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.

614 responses to “FAQs about Crows

  1. Vincent Vandemeer

    I absolutely love crows. Read about them,collect things about them,look for them,etc. Without question my favorite animal. So today I’m in a cemetery and they’re everywhere-I’ve been there a few times before to feed them-and I toss out some crackers and a lot of cracked corn. Well,the cawing was unreal, from every direction and many flew away. As I was leaving I decided to circle back as it’s a huge property….and many were where I was before eating what I had left out, but Canadien geese were present as well.
    It seems every time I get close, the crows fly away and gulls and geese come. Many times I’ve seen 6,8,10,even more crows just watch me from the trees above throw food out as hungry gulls and other birds swoop in. I want the crows to trust me and I want to make friends with them. I don’t want the gulls and geese around, just the crows. I’ve used a crow call as well. Advice?

  2. I’ve been feeding a family of crows in my yard for several years now. There was a regular pair, one of whom had a missing foot, and their fledglings each year. They used to fly in from the surrounding woods when I called. Now they’re all gone. What could have caused them to all disappear? There are no crows on our whole hillside anymore.

    • I wish I could tell you, Jennifer. I get these messages from time to time and I hate that I can’t offer folks any closure. But there are so many possibilities that it’s pointless to just guess.

  3. Elizabeth Jordan

    I was walking earlier today as I turned the corner I saw a black crow in the middle of the street. It was just standing there. I stared at it it didn’t move. Does it mean death?

  4. Zamira

    Obviously the following questions are purely hypothetical:
    Would you say crows are more or less trainable than ravens?
    If you had to train a crow or a raven to attack you enemies which would you pick and how consistent at following orders would they be?
    Asking for a friend.

  5. Coraxo Ravenite ( Obviously not my real name.

    A two questions ….Are Crows in different geographic areas subspecies ? Do the crows from different geographic areas behave differently – specifically is there a difference in “intelligence” ?

    • Hi Coraxo! So there are 45 different species of Corvus (the genus that contains crows, ravens, rooks and jackdaws) around the world. So depending on how you define “geographic area” and where you are, the answer could be yes but they would be full species differences and not just subspecies. For example across much of the USA we have American crows, but if you were to travel to England you would find carrion crows. Then again, you may consider the pacific northwest a different geographic area than the northeast but you can find American crows in both regions. So it’s highly variable. As for intelligence it’s apples and oranges. Different species will excel at the skills that match their natural histories and depending on where they live their natural histories will be different. For example New Calendonian crows are the most adept tool users but that it because the island on which they live had an available niche which selected (as in natural selection) for tool use. American crows did not have that available niche and don’t appear capable of manufacturing tools. But they on the other hand are expert at recognizing people and exploiting them for food. So it’s all relative.

  6. datadiva69

    One time I was headed for my car in Oakland, CA’s Market Hall parking lot, and this raven was hopping around on the pavement, crying out to people for something it apparently really needed. I asked it what, but I couldn’t understand raven language.

    My first thought was, it is defending a nest nearby, but it was autumn, which didn’t seem like breeding season for birds, but who knows. It was also a warm day, so the only other thing I could think was, thirsty? Didn’t have any water in my car, so I went back into the shopping warren to procure a paper cup, get a key to the restroom, tear down the cup to dish size, fetch water, and by the time I did all that and returned, the raven was gone.

    So, I nestled the cup down into the dirt strip between the front of my car and the fence, out of sight for the bird to find.

    Any ideas what that was about?

    • Could have been trying to communicate with another out of site raven or begging for food. Not begging for food like “I’m starving, help kind human!” but like a well fed dog begs at the dinner table.

  7. Mary Lee

    In illustrations, some photographs, I notice a light or white ball in the beak of a crow. My neighbor watches a crow come to a water source with the round object in it’s beak. What is that object?

