FAQs about Crows

These are short answers to some of the more common questions I get asked.  Although many answer will apply broadly, these were written with a North American/US bias.  Please feel free to suggest additional questions in the comments section.

Crow Biology

  1. What is the difference between a crow and a raven?
  2. How long do crows live?
  3. Can crows really talk?  Do you have to fork their tongue?
  4. What hunts crows?
  5. Are crows monogamous?
  6. How do crows mate?
  7. How can you sex crows?
  8. Why are crows sometimes white?

Crow Behavior

  1. Why do I see large groups of crows flying over my house every evening?
  2. Do crows ever kill each other? why?
  3. Do crows collect shiny objects?
  4. Why do crows gather around their dead?

Crows and Humans

  1. I found a dead crow in my yard, how do I get rid of it without upsetting the crows?
  2. Can I get West Nile virus from touching a crow?
  3. Is it legal to keep pet crows?
  4. Are crows protected/Is it legal to kill or hunt crows?
  5. Why was I just attacked by a crow?
  6. How can I get rid of crows from my yard?
  7. I enjoy feeding crows, what kind of food should I offer them?
  8. I’ve found an orphaned crow, what should I do?
  9. Do crows ever bring people gifts? Can they be trained to bring money?

Crow Biology

1) What is the difference between a crow and a raven?   While crows and ravens are in the same family, corvidae, and look quite similar, they are as different from one another as lions and tigers. If you’re not used to seeing ravens, the best way to tell them apart is if you’re at higher elevation or in a more rural or coastal area and find yourself thinking “that’s the biggest #$%^&*# crow I’ve ever seen!”, you’re probably looking at a raven.  More scientifically, ravens have diamond shaped tails in flight, deeper almost croak-like voices and, by weight, are about twice as big as a crow.

2) How long do crows live?  Once they reach sexual maturity (around 3-4 years) they are tough to take out and can live to be 14-17 years old, though cresting 20 years is not unheard of. In captivity they can live twice as long.

4) Can crows really talk?  Do you have to fork their tongue?  Yes, captive birds can be trained to talk, and no you don’t have to mutilate them to do it!

5) What hunts crows?  Red-tailed hawks, owls, raccoons and cats will all gladly take down an adult crow if given the opportunity.

7) Are crows monogamous?  To answer this question I’ll take a page from The Savage Lovecaste’s Dan Savage and describe them as “monogamish.”  More scientifically, we describe them as being socially monogamous but genetically “promiscuous”.  This means they generally stay with one partner for life, but behavioral observations and a genetic analyses in New York populations indicated that attempted extra-pair copulations are not uncommon, occurring in 36% of pairs, and resulting in 19% of hatchlings. Other populations are not reported to show much promiscuity, however.  You can learn more by checking out this post on crow families.

9) How do crows mate?  Like most birds, crows do not have an external penis (ducks are a notable exception).  Not only do they not have a penis, but they only have one opening for all things related to reproduction and waste elimination called the cloaca.  Crow sex consists simply of a pair rubbing their cloacas together for about 3-10 seconds during which time the sperm are transferred from the male to the female.

10) How can you sex crows?  Assuming you’re not a trained veterinarian or have access to blood sampling/analysis tools, you can’t by just visuals alone.  Males tend to be bigger but that’s not reliable enough to go off.  If you’re patient, it will become very evident once the breeding season rolls around and one starts spending most of its time on the nest. Supposedly, the “knock” call is female-specific.

11) Why are crows sometimes white?  There are many reasons.  Check out this post for more information.

Crow Behavior

1)Why do I see large groups of crows flying over my house every evening?  Like many other species of birds, crows and ravens engage in what’s called communal roosting.  This is where groups of both kin and unrelated individuals flock to a particular location for, in part, the security of safety in numbers while they sleep.  Crows can gather in the tens, even hundreds of thousands when they do this.  Although roosting locations may change periodically, for the most part the crows you’re seeing are heading to the same roosting spot every night.

2) Do crows ever kill each other? Why? Yes, crows do kill other crows.  Crows fight with each other a lot, both within their family groups and outside of them, though when it’s with family it’s usually not as serious. With crows outside their family they may be fighting to defend mates, food, or territory boundaries. If a particular fight ends up deadly it might be because one of the participants was much weaker and just couldn’t take the assault, or misjudged something and got killed “accidentally”. Or, as Kevin McGowen suggested, maybe the bird was already injured or sick and the healthy crows saw what was basically a walking lure for a predator and tried to off it so it didn’t attract dangers to them.  John Marzluff also discusses this behavior in his book In the Company of Crows and Ravens if you want to read other accounts.

3) Do crows collect shiny objects?  There is no evidence that crows keep collections of inedible objects (shiny or otherwise).  This myth probably originated from pet crows, who are often attracted to objects of obvious value to their owners like coins and keys.   This is a different behavior, however, than “gift giving” which does sometimes include shiny objects.
UPDATE: New research shows that New Caledonian crows keep their favorite stick tools cached in “toolboxes” so it appears that at least some species of crows do cache certain kinds of inedible objects!

4) Why do crows gather around their dead?  Certainly one reason is that the death of a crow can offer a “teachable moment” that other crows use to learn that the place and responsible party is dangerous.  You can read more about this behavior here.

Crows and Humans

1) I found a dead crow in my yard, how do I get rid of it without upsetting the crows?  Wait till dark and remove the body while the crows are away roosting.

2) Can I get West Nile virus from touching a crow?  There is no evidence of WNV transmission directly between crows and people according to the CDC.  That being said, it’s always a good idea to handle any animal (alive or dead) with gloves.

3) Is it legal to keep pet crows?  Not without a permit-see below.

4) Are crows protected/Is it legal to kill or hunt crows?  As of 1972, crows are protected under the migratory bird act.  This means that it is illegal to “take (gov speak for kill), possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale…the parts, nests, or eggs…except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.”  For a more detailed explanation on the legality of hunting or killing crows, check out a previous blog post on the Portland crow poisoning.

