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Whether you’re here with specific questions or a general interest, you’re in the right place to learn the science behind one of the globe’s most charismatic and influential groups of birds. I created this blog in 2012 when I was just starting as a graduate student at the University of Washington as a platform to share my own research on crow “funerals” and to answer questions I was regularly fielding from the public. Since that time, my title and area of research has changed, but my passion for corvids and commitment to science communication remains immutable. I hope that by educating the public about these magnificent birds people will not only view them more compassionately, but will appreciate what a valuable connection to the natural world they provide.

No matter your feelings for them, nearly everyone has a story about crows, ravens, jays or magpies—even those people who otherwise feel quite separated from nature.  This connection is not recent one; you need look no further than the religious texts and creations stories of cultures around the world to appreciate our historical fascination with these animals. The fact that some of them are conspicuous and thrive in human dominated environments means that corvids are uniquely accessible animals that offer a wealth of opportunities to connect people of all interests and backgrounds to the natural world. With over half the world’s population living in cities, this kind of accessible connection is more important than ever. So go watch them play, problem solve, bond with their families, cause mischief, inspire mythology, and watch you right back. The questions and stories these observations provide will always be welcome here, and I do my best to answer each message within a few days. So go learn, and let me know what information you’re still hungry for. Welcome to the Corvid Research blog!

775 responses to “Home

  1. Marcello Milanezi

    I’m just generally a fan of corvids, and became even more so after moving to Iceland, since they are up and down (it’s cats and crows all around here lol)! A few months ago a saw a raven perching by a hot dog stand, looking intently at the food being delivered from the clerk to the passing cars as if to say “hey pal, can you buy me a hot dog?” Hahaha I found out that it sometimes brings the whole family down that stand, as they do feed them there lol Earlier today one landed by the swimming pool where I was with a friend and just stood there for a few minutes, maybe enjoying the steam of the hot pots?
    Anyway, I liked them ever since I was a kid and saw the film The Crow, and this only grew, corvids are certainly amongst my fav animals!

  2. Diev Hart

    I want to get involved helping save them, people keep complaining about their numbers rising here in the bay area…I want to help them…
    Any ideas on where I can start?
    I have been a hang glider pilot and fascinated with all forms of flight, but crows and ravens are something special…help me help them
    Diev

    • Hi Diev, as the crows in your area are not of any conservation concern, there aren’t going to be any agencies or specific sources of work in this regard. But you can still help by talking to people! The breeding season is upon us which means crows are going to be nesting in your neighborhood. This can put them in higher conflict with people as crows can get aggressive when defending their young. So watch out for this and try to model for your neighborhood how to share space. Put up signage if you have an aggressive crow explaining what’s going on (anxious parents protecting kids) and that the aggression will end soon. Telling general stories about why you like crows is also important to help change attitudes. Thank you for wanting to help!

  3. Mohammad Hossain

    Hi Dr. Swift,
    I had a raven visit me at my balcony every day, sometimes few times a day, for about 5 months when I moved into my new apartment. Then he/she stopped coming to see me end of January. Do you think the raven might be breeding? I’m in NYC btw.

    • Yes, ravens start to breed earlier than most songbirds. I would expect it to have a nest right now (which now that I’m checking my calendar and realizing it’s somehow early March, is actually when most other birds are gearing up too)

  4. amavocet

    I have been looking at videos of the American crow’s rattle call. “My” crows make a “gloonk” sound before the rattle, but none of the videos show such behavior. Is this widespread? Do we have any idea what that sound might mean?

    • Hi there! We’ve only scratched the surface of all that’s to be known abut crow vocalizations. As far as I know, there’s no interpretation for the gloonk sound, though I know the one you’re talking about!

  5. Joseph Harrison

    What is a Crow’s feeding call. And what types of calls do I have to do nor to attract them. I love crows myself I’m nordic pagan. I found them to be amusing, also they are very smart. I’ve been trying to call them with a primos crow caller but they won’t come near me.

  6. Jayne

    The crows and ravens in my neighborhood are very wary of people. My friend gets a laugh about how much I just want to get a few good photos but they never seem to come low enough.

    Today I was looking up and commenting about how they were gathering twigs. My friend swears one circled back around and tried to target me when it pooped. Is that a thing? Do they do that?