  8. Kathryn Hildebrandt

    Ah. That didn’t cross my mind, since this was a fairly busy parking lot, and I felt the little dude was taking a risk hanging out between all those cars…but they are pretty ballsy critters I reckon.

  9. I had a great experience with a magpie in Sun Valley…I was lonely in a condominium and the magpie came to get crackers..he would stack and carry two at a time..also gave him a lamb chop with bone:) I made a video.i could send.

  10. Today my crow friends spent time with me foraging for the food I put out, they are a confident young couple with a prime nesting spot in the corner of the park. They stayed with me a while and seemed to be in a good mood. One of them rustled through some nesting materials and then went kook-*click* a few times at the other crow, who was standing nearby. It seemed like s/he was communicating to her mate about nesting materials, or maybe furtively picking at the ground and then vocalising some other sentiment. I wonder if we can speculate why she made such a specific sound? Do we know much about communication between crows and do you have an idea if they use clicks for anything specific?

    • Hi Ramblinone, what species of crow are you dealing with and/or where are you (generally) located?

      • carrion crow, in southeast UK, in an urban park : )

      • Hi Ramblinone, so it’s still a bit early for them to be collecting nesting material. Not saying it’s out of the realm of possibility, just that it’s a bit suspect without further evidence. It’s more likely they were just processing through vegetation looking for bugs. In either case though the sound, as you’ve described it, was probably what we call a rattle call. As far as the literature is concerned this is a female-specific contact call. That’s as specific as I can be as far as the meaning. It comes as a surprise to people, but crow calls are not referential (meaning X sound=communicates Y) in the way some other animals calls are (chickadees many monkeys, etc.). So unlocking their calls has been exceptionally difficult and most remain mysterious!

  11. Thanks, that’s interesting! About their nest, I thought they might be using the same nest that has been there a while, because it is in a very good location and seems to have gained bulk over the past week or two. The female is there often, but maybe only because that spot overlooks a huge area. Do you think they will definitely make a fresh nest in another location?

    Thanks for the info about the call, I googled “rattle call” which seems to mean a continuous rattling sound, quite different from what I heard – I think it was the female, and it was kook-*click*-kook-*click*-kook-*click* at a medium volume, and seemed to be directed at her mate nearby. The clicking sound was a proper click like a parrot might make. So we know specific calls don’t have specific meanings, but do we know if crows have a vocabulary of idiosynchratic calls, or do they seem to improvise sounds more by mixing and matching the sounds they know how to make? Any resources or studies you know that try to penetrate the mystery?

    PS this particular crow vocalised a quiet “oh” once when I removed my hat while we were stood observing each other at close range.

  12. Is it better to have some sort of feeder or platform to put food on or should I just throw it out in the yard?

  13. Jo

    I have made friends with a crow in my yard and he will now eat out of my hand.. But tonight he had a little peck/pinch of my finger (not at all painful) why do you think he did this?

    • Might be testing to make sure there wasn’t food left, letting you know it wanted more food, or being affectionate. In any case this is not a behavior I would encourage from a wild bird because, as sweet as it is for you, these behaviors, if applied to other people, can and do get them killed. Which is really tragic.

    • Nick Braun

      I too have lately tried to coax a trio of regularly-fed crows to come closer. And in every case they show what I interpret to be some level of anger on the initial attempt; I’m curious what your process was to coax them nearer. Persistence in the effort? Crows have an initial comfort zone that they don’t like encroached.

      My first attempt was on the west side of vancouver, to get some crows I’d been feeding to land on the deck rail while I was sitting on the deck; a distance of about 5 – 6 feet. About six started up such a squawk around my head that I quickly retreated, removing the offending offering from the rail. They then settled down, and the habit of my tossing the food down onto the lawn was resumed.