5) Why was I just attacked by a crow while walking down the street? If it’s summer, you were unknowingly too close to a nest or fledged kid.  If it happened once, it will probably continue to happen in that area for a couple of weeks so, if you can, steer clear.  Otherwise, maintain eye contact with the parents, crows are less likely to dive bomb the front of your body than the back.

6) How can I get rid of crows from my yard?  First off, I urge you to reconsider.  Yes they can be noisy, and get into things, and cause mischief.  But I assure you, you will not find another urban animal so charismatic, so intelligent and so accessible to explore avian behavior, cognition and biology.  However, if you’re dead-set on the idea…you’re still mostly out of luck.  You can hang a dead crow from a tree but that’s about it.  Remember: poisons and ammo will hurt not only the crows you’re targeting but also the other wildlife you may be trying to attract.  Also, killing them without a license in most places is very ILLEGAL.  My advice is to open yourself to the idea of actually liking crows and get to the know the family, because it is a distinct family, that will stay with you for years if you allow.

7) I enjoy feeding crows, what kind of food should I offer them? Dried pet food is among their favorite but a cheaper option is whole unshelled peanuts.  They also love eggs, tater tots, meat scraps and other nuts.

8) I’ve found an orphaned crow, what should I do?  The first step is to identify if the bird you’ve found is actually orphaned and/or has prematurely fallen out of the nest.  The young of lots of birds, including jays and crows, may look helpless and orphaned but are actually in the care of their parents and are much less likely to survive if you interfere and take them away.  This flow chart will help you navigate the situation and explains, if necessary, how to temporarily house a bird until it can be taken to a care center.  Remember, unless you are a licensed rehabber it’s illegal to try and keep orphaned animals.

9) Do crows ever bring people gifts?  Yes, corvids have been known to bring people various objects in a manner that appears to be intentional.  The most notorious example of this might be Gabi Mann, the little girl in Seattle who made headlines after receiving dozens of gifts from her neighborhood crows.  Feeding crows is not guaranteed to lead to gifts, however, as many a dedicated (and disappointed) crow feeder will tell you.   What causes the initial act of gift giving remains mysterious, but my best guess is that it’s a happy accident immediately reinforced with reward, thus leading to a mutually enjoyable habit.  If you’re looking to make a profit off this behavior, however, I recommend checking out this post.

678 responses to “FAQs about Crows

  1. I am surprised to hear you list the human foods crows like. Isn’t feeding them our food, especially highly processed foods, harmful to their health? Does this interfere with them sourcing their own food?

    • Jess, I assume you’re picking out tater tots (and maybe pet food?) as the human food I recommend, since all the others are pretty standard fare for an omnivore. Although I think a rigorous study should be done to really tease out your question, there’s no empirical evidence that urban crows (which have higher access to people food) have increased health issues, apart from perhaps leucism, over their peers. All evidence suggests they live just as long, if not longer (fewer predators!). As far as supplementing their diet they certainly don’t need it, they’re expert at finding all the good or junk food they want on their own. But it doesn’t hurt either, and I think it’s an important part of building bonds and empathy between crows and people.

      • do crows kill one another at any time . why?

      • Virginia, that’s a really great question and I’ll add it and my answer to the main page. Yes they do sometimes kill each other and truth be told we don’t have a clear answer on why. Because it happens rarely, and can’t be reproduced in a controlled experiment, it may be impossible to ever get a precise answer. But here is my best educated guess based on my observations of these birds and talking to other leading crows scientists about it. Crows do fight with each other a lot, both within their family groups and outside of them, though when it’s with family it’s usually not so serious. With crows outside their family they may be fighting to defend mates, food or territory boundaries. If a particular fight ends up deadly it might be because one of the participants was much weaker and just couldn’t take the assault or misjudged something and gets killed “accidentally”. Or, as Kevin McGowen suggested, maybe the bird was already injured or sick and the healthy crows see what’s basically a walking lure for a predator and try to off it so it doesn’t attract dangers to them, or teach a predator that crows are good to hunt. This kind of getting rid of the weakest link has been documented in other kinds of animals and insects, so it has some good biological precedence to back it up.

    • Jen

      Crows can eat A LOT of variety foods, but there are foods that can make them sick such as onions, chocolate, beans (cooked or uncooked), anything with honey, mushrooms, avocados, anything with caffeine and tomatoes. There might be more but these are the top worst.

  2. Hi. What bird is legal to have as a pet and is closest to being a crow? Is there such a bird?

    • Hi Robert! Well, I suppose that depends on what exactly you’re after when you say ‘is closest to being a crow.’ My best answer is some kind of parrot. Like crows, parrots are very social and require a lot of attention. Not to mention they are incredibly smart and need to be played with regularly. Unlike crows though they make very different sounds which, if they produce them right in your ear as my friend’s African Grey has done, can be annoying, and they live a lot longer. Does that help?

      • I just want to add that ALL our native birds have federal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty. In other words, you may not keep them without a federal permit. The birds that are legal to own in the United States are native to somewhere else in the world. The morality of owning a non-native bird is another ball of worms. There are a few people who “own” a corvid species that is not native. My personal suggestion is to find a permitted wildlife rehabilitator and volunteer to help. We all need extra help and you’ll experience so much that can only be glimpsed otherwise.

    • ae

      Only american Crows are illegal to keep as pets therefore african pied crows, and other imported crows thrive in the pet trade. They make excellent pets as they’re smarter than parrots, but they cost a lot of money. 1 to 3 thousand dollars a bird to be exact.

      -AE

  3. Yes, I am definitely looking for an intelligent bird. I read an article today about crows giving an 8 year old girl shiny gifts ever since she was at the age of 4,

    https://www.audubon.org/news/seattle-girl-befriends-neighborhood-crows-making-bird-lovers-everywhere-jealous.

    I am sure all crow lovers have had an earful of this story by now. The qualities I am after are related to this gift giving habit or the collecting of shiny objects. Crows seem to be dexterous in their way of handling objects and it would be interesting to observe this type of interaction in using stones or whatever they can find as tools to acquire food. The size is a factor and I hope to find a smaller sized pet if possible. The mystery that surrounds crows and ravens in stories seems to be a nice touch. Hopefully these details are not too far from anything other than a crow. Does this make any sense? Thank you for your response.