    • Hi Jayne, as a scientist I cannot confirm whether that’s a thing, we don’t have the data. As a person who gets a lot of emails about crows, I can certainly offer that you’re not the only person who says this has happened! LOL

  7. Chris R.

    Here’s my crow story. I have a bunch of squirrels on my property. The crows are oddly protective of them. They chase away hawks and I have even seen them ward young squirrels away from the roads.

    After they chase a hawk away from my property, they return and caw outside my window until they get treats.

    However, sometimes when I see them poking around the nuts and open the door to throw some treats, some fly away. That’s the part I don’t understand. Is it the same group that normally frequents?

    One more odd thing. My wife works close by. We have sworn a few times that they followed her home. Can they possibly recognize her car? They congregate above it in our driveway and a few times she has thought that they were making noise above her car when she left work.

    • Hi Chris, it might be that the crows have learned you are a reliable source of food, but are not trusting enough of you yet to comfortably feed with you nearby. Different birds will have different comfort levels and some may always be more wary than others. As for you her car, yes they can learn her car and if she’s close enough by it’s very well possible they follow her home.

      • Jean Power

        I would only confirm that not only do Seattle crows recognize cars and follow them, but they can associate a number of vehicles with a single person. I admit I have been feeding the resident group of crows at work for 30 years. They recognize and follow the up to six vehicles I routinely drive. They have followed up to a mile. Prob more.

  8. Science, you say?

    Hello, I was wondering how you are able to differentiate between a male corvid and a female corvid? Are there any specific features that distinguishes them from each other, or are they literally the same?

    • Hi there! Males tend to be larger but this is very difficult to accurately judge. The only surefire why to tell is to have a genetic test done or by monitoring the pair during the breeding season and determining which individual is incubating the nest (only females can). Though to do that, you need some way to distinguish one bird from the other.

  9. Brenda

    Hi there,
    I live in British Columbia and have started feeding some “neighborhood” crows from the back deck. I was so happy when they would fly over as soon as they saw or heard me. They are still pretty shy and don’t get too close, but I definitely saw the possibility of becoming friends with a pair that started spending more time in our backyard close to the deck where I normally feed them and talk to them.

    A few days ago, I was out in the back yard and the crow “swooped” me. Basically the crow swooped my head with its wing from behind. It was barely a touch, but startled me. The crew landed on the deck railing and as I wasn’t sure if that was a “friendly” swoop or not, I gave it a treat.

    Today, when I was in the backyard the crow swooped me twice, there was no squawking, but definitely low flying at my head. I’ve always assumed “swooping” behaviour is more aggressive or at least the crow trying to let you know it’s now happy with you. I’m wondering if you could shed some light on this behaviour and if you have any recommendations with how to proceed with my crow “friend”.

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Brenda, some crows will get very aggressive in their requests for food. If you’re treating it after it swoops you, you are encouraging the behavior. If you want it to stop, you’ll need to stop treating whenever it does this. The main concern is that if it’s learning that this is an effective way to get food from people it *might* try this with someone else who then attacks it or reports the animal as aggressive. So I would try and put a stop to this habit if you can.
      Cheers,
      Kaeli

  10. Loren Lukens

    Hello Dr. Swift,
    I am a 78 year old retired Biology Teacher and live in Pine Grove, CA I have always bee fascinated with Corvids and especially Ravens. There is one pair that have I have befriended and they have nested on our property for the last 5 years. They have built three nests, used two of them twice. and now are on number 5. They access our birds water pan many times a day and I could write a book on what they eat and how they construct their nest. I have also seen them school their offspring. Just the other day I was watching the Male preparing food to be taken to the nest when out of nowhere a female Cooper’s Hawk attacked. It was a battle royal and the Raven always maintained the a position higher than the hawk. They ended the battle in an oak tree with the Coop finally deciding it wasn’t worth it. The male Raven acted like it was business as usual. I heard a distress call two days ago and I think their nest may been vandalized most likely by a hawk or another Raven. I did see the Male prepare a little food today, but nothing like usual. If the nest was robbed I am pretty sure I will find out if they will try one more time to produce a brood. I will let you know as time will tell.