      My second attempt has been with a trio of regulars in east van. They have taken to landing no more than 3 feet from me, when I’m behind a glass door. Outside, they will come as close as 5 feet, if I’m sitting down; seems like a safe distance in case I choose to pounce! Hard to know what they make of us. Anyway, I recently tried to get them to come to my hand, but they sat @5 feet away and squawked a bit, so I withdrew. Nothing like that first experience, so maybe they’ll warm to it if I persist. Crows display a fair bit of individuality, so maybe its about finding that one crow that will master its skittishness in the pursuit of its curiosity to find out more about you.

  14. Bee

    Oakland, Ca
    I have a trio of crows that come twice daily for food. All was great until another pair decided to have territory wars with “my” crows.
    I changed their feeding location to my backyard but the other pair have located the secret stash and have become even more aggressive! How can I feed them all without such aggressiveness??
    By the way…the baby has learned to say “Hello” got video on it. So sweet
    And yes…the aggressive pair have a baby in nearby tree.

    • That’s tricky Bee! Maybe try feeding them two places at once?

      • Bee


        I did try that. Did not work. I will keep trying. However my trio (my fave) is now a family of five and they regained their territory. The mean trio is now a family of four and mama crow seems to be mad at me since I favor the 5. I scolded her for fighting and now she sees me and slowly walks away from me. Quite hilarious. She does not caw she just ….walks away and retreats.

  15. Janet Miller

    Hi — I’ve been feeding two crows the last couple of months. They initially would perch on the tree next to the front desk, wait for me to leave food on the deck and come eat. Within a few weeks they would just wait on the deck outside my door and one was very bold and would just move to one side of the deck while I placed food on the other side (the other would wait in the tree). I was able to distinguish them from other crows in the area by this behavior (and because they were always together). About 2 weeks ago they stopped coming. I really miss them. They used to come regularly (sometimes all day long!) and they obviously recognized me. I did notice the more reticent bird occasionally had bric a brac in its beak and I wondered if it was nest building. Any thoughts about what might have happened to my friends? I’m worried about them and miss their visits.

    • My initial guess is that they’ve nested in another part of their territory and are coming around less while the female incubates eggs. It’s been a while since you posted this though. Any changes?

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  18. Ben Trovata

    Throughout April,the corvids,crows?,have been noticeably absent.Comment?!

  19. Quackels

    My family lives near the corner edge of a Ohio forest, and I have heard
    one or two crows that I want to befriend near the other side of our forest. How do I get the crows attention with trees blocking the view?

  20. travis

    Why don’t crows carry roadkill off of the road? Instead of flying away every time a car passes, simply to return.

  21. Charmie

    Is it legal to keep crested crows in South Africa as a pets?

    • I don’t know anything about the wildlife laws in South Africa. As a resident I bet you could find the info faster than I could so I’ll just wish you luck! (Also not sure what you mean by a “crested crow”)

  22. Kc

    I saw a baby crow being attacked by other crows. At First I thought it was saving it from getting hit by a car but then Everytime it flew to a tree they would knock it out to the ground and all were trying to kill
    It. So we rescued it and took it to another place
    We know is save. Did we do the right thing? The crow had blue eyes and pink beak but flew really good. Today I saw a baby crow in my backyard, I did bring the bird to my house first the. We drove a mile away and let it go and it flew to a tree. Would it come back to my house are they that smart?

    • Hi KC! It’s unlikely that it would return to your house. At that age they don’t have super strong spatial skills. As for whether you did the right thing the answer is probably no. At that age these birds are dependent on their parents and you took it too far away to probably link up with them again. It’s possible, it’s just unlikely. Don’t beat yourself up, it likely would have been killed anyway by the attacking birds. Nature is brutal sometimes.


      I saw a crow just front to my house. It is roaming here and there. It is a grown up. It is an elder crow. The problem is our street dogs are running behind that. But some crows are protecting their crow friend from dogs hurting it. What do I do now? Shall I save it or leave it as it is? It’s left wing got completely injured that it can’t even fly. Maybe I think because of electric shock. Please reply me fast.