    • If you’re interested in gift giving, I would recommend simply trying to befriend your local crows as Gabi Mann did. It’s not guaranteed by any means, but I think the act becomes much more meaningful when it’s a wild animal. Parrots do a lot of object play too and I think you’ll find they can be just as interesting. As for collecting shiny objects, wild crows don’t actually do this (surprising I know-maybe I should add this to my FAQ list). We think this myth comes from the fact that pet crows take an interest in their owner’s valuables (things like coins, keys, etc) and that’s where the idea that they collect shiny things comes from. I would strongly recommend reading Alex, by Irene Pepperberg as I think it will give you some excellent insight into the intelligence of parrots and the demands of keeping them happy in captivity. Good luck!

  4. For ten years there were crows on our property. This year they are gone. What happened?

    • Hi Gloria, with so little information I’m afraid I can’t offer more than a guess. Ten years is a long time though, so if nothing else has changed it’s possible the male or female died, leaving its widowed partner to abandon the territory for a new mate. Give it time and see how things change. Good luck

  5. Karen

    For the past 10 days there has been a solitary crow on my block. He or she is here every day, alone, and often picking things up on the ground although it is able to fly up into the trees. Since crows generally are social birds, I am worried about this one. What can account for it suddenly showing up by itself and staying here?

    • Hi Karen, that’s an interesting question. The best I can can do is engage in a little speculation. Perhaps it is a hatch-year crow doing some exploring sans the parents. Or perhaps it is a an adult bird who has recently lost its mate. Or perhaps it’s a young female in the process of dispersing away from home who, for whatever reason, decided to stick around your block for an extended stay. Keep watching and maybe the answer will reveal itself to you!

  6. Marylou O'Neill

    Heard a lot of terrifying screeching from crows. Later in the day there were two dead crows a few feet apart in a vacant lot across the street. Strange to see two, is this a normal outcome of their war against each other?

    • Marylou, crow on crow killings are not something that has been systematically documented so it’s hard to really say what is ‘normal’ or not. That being said, based on what has been observed I’d say it’s unlikely that both individuals dying is a typical outcome. Did this happen recently? Or did this happen earlier in the summer when it might have been two nestlings abducted and abandoned by a predator? If not the latter, then I’d say you probably observed something rather rare!

  7. Kim watson

    I was wondering if it is illegal in Washington state to feed crows? My elderly parents live on 5 acres out by the woods. They enjoy feeding a family of crows every morning. A neighbor who lives about 4-5 blocks away came to complain and told them it is illegal and he will have them thrown in jail for it, which frightened them. They live on 5 private acres far from this neighbor. Can he do this to them?

    • My Kim, your parent’s neighbor sounds like a charmer. Nation wide, birds are one of the rare instances when your right to feed them on private property is actually protected under the law. How else would he explain bird feeders? There are some (rarely enforced) regulations that are meant to keep bird food away from rats (such as placing it in a tray elevated above the ground using a metal or plastic pole) but your parents would have to be feeding birds in an immense quantity to warrant investigation in this manner. So no, your kind parents are not going to jail over feeding the crows. I’m sorry they have to deal with someone that’s such a pill!

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  12. Tammy

    My neighbor found out I give a crow scraps once in a while he told me if I feed him again he will poison him and kill him for sure am I allowed to throw a troll scraps

    • Wow he sounds like a delight. What’s up with all these hateful neighbors?! It’s not illegal to feed crows but it’s very much against the law to poison them. That being said, it’s probably not worth the head or heart ache of dealing with your awful neighbor so I’d be careful about continuing. If you do and things go south reach out to your state fish and wildlife dept. They’re the folks that handle violations of the migratory bird treaty act. You may even reach out now and see what evidence you would need to have him prosecuted, should he follow through with his threat.

  13. Annette Hanna

    In October, all of the crows left my garden and I don’t know why. I really miss them! Can anyone tell me why this happened?

    • Hi Annette, with so little information it would be difficult for anyone to provide more than a guess. Do you live out in the suburbs by chance? Crows often flock to the cities in the winter time (food, warmth, etc) so it’s possible you lost them to they’re typical mini migration. It’s also possible a predator managed to kill one close by, so they’ve responded by avoiding the area. Again though, it could be for any number of reasons. Keep your eyes out for opportunities to give them some treats and keep the faith they’ll return in the spring.
      Kindly,

  14. Hello…I live in Ireland by the sea..every day for the past ,2 years I walk to a spot with my 2 small dogs ..where 3 crows wait for me…Always the same 3…I sit on the sand and they sit close by ..I give my dog a few treats and leave some for them…….they wait until I stand up then dive down and gobble them up…..I’m mystified why others don’t come for the food as the area has thousands of crows…….my 3 are always waiting ….I love them now ..they are getting a little fat lol……do you think that particular area is their territory…?..Linda

    • You hit the nail on the head Linda! It probably also helps that, since you’ve established this relationship, they’re more willing to feed close to you and your dogs than the others. You could do a little experiment and place a larger amount of food in the area, walk away, and see if they’re able to maintain exclusive access. Enjoy!

  15. I have done just that…no others come..and get this…..if only one appears he will not eat….he waits……I wait….until the others arrive.

  16. Jennifer Graser

    I love crows!
    I have had one in particular for several years, that I am able to call, and she comes. I say she , because we thought she was a male until she had babies. She brought the babies in to me. One of them came very close to me, like she does. The others stay back a little. Only when I call her will she come down to me. If anyone else is around she will come in, but stays a distance. I am waiting for the day when I am able to hand feed her. I know it is possible. My Grandmother, who has been dead for 40 years used to talk about her pet crow. He would ride on the family’s sholders. My whole neighborhood knows about my love for crows. I would never want anyone to hurt one of them, so I make it known that if they mess with one of my them, I will punish them severely!
    I would love to know everything about them, so I look up everything I can . I started feeding them very expensive high protein, low crude fat dog food as treats, without even knowing it was something they should have. I just figured they like meat, so they needed the high protein. I give them ham bones, which they strip to nothing. I also give them left overs, and breads. I do try to watch what I feed them, so they are healthy. My eleven year old Grandson told me my crows will get so fat, that they wont be able to fly.
    Everyday I feed them. If I am out of town my husband knows he had better feed them. The neighbors also feed them when we are away. I hope everyone can share in my great love for these birds. They are very special to me, and I will always protect, and care fore them.
    The “CROW” lady…….