  11. I have been feeding crows for years in my garden, for the past year as well when walking my dogs in one particular field. They notice me and gather out of thin air and sometines there are more than hundred, but usually around 30. I walk the field and they follow as I throw some dog food – they can catch it same as my dogs.
    I love the feeling when they fly so close to me, the sound of their wings.
    Lately some of them /one of them? – unfortunately none with specific markings – lands on my head for a milisecond – and I can’t decide what is meant by that? They have been trying to land on dogs too and sometimes they peck corgi’s tail.
    It is a bit scary considering the claws but thrilling at the same time.

    Have You seen such behavior?

    (Me and hooded crows live in Latvia)

    • Hi Margarita. As you no doubt know already, different crows have different personalities. Some crows are more aggressive than others in asking for food, and that’s exactly what’s going on here. It’s the crow version of the dog pawing at your leg during dinner. Hope that helps!

      • Margarita Vandane

        Thank You! I thought so, although I know better how to train dogs than crows, I will need to correct this behaviour 😀
        I already made one mistake – there was one crow with injured wing so easier to recognise and I treated her better than others so she started to caw to make me notice her, I rewarded that and soon many others started making noiise – I don’t like that so now I am trying to avoid yellers 😀

  12. Gisela Reichelt

    Can I send you a photo of some sort of seed package the crows leave me on my balcony. I am sure they are not poops but not sure why they leave me these gifts. I am 82 so my daughter will send you the photo

    • Hi Gisela, happy to help. Without seeing a photo I can tell you what it is. It’s a pellet. If you know what that is already, that’s your answer, but if you don’t read on for the details!

      So birds have an extra digestive organ called the gizzard. The gizzard’s role is to grind food, but it also performs a sorting operation where it compacts all the stuff that’s indigestible and otherwise nutritionally useless. This compacted mass is passed back up the digestive tract a few hours after the animal eats and is spit out. Many people are familiar with this process in owls because dissecting owl pellets to reconstruct whole animal skeletons is a common school or camp activity for children. But a lot of birds make pellets, including the corvids! So the seed packs you are finding are all the indigestible seed husks the crow is compacting and regurgitating up. Hope that helps!

  13. Mark

    Hi. We have a nesting pair of crows just finishing their nest. The couple are always together and the motherbird is on the nest quite often now. She has gentle caws about 5-10 seconds apart while her mate is about 2 feet away. What is she saying?

    • Without hearing the call I can’t say for sure, but my guess is she’s making a begging call. That is typical behavior at this stage. She’s asking her mate to feed her while she’s busy on the nest.

  14. Joanne Kroll

    I have on my balcony a dirt-filled flower pot hanging on the railing. I put peanuts in it for “my” crows. Once morning a crow and a squirrel arrived at the pot simultaneously. They just sat there, nose to beak until I sloooowly reached for my camera. But not slowly enough. The crow departed.

  15. Beautiful content. I hope you still post more in the future. Thank you.

  16. blytheparker

    Glad to find your blog!

  17. Ian Bridges

    I found a newspaper article about trained crows (ravens) being used in the search for a lost boy in 1950’s in bushland in Australia. Have you heard of this being done anywhere else? (The boy was found safe and well the next day by a dog. )

  18. Akil

    I would like to know if crows can dive down on you as a playful act? I have been hurt almost everyday by this one crow who has nested on a tree overlooking my terrace. I usually go everyday to feed the pigeons and before that clean the terrace off the fallen dead leaves. However, every single day this crow dives down on me and hurts me really bad. I was tolerant thinking its being playful, however I do not think thats the case anymore. I’ve decided to hunt it down by using a slingshot. From your experience and expertise can you please confirm if this is a playful act, if yes then I do not need to hurt it.

    • Krista

      Akil,

      I will leave the answer to your question up to the professional, Dr. Swift, but in the meantime, here is my two cents :

      Please DO NOT “hunt it down with a slingshot”!!! The crow is most likely protecting its young up in the nest you described and sees you as a threat. This is a natural behavior, just like any animal would do to protect its young – as you would yours If you perceived someone threatening them.

      You can leave it food and befriend it as you do your pigeons -some nuts or high-quality dog kibble. soon it will be your friend! I do this with mine and they love me they don’t see me as a threat.