      • If you know of a place you can bring it to be rehabbed/cared for you can try to catch it. Otherwise I’d leave it be. I’m sorry that it will probably die.

  23. MR

    I have a crow in a tree in my backyard hoping around the branches. Looks kind of beat up. I can walk right up to it and the crows above are swooping down aggressively toward me. Are they trying to protect it or do they want to kill it off? Its been there for a few days.

  24. Adam D. Seal

    I am slowly being a crow fanatic and have begun attempting to develop a relationship with what I believe are a mating couple outside my house. Recently, I can’t tell if I’m dealing with two separate mating pairs or if the two new ones I’m engaging of late are juvenile and perhaps I’m dealing with a family. They do appear to be a bit smaller and leaner. Is this the right time of year for younger crows to begin making an appearance? Does this question make sense?

    Also, I’ve noticed crows have seemingly two primary calls. Their well known “caw caw”-ing but also a call where they lower their head with their beak almost pointing straight down and make a type of clicking sound. Any information about what that sound/behavior is trying to communicate would be awesome! Thank you! I love following all your social media profiles. It’s all so cool!

    • Hi Adam! Yes it is the time of year when young are leaving the nest and may be out and about with their parents. Look for blue eyes and pink at the corner of their mouths to verify this.

      Look at my two most recent blog posts for anything and everything related to their vocalizations. Hopefully you can find your answers there.

  25. Maria Alvarez

    Hi! I’ve come across your blog while searching for info. 23 days ago a friend brought me a baby crow(?) that her dog picked up in the yard in the early morning hours. The night prior we had bad weather all night (Southeast Louisiana). We thought s/he may have been blown out the nest. The baby already had feathers and could only fly a few inches off the ground. Nothing stood out as injured, just scared/frazzled, and didn’t want to handle too much to not further stress, but couldn’t leave him there due to cat colonies in the area. Not knowing anything about birds, we thought to keep warm, quiet and feed for a few days til could fly higher and then release back where found, on a tree branch. All was going well, but around the 5th day I noticed one of the wings was not symmetrical with the other one. My vet determined it was broken and had already started healing, meaning nothing could be done. My friend and I have looked into wildlife/bird sanctuaries, but all will euthanize if can’t be rehabbed to be released. He is doing great and now eating mostly on his own. He is in a large dog wire crate with tree branches and takes a bath every day. He eats Pro Plan dry cat food (40% p) moistened, banana, crunchy peanut butter, lettuce, corn on the cob, wheat bread, some dry worms, people sardines, crickets and seed mix, but can’t live in a dog crate the rest of his life. Do you have any suggestions, other than to euthanize? Thank you so much in advance!

    • It is possible to get permits to keep non-releasable crows, but it’s a major lifestyle and time commitment because they need so much care and stimulation. You could also try to find people in your local area that are already set up to permanently care for crows. Its tough though, there’s no getting around it. I wish you and your new friend the best of luck.

  26. Kimmie J Southwell

    Do you know if a crow will follow you to work. I started feeding a lone crow that was hanging out at home. Then its mate(I think) starting hanging out also. She wiggles her but when she walks away after eating. I work outdoors about 4 miles from home. I swear they both show up there cawing at me. If I come home and don’t see them I call them with a cawing sound and they show up. The male I believe is always flying by and cawing in a very nice way. If I take a walk he always shows up just to let me know he sees me.

  27. Jan

    Since parakeets have stopped visiting , our area has become overrun with large numbers of crows. Is there any correlation between the two events do you THINK?

  28. Chris Roberts

    Hello, I am really sorry but I hate crows and they flock to our garden and surrounding fields in their hundreds along with rooks. Their numbers seem to have doubled this year! The sight of so many is quite frightening and they are so noisy. We are elderly and almost housebound, sitting in the garden or even having the windows open is becoming almost impossible and quite distressing.
    Will recorded bird of prey sounds discourage them?
    Again, my apologies to all the corvid-lovers…….but several hundreds???