  17. pary

    Im very very scared of magpies and crows
    When I see them or look at their photos i feel so terrible and Im scared of them attacking me
    What should I do?

  18. Michelle in Berlin

    I live in Berlin, I just had surgery a few days ago… the day before my surgery a Raven (I am assuming based on size) perched in the tree next to my balcony (I would say maybe, 2 meters away) and cawed a few times until I came to the door and said hello… it cawed a couple more times and then flew away. I thought nothing of it other than I had a visitor.

    The next morning it was there again on the same spot, cawed until I came to the door and said hello, and then cawed a couple more times and then away. I made no moves to get closer and neither did the Raven.

    The morning after my surgery, there it was again, same process… this has happened every morning for the last 8 days and it doesn’t fly away until I say hello.

    Soooooo, this morning when the Raven came I put a plate out with whole grain bread and a few unsalted raw nuts on it… and also a couple of ‘shinys’. It didn’t come to the plate but watch my every move. I said hello and pointed at the plate, it cawed a couple of times, ruffled up the feathers and flew away. The feather ruffling was a new display.

    I am hoping that it will take the friendship offer, we will see. 🙂

  19. Elle O.

    Hi! I’m so happy to have found your site. I have a question concerning facial recognition.

    For about a year when I lived on the Oregon Coast, I fed the crows/ravens. It started out innocently enough, one shared Frito, but later, when I was at the park, a crow actually showed up by my car with an empty Fritos bag. I thought that was coincidence, probably was, but after I read about facial recognition and the corvids, I wasn’t so sure.

    I then began to feed my crows and ravens from my windowsill. There were at least three regulars (ravens). (I named them Edgar and Posie, and used the names for everyone.) When I’d forget their treats, at least one was bold enough to tap on the window like it was a drive-thru. Also, at least one of them seemed to enjoy watching me and my dogs thru the window. (I had big, gentle dogs who didn’t get crazy, so they must’ve been very interesting to watch).

    I then realized that they seemed to know my car. When I would drive up and park in the shared lot with other cars, there would be an announcement made. Soon after, they’d be outside my window. I also noticed that sometimes they even seemed to follow me (small town so it was easy enough to do). And yes, sometimes at lunch, I would go out and share 🙂

    Then, life got sad (both of my dogs died from different diseases within 7 months of each other), and I left the beach, and it was hard for me to leave my birds, but no choice. I left them a note on the sill. Crazy, yes, but who knows, maybe they could read 🙂

    Fast forward a year and six months. I moved out of state (Oregon) for that time, and moved back (Washington). I’m now living on the Sound surrounded by trees, and it wasn’t long before I noticed I had new friends outside, so I have befriended them with food. It didn’t take long for me to become popular 🙂 Now, as soon as I open my blinds in the a.m., the bird alarm goes off. Then, when I close the blinds and drive off, I hear another communication. And now, when I get home, they seem to announce it again. I don’t know if my activities are the cause of the communications, but I’ve paid attention, and they are right in time with my activities. One guy is especially brave and actually walks along my balcony and looks in at me, too. Today, I gave him an extra piece of chicken for his bravery.

    So my questions:
    1) could the birds at the beach in Oregon have communicated about me and had the news spread this far north?
    2) could the Fritos bag have been an intentional communication as opposed to weird coincidence?
    2) is it possible that the birds really do know my car, my habits and schedule, and really are communicating it?
    3) can I safely feed songbirds seed and suet without inadvertently making the little birds into crow dinner?

    Thanks for all your awesome info!

    • Hi Elle, and thank you for the kind words. Here are my answers to your questions.
      1) That’s really, really unlikely (think how difficult it would be even for you to effectively communicate the precise details of someone’s appearance well enough to have them recognized by strangers a long distance away). Crows are very good at catching on to a friendly feeder and so it doesn’t surprise me that you made friends rather quickly.
      2) My money is on weird coincidence but I wouldn’t rule it out entirely.
      3) This is definitely happening. Crows are adept at not only learning our faces, but in my experience they are also very good at learning our cars. There are countless stories of this happening. In fact, one women in Seattle lost her job as a school district bus driver because the crows wouldn’t stop following her bus around. Same goes for your schedule. Every time the crows gather to feed their presence and calls attract others, and in that way they are definitely communicating your activities.
      4) You cannot. Songbirds get snatched by coopers hawks at feeders all the time, and your crows will do the same if given the chance (though they have a harder time of it). That’s just part of having a diversity of wildlife call your backyard home. Anytime we attract prey, their predators will follow. If you’re actively attracting both (and they’re both native) I see no reason to feel bad. We’ve shown over and over again that crows in most parts of the world (including specifically Washington) at not causing the decline of small songbirds.
      My last note would just be to be thoughtful about your neighbors (who may feel very differently about the crows than you). It’s very sad when I get emails about vindictive neighbors threatening to kill the crows (which is illegal but often hard to get proof of) or sue. Keep your feeding within reason to prevent this kind of conflict. Keep enjoying those crowy crows!

      • Elle O.

        Thanks for the answers! Darn, though, I really thought they might’ve been able to communicate that I was a Friend after reading about the way they communicate over distance. OTOH, at least I don’t have to worry that they were describing me as the chubby dumpy one LOL.

        And good advice on the neighbors. I only give treats, 7 pieces of whatever, and only once a day, so there’s no real trouble caused, and all the other neighbors feed the birds as well. But still, great advice to consider. It amazes me that some people don’t like these wicked smart and funny guys.