      In the meantime, respect this precious nesting period And give it some distance if possible.

      Eventually, you can even start calling them to you when you have some food
      I just make a clicking sound and they fly over to me from far away.

      If this doesn’t work, nesting season will be over before you know it. The crows usually fledge in June. They will watch over the young on the ground from above and this is the time they will be very protective. Just stay your distance and be patient

      Please do not harm these crows! They are highly intelligent, sentient beings & mate for life. They are very special creatures.

      Thank You!

      • Akil

        Thank you for your response, Krista.

        Yes, I’ve figured that its hitting me as it finds me a threat. But I do not even go close to the tree or nesting area, however it still waits for me to take my eyes off him and there it comes down diving on me 🙂
        I’ve also tried to offer it food but the moment I do there must be atleast a dozen of them all trying to get their share. They end up fighting and getting too close to me like they want to snatch it all at once. Now I only leave a bowl of water for them to sip.

        I’ve decided not to hurt the crow and let him have his fun with me in the name of protecting his young ones 🙂

      • Tracy

        thank you…we all need to practice respecting the life around us

    • Hi Akil, from what you’re describing it sounds like this crow is being protective of its babies. Perhaps you can extend the same empathy for good parenting that you had for playfulness. In any case attempting to kill this crow will land you in further hot water and may actually increase the number of crows that go after you. The good news is that this is a seasonal behavior. A much simpler and kinder option would be to simply carry an umbrella until the young have left the nesting area later this summer.

      • Akil

        Hello Dr,

        Thank you for your response.

        There must be hundreds of crows in my area, I am already fed up with this one giving me a hard time and so can never imagine being in the bad books for more.

        I will leave it alone and let it fly off happily whenever it wants. I guess I just have to be cautious till then.

        Thanks again.

  19. mk

    Dear CorvidResearch;
    Like most here, I adore crows, for the many reasons we do.
    But my favorite Corvids are Jays- Northern Scrub Jays to be exact.
    Can you recommend a site similar to yours about Jays- -where questions are asked, stories are told, love is not scorned but science is honored?
    You are awesome, by the way.

    • Great questions mk. Unfortunately I don’t know of any sites like mine specific to jays. Do you have some things you’d be most interested in learning about? Although I’m crow heavy, this is a corvid blog and not just a crow blog!

      • mk

        And I have too!
        In fact, a very organized game of “Let’s Fly through the
        windowpane-like Blades of the Dutch Windmill in Really Windy Air!”
        (San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park has two restored windmills once used for water pumping.They are 75 ft tall, blades are huge- google a photo.)

        They were flying through the blades themselves,not the spaces in between the 4 blades attached to the tower. This was quite complex & took considerable skill.

        I was able to watch these 17 to 22 crows for 2 hours, hoping to ensure myself that this was actually occurring. It was. Unmistakably so.
        They actually took turns. There could have been teams. And seemed to be having a utterly hilarious time. I admit to being pretty jealous.

  20. Claire Lumiere

    Thank you for posting such valuable information about our feathered friends.
    The weather the other day was breezy, cool, and sunny. Our friends were exceedingly vocal so, I wanted to know what was happening. I believe I saw them “playing” in the wind – utilizing it for lift (and thrills).
    Have others observed this behavior?

  21. Sea

    I befriended a baby crow in 2020. I sadly had to rescue it (place it higher in a tree) from the neighbourhood cats that were trying to eat it. It survived, and I was so happy to see it flying around with the parents over the next while. Lost track of it over winter. Now it’s 2022 and I have 2 crows and a new baby that frequent my yard. Woke up the other day to them wildly hawing and cawing out my window. They stopped as soon as I opened it. The next morning, their baby was sitting on my front fence and they were all looking in my window. I catch them often looking in my windows as I’m cleaning or moving about. If I’m in the yard they are watching me from the trees. Are crows known to remember you and show off their babies? I hope so. I had such a rough 2020 and watching the baby crow learn to fly was one of the smallest big joys I had. Thanks for all your research, I love learning about these guys!

    • Hi Sea, yes this is absolutely evidence that crows recognize people. And what there’s no specific studies as to whether they then show off their kids, certainly many people have reported that here in the comments.