    • Hi Chris. I’m sorry you feel that way but it’s okay that you do. I understand that these birds inspire that reaction in some people. That said, have you considering giving it a try to simply…like them? That may seem silly, but I’m being serious. Open yourself up to figuring out what it is so many people do enjoy enjoy about these wonderful birds and see if any of it sticks. You’ll likely find it easier to change your behavior than theirs. I’m not saying just decide that you like them. That’s generally not how people work. But maybe watch a documentary or read a book. (here’s my suggestion for the doc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3_XMF0DUsI and for the book I suggest: Crow Planet by Lyanda Haupt) If you still hate them you can try me again.

  29. Kimberly Lambert

    We have a family of crows in our and neighboring yards. The mother has been teaching the young ones to fly. One of the young, we believe to be a Male, is noisy and bucks Mom at every lesson. This lesson, Mom has resorted to tempting. She’ll fly into the nest with food in her mouth, go to put it the youngin’s mouth and pull back quickly and fly to a near by tree. Making the youngins upset…with protest they fly to Mom for the mouthful. The young Male just talks back and insists on being difficult. We find it entertaining.

  30. I enjoy a family of crows living around our house. I feed them and they know me. The whole thing.

    Well, I was devastated to wake up yesterday morning to see that one had been hit by a car right in front of our house. Its mate was standing around the corpse. Sigh.

    My question is: will the widow re-pair or remain solo? Will s/he stay around here or move along?


    • The widow will re-pair pretty quickly. As for whether they stay or leave that’s more up in the air. Depends on the birds and the relative competition for the territory. You posted this a while ago so maybe you know by now?

  31. C. Rob

    I have recently been dive-bombed by a crow for unintentionally coming too close to a group of crows which may have contained some young, then a few days later in a different area I started to get mobbed and followed for a block or two for reasons I couldn’t figure out. In both situations I just kept moving and left the area without incident, but my question is: since crows will remember you as a threat, do these couple instances mean that I’m on the crows’ “bad lists” indefinitely and will get harrassed any time they see me?

    • Fortunately, no. They dive bombing that occurs during fledgling season does not seem to include the dedication to facial learning that seeing people harm or pick up cows do. You should be ok after the summer!

  32. Thomas Duncan

    I was bewildered by finding various stones in my garden, and on odd occasions. Was I the victim of criminal damage, vandalism or malicious behaviour? On reviewing my CCTV, I was non the wiser. No shadowy images lurking in my back yard, or would be vandals springing from behind walls. Then I read an article on crow behaviour, and realised that I may be recieving gifts from crows. I feed all the birds that are in my locality, and crows often land to take the lion’s share. I now feel that I’m being rewarded, but wish it were gold, as stones are not very valuable.

  33. Nancy Dragun

    I have a crow family in my yard that I’ve befriended over the years by feeding them snacks, daily. Now I’m realizing the harm in this – for instance, to the native songbird population. I have long been intrigued by the crows, and I don’t mind sharing my yard with them, but I don’t want to feed them anymore. Will they be mad at me? Will they ever go away and stop pooping on my deck? How do you safely “break up” with a crow?

    • Hi Nancy, depending on how you are identifying and defining your “family” it’s unlikely your actions are having any consequence to the other native songbirds that share your property. If you’re feeding more crows than would otherwise be able to live in your neighborhood then maybe so, but I’m going to assume that’s not the case. It’s fear mongering mumbo jumbo that feeding an established family ground increase depredation rates. But if you still want to “break up” with them for other reasons stop feeding them. They will likely come around for a while but eventually they will give up.

      • Nancy E Dragun

        This is helpful, thanks! I only managed to stay “broken up” with the crows for a day or so. My post was prompted by a heartbreaking and grisly moment when I saw them attacking (and presumably dismembering/eating) a baby robin that had fallen from a nest right outside my house, while the mom and dad robins flew around screaming helplessly. It was hard to get past, but… I guess that’s just nature in all its beauty and savagery. Crows gotta crow.