      • Elle O.

        Me again 🙂 I’m spending way too much time making friends with these guys. Is it normal to think about your birds often LOL?

        I’m still not sure if I’m feeding ravens or crows or both. I got some photos and videos of the big guy today. He seemed pleased with the huge chunk of poached chicken breast I left for him. Would it be possible for me to send a photo & video to you so you could tell me which I’m feeding? He has the “finger wings” but not really a fluffy neck. He’s bigger than all the others, though, so I’m just not sure. He’s now coming within about 8 feet of me, and he listens when I talk to him.

        Regardless, I love him and his friends!

      • We have crows (that we have enjoyed for many years) suddenly causing a mess on our back deck. They are destroying our hot tub cover and now they have taken to flying into our French doors of the deck. They do this many times a day. They have destroyed the screen door and I’m afraid they are going to break the glass any day. Any advice? Thanks!

      • Sounds like breeding season territoriality (though it’s weird the screen isn’t disrupting their reflection enough to stop this). Get your hands on some washi tape (or other glass safe adhesive) and create a grid system on your window. This should break up their reflection enough to get them to stop going after it. Irritating, but hopefully this behavior is only temporary!

  20. Hi Elle, I’d be happy to take a look at your photos. You can find my contact email on the homepage.

  21. Jim bob

    I saw either a crow or a raven last night at around 3am. I thought those birds don’t come out that late? What is the reason for this, am I cursed???;-)

    • Hi Jim, my best guess is that it was disturbed by a predator. But without being there myself the best I can do is speculate, so take it with a grain of salt!

      • Jim bob

        Would that be the only reason I saw that crow at 3am? Or is there any other reason for it to be out that late, like maybe rabbies or something? I’m just tring to figure this out because i just thought it was very strange seeing that bird, out at that time of night. Thanks again….

      • It’s not the only reason but it’s the most likely. It’s probably not disease related (rabies is also specific to mammals) but most other common avian diseases make them lethargic, not unusually active.

  22. Jim bob

    Why was there a crow flying around at 3am?

  23. Mirela

    Hi a crow nest in front of my balcony. It is raining for 2 days and the crown did not move from nest to eat from her partner. How long the crow can resist without food?

    • Hi Mirela, she wouldn’t have to get off the eggs to feed so it’s likely he was able to sneak in there and give her some food while you didn’t have eyes on the nest. If he is killed or abandons her though I’m honestly not sure how long she would wait. Probably a few days is the longest a crow could go without food. It’s a good question and I’ll see if I can come across a better answer for you

  24. Douglas

    Any explanation for why crows suddenly ‘love’ my homestead this year? I can’t find any nest but at least four to six of them.are here most of the day, every day, especially in the morning and evening. They’re ubiquitous. These crows don’t seem to be as cautious or suspicious as the typical crow. We can see each other clearly though my massive windows but they don’t seem to care. Right now I can hear them about a half mile away, loudly cawing at some poor victim. (Probably a hawk.) The usual rodents: woodchuck, squirrel, chipmunk all seem terrified. The area is cattail marsh adjacent to mature oak savanna with heavy undergrowth. Nothing of significance has changed and there are many similar but more suitable, secluded areas available to them nearby. So I ask, just what in the heck is so special about ‘right here’??

  25. I appreciate how you have given this information to the internet.

  26. Mario

    A female crow visited my yard daily, she was unable to fly. For fear that the neighbourhood cats would kill her, I eventually caught her and took her to a rehabilitation centre. The partner left behind continues to look for her. The rehabilitation centre, if all goes well, will release the bird in the area it was found. I’m worried that the male crow will eventually move on. Would you know how long he would wait for its partner? A week has already gone by; I suspect they have a nest in the area.

    • Hi Mario, that’s a great question! I don’t know the answer off the top of my head but if I had to guess I’d say he will not have obtained another mate by the time she returns. Since the breeding season is already in full swing it may be harder for him to quickly replace her than if this had happened in the winter. The nest will certainly fail though because he cannot incubate. You’ll have to keep me posted as to what happens when she returns!

      • Mario

        Hello, the male crow has hung around, visits our yard several times a day, of course this could have something to do with me feeding it peanuts, salmon, potatoes, chicken, pieces of meat, etc. He has it good. I tried contacting the rehabilitation centre asking them if the female crow had been released yet, but apparently they don’t respond to e-mails. They do inform of some releases through their Facebook page, but other than asking people to help pick up injured crows among other animals, they have provided no information on crow releases.

        Today, the male crow appeared with a partner and there is a fledgling in our yard who can’t fly very good yet, seems he can’t get higher than 3 or 4 ft off the ground. He is currently on top of a tomato cage in our vegetable garden. I went near him and the mother became quite distressed so I backed off. Just hope the neighbourhood cat doesn’t get a hold of him. There is no way for me to be certain if this is the same bird I took to the rehabilitation centre, but anyways I thought I’d give you this update.

        I’d like to tell you the experiences I had with another corvid a few years ago, a blue jay. We enticed this particular blue jay to come into our house to eat peanuts, got the idea from a youtube video. It got to the point that when the patio door was closed he would peck on the glass for us to open it. It was quite a sight, this creature with a beautiful blue suit waiting at the base of the door. Sometimes when I was in my backyard, I would see something coming straight for my head and avert being hit at the last second, it was the bluejay playing games. Once I was lying on my couch, head on a cushion, behind me an open patio door, in front of the couch an aquarium, suddenly I felt my cushion being hit. I looked at the reflection on the aquarium glass and saw the blue jay on the patio railing then he flew against the cushion again. He wanted some food. I got him to land on my lap but he never allowed me to touch him. Sometimes I would get up from the couch and he would fly around the room in a panic thinking that I was going to trap him, so I would get out of the way of the open door. He was attracted to a shallow basket on our coffee table and seemed to express his delight with a soft repertoire of sounds. Unfortunately we never saw him again after that summer.

        By the way I live in Winnipeg, Canada.

