indigenous people and art. Cultural appropriation is harmful and shameful. The links to the groups and artists were also a treat to look at too. This would be great to have as an education workshop to go Zoom on for kids, and adults. 🙂
A couple of days ago I saw a group of the resident crows doing something I’m pretty sure was playing. It was quite windy and they would perch at the top of a very large tree next to an apartment complex with some on the roofline which is about level with the tree top. When the wind would blow they would jump into the air nearly in unison and the updrafts would buffet them about for maybe 30 seconds to a minute and then as the wind died they would float back to their perch. I watched them do this for about 30 minutes, just jumping and floating about with each little gusty updraft and they looked like they were having a glorious time. It reminded me of kids at the edge of the ocean waiting for another wave to roll in so they can jump up and feel weightless for a moment. Playing is the only thing I can think it was because it didn’t seem to serve any other purpose and as soon as I threw some peanuts out they lost interest quickly, one by one, in pursuit of food. Does this seem like a typical behavior when they’re bellies are full and boredom kicks in? While these birds are definitely food motivated they are pretty well fed around here so I presume they have more time for entertaining their curiosity and other leisure pursuits.
We have seen crows fly very high when chasing a hawk, then just suddenly fall from the sky. Is there a limit to how high they can fly?
Hi Ann, oh what an interesting question. I’m not sure anyone has calculated that specifically for crows, but I can tell you that most other songbirds max out around 2,000ft. So somewhere around there. They are certainly not getting in the Guinness Book of World records for their flying altitude!
Like everyone here, I love crows. I like watching them talk to each other, and I like talking to them, mimicking their noises for them—that crackly clicking is my fav. I like giving them space when I walk by them so they can keep doing their crow things. I used to feed them nuts and call out, “hey there” when I fed them, and soon, I could call out, “hey there” to a passing crow and she would u-turn and land on a telephone post, waiting for me to gift a treat. One summer, a fledgling mistook our solar garden light for its mom (mom came back and sorted things out for him). I love watching them move downtown (that’s the cue for weekend happy hour—“hey, it’s crow time!”), and I love hearing them all together, partying downtown after sunset, when you can’t see them, just hear them. Anyway! Just some random, stream of consciousness crow thoughts so I can sign up for your newsletter. 😉
I loved it Molly, thank you!
hey, how do you tell a raven from a turkey vulture when it’s in the air? they seem really similar but i can never quite tell the difference.
Hi Nathan, the underside of turkey vulture primaries are white. If the lighting is really bad this may not be super obvious, but usually their partially white wings stand out pretty well when observed from below. Their tails are also much more square. Cheers,
Hi! I am loving having my crow family visit me everyday! Most started off as babies. Now when they see me doing dishes or making coffee in the morning, they fly near to the window to “ask” for food. They are friendly and “jump” around the yard picking up scarabs and the egg or peanuts I give them. Sometimes they have a different call around me, more like a hiccup. Is. This them being friendly? Or trying to communicate? There are 5-7 that visit regularly & still love to observe us sitting outside.
Hi. I started feeding the crows from my side yard deck in March. I fed adults and now their babies. I have given them mealworm, crushed dog food or Cheerios, shredded cheese and bread pieces. Two of them have since died! I have noticed what I call a fungus on their feet. Histoplasmosis? I have been privileged to watch two funerals. An awesome site. I’m worried I’m feeding them something that is hurting them? We’re talking up to 13 birds at times. Too many really. I enjoy them so much though. A few have allowed me quite close. So that’s my query. Am I possibly making them sick! They do have special likes and dislikes for sure. They don’t like blueberries or Rice Krispies! Thanks for your help.
Hmm Teri, I don’t have enough experience in wildlife health to answer your question with much confidence. If you are worried about transmission the best defense is to stop feeding them though 😦
Hello Dr. Swift – Often when I see a Raven feeling affectionate or happy, they fluff their head feathers up. I wondered if Crows do that or anything similar. Even when my cat feels affectionate or happy, her muzzle puffs up just a bit. So, what signs, if any, do you see in Crows that indicate their moods? Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge! —Lynne
I have had 2 crows visit regularly during the Covid pandemic…I have named the pair Covey and Rona (short for Covid/Corvid and Corona). I live in a suburb of Boston. Covey has an injured leg and drags it along with him; s/he can still fly. They visit most days looking for food at my bird feeders. I do save scraps of pizza crust and old bread for them. Last week they brought 2 more crows along with them looking for food but now this week, I have only seen Covey. Would a mate abandon the other due to its injury? We did get a lot of snow the other day….could the others have decided to fly south?
Divorce does sometimes happen is response to severe injury. But a lame leg is not usually enough to do this, in my experience. It would however make it more vulnerable to death. Have you seen it since?
Kaeli, would the intelligence of these guys surely enable them to ascertain a fake dead crow? Even a real dead crow would produce a different reaction if not a member of resident crows’ immediate or extended family.
Great question, Tracy! Those are not questions we bore out in the study. Based on personal experience (albeit a small sample size) I do not think they react different to a stuffed vs intact dead crow. Whether they would react remarkably differently to a familiar crow, is an interesting idea indeed, and one I am more inclined to agree with. That said, the instances of spontaneous death that I and my labmates have witnessed resulted in identical behaviors to those we saw in our studies. Again, small sample size though.