      • Indeed it is. I know it’s hard to see, especially when you’ve been rooting for the robin parents all spring. But it’s normal and robins have several broods a season for just this reason. Their strategy is to make lots of babies because most simply wont make it.

  34. Victoria Grossack

    Could you please describe crow courtship? Do they have any special rituals?

  35. Ben

    I live close to a Telephone musk and have been seeing crows gather in large numbers every morning does it mean death?

  36. Thank you for this very interesting and informative information.
    I have a huge tree in the garden and often wondered why the fly around the tree in groups then retreat back.

  37. Renee

    I recently have 4 crows in my yard every morning until about 11AM, then they disappear. I looked for a nest one day and they were agitated, it I have not seen any sign of the nest. They hang out in my grass for awhile then sit in my neighbors trimmed, low growing juniper trees, cawing and cackling for a bit and then poof they are gone until the next morning. Any ideas on this behavior ?

  38. Rae

    Hi. So glad I came across your blog. This morning, we found what looks to be a adolescent crow hanging in our backyard. A trio of adult crows have been taking turns watching out for the fledgling (and happy to report they have progressively gotten less loud each time we go out). The fledging doesn’t look injured, just hanging out going from one spot to another.

    Not sure if it’ll be there tomorrow. But if it is, we don’t want to scare the family away. So many questions.

    Should we just leave them alone? Could I leave them food? Are there signs we should be looking out for in case the fledging is injured? How best can we support this family in our backyard? Thanks so much!

  39. Mrs Nancy

    I’ve been watching a pair of crows here (in a nursing home) for 2 years now. One resident in a wheelchair comes out after meals and leaves bread or buns for them. They seem to know what time it is. If he hasn’t been outside yet, one will sit on the back of the bench and stare at the dining room door.

  40. Carol Marchand

    I had a family of crows that followed me from one house to another. There was one distinctive one that came to get the food as his mate stayed in a tree close by my deck. I have been feeding them for a few years. I just found the male dead and the mate started coming to get the food. The problem is after a couple days I’ve seen a couple aggressive crows trying to attack her when she is on my deck. What can I do to help protect her from these new crowd?

    • Hi Carol. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do, and honestly there’s nothing you should do. Until she finds a new mate she’s in a tough spot to maintain her territory. But that’s her crow business, not to sound terse about it. Hopefully she keeps ahold and finds a new mate soon. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for her!

  41. Jamie

    I’ve read where a crow will strafe someone when that person gets too close to a nest or baby, but I’ve been strafed and smacked in the back of my head when I know I’ve not gotten too close. I feed some crows every day with a handful of unshelled raw peanuts or dried catfood, and I call them with a certain whistle. On most days, they’ll show up within a couple of minutes after I call them and it’s also usually just a couple of birds. I figure if they don’t show up, it’s because they’re out of hearing range; I live in an urban setting. My wife and I have both been strafed before and yes, always from behind. Once the crows followed me a couple of blocks to a coffeehouse, trying to strafe me as I walked down the street. The other day I was walking from my backyard to my front yard down my driveway and got knocked upside the head by one of the crows. I hadn’t seen them so I hadn’t thrown out any peanuts. I laughed and called the bird a spoiled brat. Is it something that’s known that crows will do that to get attention? I have to admit that because I figured they were trying to get my attention that I did feed them. Now, I’m starting to think that they may start doing that all the time to get me to feed them something. I love the crows and how intelligent they are and my hope is to get them to eat from my hand someday (though admittedly that might not be the smartest idea).

    • Hi Jamie! Yes, some birds will strafe you to get your attention when they want food. I had one by my old house that did this. I don’t recommend training it to feed from your hand. That can be a dangerous lesson for a wild bird. Otherwise, keep up your friendships.