      • Thanks for updating me, Mario! Neat story about the blue jay. In general, jays seem much more willing to hand feed or get super close than crows or ravens. I’ve wondered why that is and would love to do some kind of experiment to figure it out. Really cool experience though one way or another!

  27. There is a garden in front of my house.Every morning I go walk there. There are alot of crows in the area where I live and they fly to the garden sometimes to eat.one day watched as crows kept taking turns coming really close to a boy (as close as his ear) and then they leap upward. It was scary tbh. And then now several days maybe I went to walk as I regularly do and crows keep flying really close to me and then they land somewhere near and keep watching me. I got to wierded out and left. Their are alot of people walking too. And I never really cam near any of them. But as I was walking out (my house is infront of the garden) one flew really close to me and landed on the wall and kept watching me.i was annoyed to be honest I mean I am jist walking and then I keep hearing flapping wings.why do you think they did that?

    • Hi PerksofbeingaBookfreak, what you’re describing sounds like something called dive bombing. There could be two reasons this is happening. Given the time of year you’re reporting this the best explanation is that they have a nest in or near the garden. They’re not bring malicious, they just see a human, a big powerful animal from their perspective even if just a little boy, near they’re offspring and they’re compelled to protect their young. It’s s common behavior in birds. Just be grateful it’s not an owl, they can be even more aggressive and have the talons to really make you run! It’s also possible they are trying to get your attention because they’re used to people feeding them. In this case they’ll swoop close to the head, but don’t follow it by leaping upward as you describe. Rather they’ll just fly by your head and land in front of you like they’re saying “do you see me now, can I have a treat please?” Hope that helps!

  28. Jillian

    I dound a crow/raven on my back porch. He/she tried flying but failed to do so. I was watching it for a good 3 hours struggling to go anywhere. I finally took it in my house. I put gloves on and set up a crate box with a cloth on the bottom. It seems to be comfortable, its sleeping now. What should be my next step i dont have a Humane Society in the area.

    • Hi Jillian, you need to locate a wildlife rehab center, not an animal shelter. If you cannot find one locally then your only legal option is to leave the animal outside to recover or perish. It’s sad when we have to leave an animal to die but that’s part of nature. Good luck!

  29. Liz

    Starting early this AM, there have been about 10-15 crows in/around the pine tree in the front. They are extremely loud, flying around looking like they are attacking each other. Walked out front and discovered a dead baby crow in the grass.
    Could all this commotion be caused by the carcass? What should we do with it?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Liz, that could very well be the explanation. They will have probably settled down by now, but if not just wait until it’s dark and remove the dead baby. If you can, try stashing it in an area where it can decompose naturally, rather than going to a landfill.
      Cheers

  30. Ben atkins

    Crows have been at my place for 5 years now since I built my house next to a major highway.
    3 years ago the highway was moved away yet they haven’t. I started off not really liking them because they hang around and are noisy and strange. However interest in them has stopped me doing anything to get rid of them.
    One day I came home and found dead mud crabs ( of which I am an avid trapper of ) in my water feature pond where they always hang out and wonder if they have seen me doing this in my creek and copied me?
    In any case they are bringing lice onto my deck now and need a solution as how to keep them away.

    • Crows love to soak or deposit food items into water. Unfortunately, there’s not much than can be done to deter them once they find a particular source of water they like.

  31. Hi Kaeli! I am not sure if you already answered this question (this didn’t happen at 3 am and I am not questioning if he/she had rabies or not), but I heard a single crow caw around 1 am. It was the only time in the eight years I’ve lived in Wallingford that I’ve heard a single crow so late at night. Thankfully, it didn’t sound like it was being attacked or anything. What would cause a crow to be so far away from others and cry out in the night? Also, is there anywhere on your site or others that have recordings of sounds crows make and researchers/scientists interpretations of them? I would love to learn about what their different sounds/calls mean. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and love for crows!

  32. Thank you so much! We will check out your colleague’s blog! I couldn’t find anything on the Audubon’s website or others. I think I have heard young crows being fed. Looking forward to learning more! 🙂

  33. I just remembered an observation of an event that happened a long time ago. I thought you might be interested. I was driving on a residential side street in Madison Valley in Seattle with my friend. We stopped at a crosswalk and noticed quite a few crows cawing and making a lot of noise from the telephone wire above us. My friend noticed an injured and dying bird in the middle of the street. She said the crows were mourning their own and asked me to do something. I stopped the car and moved the poor bird (it looked like a sparrow) to the sidewalk. My friend wanted me to kill it, because it was already dying. I couldn’t do that and told her she could if she wanted to (she didn’t). Then I told her maybe they weren’t mourning their own because it was a different breed of bird? Have you seen crow’s mourning other animals? Or do you think this was more about learning from a deadly situation?

    • They notice other similarly sized birds (we tested pigeons), but not smaller ones. In all likelihood it was a crow that injured the bird you saw and they were vocalizing because they were excited (not excited like “yay!” but excited like the way a neuron is described to be excited before it fires).

  34. That makes sense. I’ll let my friend know. I wonder had my friend put the injured bird out of misery and left it there for the crows to eat, would she be identified as a villain in their eyes? I know it may have been the humane thing to do, but I just couldn’t kill it. Thank you for answering my question.

    • That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer. Regardless of whether or not she killed it, they certainly don’t like it was other animals (unfamiliar people) mess with their food. Don’t feel too bad about the bird. Nature was happening and you let it continue to do so. Most of the time that’s just the right response.

  35. Carol

    Love your site! Over the past 3 years or so, I have been watching the crows who frequent my yard. I feed them occasionally during the summer and more frequently during the winter (no tater tots, just peanuts in their shells and dry cat food.) A year or so ago I noticed that the crows did not make a mess of my trash on trash day if I left food for them near the trash. This led to an experiment where some trash days I left food and others I did not. Every single time I left food, the crows did not go through my trash. When I did not leave food, they tore up the trash about 50% of the time and left it alone the rest. There is a 5 hour window between the time the trash (and food) goes out and when the trash guy comes. I tell people that I have an agreement with my crows – I leave them food and they agree to stay out of my trash. Do you think this is really just coincidence? (I been running this experiment for almost a full year now, through an abundant summer/spring and mild – for Maine – winter.)