  22. Rod Beck

    I rescued a young crow off the street that appeared injured and has loss of balance. There is a growth or lesion on the left side of his head near his ear.
    It was apparent that he was not eating due to his balance and not being able to hold his head still or straight. I have gotten him food and he appears to be getting stronger, but with the lack of medical professionals in Central Washington, I am not sure where to get him treatment.

    • Hi Rod, I appreciate the love you have for this poor bird! Unfortunately I do not give rehab or husbandry advice. My expertise is in the behavior of wild crows and I honestly have no experience in providing care for injured birds. Your best bet is probably to drive the bird over to the closest rehab center (as you’re in Central Washington that might be Seattle, TBH). In the mean time I have some out of state contacts that specialize in crows that you can reach out to. Nell Haberman is based in Portland and can be reached at pysiacrow@gmail.com. Stephen Ballen runs a corvid centered rehab institution in the UK. You can reach him here: stephan@corvid-isle.co.uk. They are generally very quick to respond. Sorry I can’t be more helpful, but I wish you and your ward the best of luck!

  23. Mk

    Dear Rod;
    She/he is still alive. That’s a pretty good start. She/he is eating, and getting stronger, thanks to your care. If you aren’t able to get the medical care they need, I think there is still a very good chance they may recover.
    In most creatures, issues with balance seem primarily related to neurological
    conditions- everything from inner ear infection, concussion,to nutrient deficiency.
    It seems the most common treatment is time and nutrients.
    (Unless this is a disease process, not a wound or scar from one.)
    As your friend gets stronger with food, I suspect you will also see her/him begin to regain some balance.
    Slowly.
    Given that he/she is young, it will be interesting to see what adaptations they make to their condition, if it does not resolve completely.
    Crows are nothing if not inventive.
    I wish you both success!

  24. William Pietri

    Thanks so much for this excellent blog!

    I live in an area that has at least a half-dozen ravens. We see and hear them daily, and a couple will accept the occasional peanut from me. Do you have advice on learning to tell individual birds apart? Right now I can make some guesses based on size and behavior, but I’m hoping that there are more specific features that you and fellow experts use.

    One of the peanut-eaters will get closer than the others, close enough to see what I think of of as expression. Some of it’s obvious, as how it moves when it’s skittish vs comfortable. But we also see a lot of feather ruffling and smoothing. I know that’s expressive in, say, cockatoos. Is there any research I could read on what that might mean in ravens?

    • Hi William, great questions. In science, we add physical ID markers in the form of colored leg bands to distinguish individuals. There’s no other secret way to ID them unless there are obvious physical cues like injuries or feather aberrations. That said, behavior can be pretty useful as you’ve already discovered. As to the body language I highly recommend that you pick up of copy of Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich. I think you’ll really like it!

      • William Pietri

        Thanks! I’ve ordered that, as well as a few other books from your recommendations. I’m excited to get a better idea of what these very thoughtful-seeming birds are up to. I appreciate the help!

  25. Hi there, I have a question about a crow fledgling I’ve been taking care of. I’ve done a ton of research and have been speaking to many wildlife rehabilitators in the area (they are all at capacity, but have been helping answer questions and providing guidance). I’m fairly certain this little guy has an ear infection, but can’t find a single photo of a bird with an ear infection other than chickens. He has all the telltale signs of an ear infection, but I want to rule anything else out. We have been helping him and feeding him since Sunday and his coordination has improved somewhat, but the ear itself seems to be getting more swollen. We’ve been treating with ear infection drops and finally have amoxicillin arriving today. I have photos and videos I can share. Would love any help I can get in diagnosis. Thank you.

  26. Mk

    Kaila;
    I’m not sure where you are located, or if you’ve already gone this route in your search, but here is a SF Bay Area urban wildlife emergency rescue center that may be of some help. They have a list of resources outside of Ca. as well, and a international search site.
    Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue – (510) 421-9897 The website says they are open until 9pm PST.
    This is their website emergency page:
    https://yuwr.org/emergency/
    I wish you and Young Crow the best, and hope that folks you speak with are helpful, not judgemental. Mk

    • I’m in Tacoma, WA. I tried reaching out to all the wildlife rehabilitation centers in the area, but all are at capacity or not accepting crows. I’m having the hardest time just finding someone to help me diagnose his issues.

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