  42. Darren Jones

    Hi just going to bed when i heard a crow looked out window and two cats had a young crow cornered managed to save it wondering what to do next

  43. James Sabraw

    I have a flegling crow who seems not scared of me. Mom and dad are still feeding it. It flys but not strong yet. I put him back in a tree a few days before.. have i ruined him with am imprint

  44. Jane

    I live in Woomera.At the moment everyone can’t go down 2 streets in the fear of being swooped. Is there anything we can do. It’s very alarming

    • Hi Jane. You’re dealing with a very different group of birds. Australian magpies (which are butcherbird not corvids) are very nest aggressive, indeed, much more so than crows. My advice is to wear a helmet.

  45. Eliza

    I’ve been treating a number of crows with tids and bits of snacks about once every week or two in my front yard. Think scraps from meal prep, not leftovers after cooking and eating. It’s going well. I don’t do it often as I don’t want to become a main food source; and I don’t want them to get pushy. It’s like we’ve struck a deal we’re all good with.
    That being said, I’ve noticed new crows by my work, three miles from home. Next door is a Chinese food joint usually surrounded by seagulls. I’m talking since I was a child, these seagulls have always been around. For the last several weeks, I’ve seen less and less seagulls, and disconcertingly, noticeably more seagull feathers in my work parking lot. There are at least three crows where we previously had none.
    Have they figured out I’m the same person from my neighborhood? I do have bright green hair; I stand out to a degree. I don’t mind them knowing who I am at home. However, I didn’t want to start a turf war.
    If these crows do recognize me, are they the same crows or were they passed along information? Also, when I hear them cawing outside my home, the song changes when I go to my car. The crows in our lot sing the same song. I want this so badly to be true because crows are amazing and there’s no reason we can’t be friends. Am I just experiencing Baader-Meinhof phenomena?

    • Hi Eliza. Three miles would be an unusual distance for territory holding crows to travel for food but it’s not out of the question depending on where you live. So I can’t tell you one way or the other on of your home crows are traveling or not. I can tell you they haven’t passed on information about you to a separate group, that’s not how social learning in crows works. Maybe you could mark your home crows in some way to test. I’d need to think of ethical ways for you to do this though.

      • Eliza

        I appreciate the response. I felt like I was getting my hopes up. The only difference between them is my home crows are finicky eaters, preferring meat/dog kibble/chex. The work crows are less discerning. They eat everything, including carrots and cucumber. Either way, I’ll continue throwing out snacks for them. I like knowing they’re around.


    I have approximately 40-50 crows that come for breakfast every morning. Which I love. I adore crows! Unfortunatelty the pigeons have realized that this is happening and are taking over!!! Is there something that I can do to keep the crows around and get rid of the pigeons. I cannot find information on this subject anywhere. HELP!

  47. Natasha Stevens

    Canuck the crow from Vancouver Canada has been missing since August 30. I’d like to know your thoughts on this and what are the possibilities. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Natasha. First let me say that I’m very sorry Canuck is missing. I know a lot of people are very attached to him, and that’s he’s done a lot to make people think twice about crows. That said, I have nothing but bad news for you. If you came here for something hopeful, I want to give you the option to stop reading now.