    • Hi Carol, thank you for the compliment! From the sounds of you story it doesn’t seem like a coincidence at all. While garbage cans are a good source of food, they’re more of a gamble right? They’re more work to get into and there’s more risk you might eat something contaminated. If instead you have a source of food that is provided simultaneously that is both easier to access and reliable safe it makes sense you would stick with that. Doesn’t mean all crows would behave this way (we like to say the plural of anecdote is not data) but it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t either! Keep experimenting Carol

  36. Deb

    Thank you for taking the time to provide such great information about these beautiful, intelligent birds. I have had family of crows visit me everyday for almost 2 years. Now their offspring are regular visitors too. They get a little noisey if there snacks are out when they arrive. And feel silly rushing to put food out before they arrive…. Just don’t want to have neighbors like the others mentioned here. Other times of the day when i walk out to the backyard – I can hear them start cawing – one after the other – soon all flying in for an unscheduled visit. They obviously know when they see me food is not far behind…. I feed them high quality food – with a treat here and there – They LOVE butter cookies – and I do limit those, but to watch them stack them perfectly before flying off with them. If the stack gets crooked, they start all over again stacking one at a time, neatly. I always hesitate to tell anyone these stories of my crows – thinking they wont believe me…. there is one who every time I put food out – sits in the tree above me and makes a clicking noise. If I make the noise back – he repeats it. Then he makes a strange pinging noise. I like to believe they know me and know how much I care for them. Is it possible the noises they make are for me??

    • Hi Deb, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be possible. Much like how they may leave gifts as a way of enforcing a positive relationship they might also make certain sounds that serve a similar purpose. For what it’s worth, you’re certainly not the only person who has had this experience!

  37. john

    I had an dream and heard bunches of crows woke up and still heard them and then they stopped making noises what does that mean thought I was going crazy but I know I actually heard them

  38. I had about 40 crows that regularly came to our property. They would call me when I went outside, likely for food. I fed them regularly and then in the new year, they all deserted me. Recently I’ve had one crow return, I call her Maude. She taps on the BBQ to let me know she’s out there and wants her breakfast or lunch or supper. About 3 weeks ago she brought her hubby, who I call Harold. Now this could be the other way around since I don’t know the first thing about telling the girls from the boys. They both had voracious appetites…..I guess because they had 4 fledglings to feed. They all come now and they look like a gaggle of chickens. They all waddle around the property waiting for mom to feed them. Incredibly noisy but fantastic to watch. They like dog kibble and table scraps of meat. They’ve claimed the bird bath in the back yard and everything goes in there to soak. We live on the ocean but I guess they like being able to control how they soak food.
    I love to watch them. When I put out food, one of them sends out noisy cries to alert the others. They love to share. I notice they bury food in the grass, the garden or in winter, in the snow. I don’t have ant nasty neighbours thank goodness.
    Thanks for all the information you’ve priovided here. It’s wonderful to see so many crow lovers.

  39. Pranay Patil

    Why are crows trying to come colser to me…and are trying toh attack on me…?how to get rid of these crows

    • Pranay it’s difficult to give you a very good answer with so little information. For example, what exactly does “trying to attack” look like to you? What are they doing to get closer (walk, flying, swooping)? Are they making noises when they do it? If so, what kind? Since crows don’t really try to attack, they simply attack, I’m going to infer that what you means is they are trying to approach you, probably by following you in flight or walking toward you. The best answer is probably that people in your area feed them, so they have been conditioned to approach people for food. Just keep ignoring them. Good luck.

  40. Deb

    Like a lot of your readers, I don’t “expect” the little gifts we hear Crows may leave for those who keep them fed…..but I’m pretty sure I am not the only one who secretly hopes one day, maybe, they will leave something…… I put their bowls on the fence posts and they all seem to have their favorite one. Yesterday my same 8 crows stopped by for their food. I have one post that has a large food and water bowl. Then another on the ground because there is one that prefers to eat ground level. For some reason, yesterday they hung around all day. Usually they are very much eat and run. But they stayed all day, and didn’t even fly away when we were working in the yard. Later that afternoon I went to go change the water (since they soak everything before eating) and I found a strange looking stone in the water bowl. Had little specks of what looked like shells. It was about the size of a walnut. I couldn’t figure out how it got there, besides an occasional squirrel passing by, the crows were perched around that bowl for most of the day. My husband said “well finally, there’s the little gift you’ve been waiting for”. I laughed then thought, hmmm, they were acting differently yesterday. It’s a stretch, and I am aware they were probably carrying it somewhere and put it down to eat …….but I am choosing to believe that it was meant for me 🙂

  41. M. Marr

    Do crows recognize your face.

  42. Elle

    Hi! A few new questions:
    1. Do crows molt? Mine are looking rather rough around the feathers right now.
    2. The chickadees and jays now feel comfortable visiting my deck frequently, and there’s been no threat from the crows. Is it likely that as long as everyone has enough to eat, no one will get eaten?
    3. Do crows have a pecking order re: food? I’m still feeding Bran (the big guy) and Raven (his mate or BFF), and at least 3-5 others who are part of their murder. Bran is almost twice as large as the others, and much braver because he’ll make eye contact with me, stay in place when I talk to him, land on the deck even when I’m there 2 or 3 feet away, etc. It seems that there is a sentry posted near my deck at the “most likely” feeding times (I have to vary a bit day to day). When I put food out, the sentry crow (Raven, I think) sounds the alarm, but stays on the branch away from the deck. Bran and others will show up, but everyone seems to wait for Bran to get the best stuff. Often, he’ll help himself to two or three pieces (roast chicken is his fav) and then he and the sentry will fly off. So, does Bran share with Raven? Is she calling him so that he can be the brave one? How does that work?
    They really are so fascinating, and after reading about the documented dolphin conversation today, I am certain that crows do the same thing. I just wish I understood more about them, but I believe Bran will share secrets soon enough 🙂 Esp for roast chicken 🙂

    • Hi Elle, yes crows do molt and that’s just what you’re seeing at this time of year. 2) active predation makes up a very small portion of a crow’s diet. That said, if they see the opportunity they’ll take it no matter how much supplemental food they’re getting. As an example, during one of my experiments a crow attacked and killed a house sparrow ~at the pile of peanuts~. 3) Absolutely. Makes for a really great opportunity to watch and learn about all the different relationships between birds!
      Cheers

      • Elle O.

        Oh, thank you! Bran is The Man, it seems. I am glad he is sharing, though. You probably don’t know the answer to this, it may be a crow secret, but why doesn’t Raven just come and get the food herself?

        My little chickadees are very careful about their feeding, but I’m going to try to make it a little harder for the crows to just get grab-and-go lunch…..

        Thanks again! l.

  43. Yes. “My crows” follow me around the property in the trees when I go out with the dogs. They know I feed them after we have been out. They make all kinds of strange noises to get my attention.

  44. Ann

    I love corvids, especially crows! I swear I saw one of “my” crows cache some chicken I had put out for them. Is this a known behavior?

    • Absolutely! The details of caching vary species by species but most corvids do it. Check out the post “I spy with my raven eye” and “5 corvid facts that will surprise you” for some really cool species specific behavior on this subject.

  45. Elle

    Hi Kaeli! I have a few winter/storm questions for you. Accuweather’s dire forecast prompted me to make Crow & Jay protein bars & pinecone treats so they could stock up today and tomorrow, just in case. I moved their serving area around a bit, and this seems to have created a little concern, but not for long.

    So, the questions:
    1. Where will they go during the (possibly horrid) storm?
    2. Do crows or jays ever use houses? And if so, what kind?
    3. Do they eat in bad weather, or will they stay in their shelter?
    4. Would they ever take shelter on my enclosed deck? I know the little chickadees will, and I’ve gotten them a house, plus they can get in the faux trees away from the wind, but I have never found a crow or jay spending any R&R time here, but OTOH, I’m not watching 24/7.
    5. Is there anything I can do to help them survive a potentially bad storm other than feed them and hope for the best?

    I know they’re wild birds and have survived their whole lives without me, but I’ve known some of them for almost a year now, and Bran esp is very brave and interactive, and he makes eye contact and stands and listens and watches, so if I could help them survive this, or other bad storms, I’d sure want to do that. Thanks! Elle

  46. Elle, I want to be a crow in your neighborhood! You are so thoughtful and kind to the crows. I am interested in the answers too. I am going to leave twice as much food out for the sweet crows on our block. Will look up the recipe for the bird protein bars too! I feed the crows fresh scrambled egg, cat food, unsalted peanuts and leave a bowl of fresh water everyday. I am hoping since crows are so smart, if there is safe shelter, they will find it. I hope I’m right.

  47. Elle

    Thank you! With possibly horrid weather on the way, I this it will help many of our corvid friends if we know what to do. And yes, I think everyone thinks I’ve officially hit the “crazy” button with the birds, but Bran now walks along the railing to the window, and when he finds me, makes eye contact and turns his head when I speak. He is the one reaching out. He could just eat and run.

  48. Elle

    @Kris – I just saw your reply Thank you, but Bran & Raven & Friends, and Lyle the BlueJay (I call them all Lyle because of the “hair”) know that I’m their friend now, and Bran actually does reach out to me. So, I’m reaching back.

    As to my “protein bar” recipe, I didn’t use one. It was the result of a mistake, but it was a big hit, so here is the recipe:

    Cornmeal & Peanut butter, equal measures (I use about half a jar of PB at a time)
    Leftover Pasta (raw, I just had miscellaneous bags)
    Unsalted peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
    Wild Bird Unlimited Bird food (oats, more nuts, whatever else) used to thicken it up after I put in too much hot water
    2 eggs

    I mixed it all up until the hot water has softened the pasta & the mix is a goo I wouldn’t want to eat, a little more watery than cookie dough, but not much. Then, I grease a baking dish with coconut oil, and leave a little extra in the pan (I used glass, not non-stick, because non-stick is poisonous to birds), I put it all in the oven, and turn the oven to 350 and set the time for 25 minutes and check it then. Because it’s not “precision” baking LOL, I just wait till they’re solid enough to cut into pieces for the crows to carry (the jays also like these bars, so make enough to share :). Though the recipe probably won’t appear in the NY Times cooking section, Bran & friends have given it a five star review.

    I have some leftover coconut (unseated organic) and some frozen berries from summer that I will add to the next mix if Kaeli says it’s okay to feed crows coconut.

    Kaeli- is it okay to feed them coconut?
    I will probably chop a few bars into little pieces and give them to my chickadees as well.

    • Hi Elle, I’ve read (not from reliable sources) that you’re not supposed to feed birds dehydrated coconut, but I’m inclined to think this is the same nonsense perpetuating ‘don’t feed birds dehydrated rice grains’. I think it will be fine. That said, birds can be very sensitive to surprising things so it’s best to err on the side of caution. Just keep a watchful eye. Good luck!

  49. Elle

    Thank you! I’ll be safe and put it on top and that way they can pick it off if they don’t like it. I just heard lots of cawing so I put some bars out to see if they’re having breakfast. If not, I’ll just put the bars back in the fridge. And I’ll let you know how the coconut works. I even read they can have uncooked pasta, but I soaked mine in hot water for the protein bars, just in case.

  50. Samantha

    My grandad as been feeding a crow over 30 years out in the wild he feeds it scraps meat nuts and it loves potatoes he’s only had one leg aswell all this time he said it’s nested twice had young in these 30 years that it. Is this odd for a crow to live over 30 years in the wild it also flys round and flollows him on his walk round the woods everyday ?

    • Hi Samantha, it is unusual that it would be 30. It’s happened before (oldest recorded wild crow was 29.5) but the vast majority of adult crows die around year 15. Its also odd that its nested so few times, it would normally do so every year. It’s not unusual though that if he’s been feeding it it follows him around. It might even have left him a “gift” or two!

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