      As a tame crow, but especially as a tame celebrity crow, an outcome like that is what I have always imagined for poor Canuck. People are under the impression that Canuck is quite unique. Certainly there haven’t been any other crows with facebook pages with hundreds of thousands of followers or documentaries, but overall, he’s not. He acts how imprinted, tame crows act. I get emails about these crows all the time. Most often they are from older people who remember their family’s or their neighborhood’s local “pet” crow. Like Canuck these were birds that were taken into captivity as chicks, and then released into the wild sometime later. They could fly freely but had a propensity for perching on shoulders, stealing from the neighbors, that kind of thing. And almost every one of those stories ends the same way. “We loved that bird…he’d follow me to school…he could talk and say hi…for years he was our friend…and one day we never saw him again.” Birds that fly free but will willingly perch on a shoulder or come into a car will not make it to the 14-17 year life expectancy for a wild adult crow. People kill them. They get attacked by pets. It’s possible he was killed by a raptor and flown off somewhere where no one can find his bands, but that’s not the typical M.O. of raptors. Usually they pluck where they land. He could have been killed by some other kind of predator too, but it seems less likely. He could have also gotten himself trapped somewhere because he didn’t have the fear of certain kinds of spaces typical crows do. I doubt disease would have taken him because with so many close-contact observers someone would have noticed some symptoms leading up to his death. He’s not “on vacation”. Territory holding crows to not abandon their territories unless they are part of the populations of crows that are migratory, which Canuck is not. So my money is one something happening him that was either accidentally or on purpose related to human activity. And to me the lesson here is that tame crows can be amazing ambassadors for their brothers and sisters. They will do more for crows that I will ever accomplish, no matter how many blog posts I write. But it will probably cost them their lives. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.

      • Natasha Stevens

        Very sad but realistic. Canuck had a human beat him over the head and had just recovered from that so I believe your outlook is correct sadly. Is there anytime that crowd leave their known territory and mate and just move on with another mate and or family? Thank you for your reply.

  48. Rhynowolf

    Have you ever dug into the Earth to feed crows/ravens? Can they not dig into the ground themselves or something?? Do they teach humans how to help other animals such as themselves to feed?? One time a raven pair taught me to dig further into ground, found a bunch of crabs, and worms. Also one of them seem to ask me to keep an eye on his/her mate while he or she went to do something. I named them Murh and Honch, met at a coastal beach in Califonia, and from time to time seen each other again. I fed em apples, oranges, worms.

  49. Mel

    I am interested in learning how crows tell each other apart. As I ride my bike between my home and my office (all over town actually), I toss peanuts to all the crows encounter. In the distance between my office and home I cover the three distinct crow territories. When crows from one territory break the crow rules and cross into a the territory of other crows there is swift retribution. My questions are many:
    1. How is it that all crows exhibit the same behavior of soliciting food from me no matter where I am? This is clearly an evolved response. As I bike along they fly to a place that gets my attention, usually to the nearest brach or sign in front of me.
    2. How can crows tell each other apart? I don’t buy the “sound” theory because I have over 2 years of daily interactions with crows that tells me it is not sound. They see something different than we do. What is it?
    3. Do all crows go to roost when they are not busy with reproductive activities?
    4. Are there organized crow parties or meetings, because I swear there are some days when all the crows in the neighborhood are absent. I have suspected when this happens they are busy bullying an owl somewhere, but I cannot hear them anywhere nearby, so where the heck are they?

    Thanks for any answers you can provide!

    • Hi Mel, here are my answers
      1) You live in an area where crows face little relative persecution from people and are fed by a lot of folks. This relationship has coevolved over time resulting in a population of crows that are assertive in their food begging skills. If you rode your bike in a different area-one where crows do not get handouts and may be persecuted by people-you would not see this behavior. The difference between crows in two close by Washington cities, Ellensberg and Yakima is a good example of this.
      2) Outside of sound we don’t know
      3) No. Most do, but sometimes they split off into smaller roosts closer to their territories.
      4) No, but crows do assemble for various reasons. These are initiated by assembly calls. Predators, crows death, food bonanzas, are all examples of things that can trigger assemblies of crows and can attract crows from several blocks away and well out of ear shot for you or I.

  50. joanne kroll

    i have, for years, put unshelled peanuts in a flower pot filled with dirt on my balcony.for a crow pair that comes daily. one crow pair ceased coming after many years and i assume one of them died. this newer visiting pair comes faithfully. i put a plate on top of the dirt in the pot because one of the pair tosses dirt all over the place when getting the nuts. this crow mostly picks up the plate (a heavy-ish one) and tosses it to the ground. why?? what’s the matter with a nice plate full of peanuts??

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