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.
- What is the difference between a crow and a raven?
- How long do crows live?
- Can crows really talk? Do you have to fork their tongue?
- What hunts crows?
- Are crows monogamous?
- How do crows mate?
- How can you sex crows?
- Why are crows sometimes white?
- Why do I see large groups of crows flying over my house every evening?
- Do crows ever kill each other? why?
- Do crows collect shiny objects?
- Why do crows gather around their dead?
Crows and Humans
- I found a dead crow in my yard, how do I get rid of it without upsetting the crows?
- Can I get West Nile virus from touching a crow?
- Is it legal to keep pet crows?
- Are crows protected/Is it legal to kill or hunt crows?
- Why was I just attacked by a crow?
- How can I get rid of crows from my yard?
- I enjoy feeding crows, what kind of food should I offer them?
- I’ve found an orphaned crow, what should I do?
- Do crows ever bring people gifts? Can they be trained to bring money?
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.
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.
688 responses to “FAQs about Crows”
I had 3-5 regular crows in my yard for over a year, they frequented my feeder and had grown used to me. Recently I saw them with fledglings. Around 4 days ago a fledgling/young crow(eyes are no longer blue, still pink in corners of mouth, still wobbly walking and landing) turned up at my feeder. He has remained there, literally every day, all day. The odd thing is the other crows are MIA. Where as they used to stop by 4x a day and knew the sound of my car, I haven’t seen them but ONE time come to my feeder. At that time they did feed the young crow, but he is absolutely alone the rest of the day and even sleeps alone at night! I’m not sure what to do for the little guy without jeopardizing his freedom- place in the pack, but I feel like this isnt normal behavior!? Hoping you can shed some light on what’s going on?
Hi Jayme, that is strange. Can it fly? Do you suspect it’s injured?
I have a crow that I feed separately from the other birds. He is there every morning. Today I found a perfectly good feather by his eating area. I know they lose older feathers but this one is perfect. Gift?
Hi John, it’s molting season so they are losing feathers regardless of their condition. You are lucky to get one of the good ones!
A mature crow seems to be languishing in our yard.
The crow sits on the ground in shady areas. It drinks water but doesn’t seem interested in the peanuts we offer. Is this animal on his last legs and about to die?
Hi Janet, could be. What happened?
How long do young crows stay with their parents? I have been observing a young crow that can fly yet still stays close to its parent. It opens it beanie it wants to be fed and nuzzels the adult for grooming days or affection.
Hi Melanie, you can find that information here: https://corvidresearch.blog/2014/10/06/what-happens-to-baby-crows-at-the-end-of-summer/
This spring a young mated pair started their family in a large tree a few doors down from me. I didn’t realize this at first. I just knew that the larger group I’d been feeding earlier in the spring disappeared and no one came around for a short period and then there was just one pompous fellow with puffed head strutting the street corner for awhile alone who would occasionally take my offerings but seemed more interested in strutting about with his puffy head chasing off anyone who came through, squirrels, jays, cats, other crows, etc. Then almost overnight, the strutting stopped and several times a day I was handing off food to this handsome young male crow from my porch for a month or so. One day he appeared with a “friend” who i much later deduced to be mom finally free of sitting on the nest, after reading many posts on behavior. He introduced her and seemed to make it clear that I was not a threat and was a reliable food source, although she has remained consistently wary around me in comparison to him, as has the one fledgling I think is female based on her higher pitched reedier caws. With regard to the fledglings, one squalling fledgling appeared about two months ago, and nearly a month later a second and now I have a lovely family who visits me multiple times a day for food and water. Mom will even leave the youngest tucked in the shade tree a few feet above where I sit on my patio while she goes off to do things on her own for awhile and the two of us have a comfortable co-existence where he calls and I come and when I put the food on the fence post he literally charges at it with no fear while my hand is still trying to get it set. At times he’s appeared squalling at me the same way he does at mom when he’s begging which seems to be a near constant state, but she’s not around. She usually appears post haste though. Just today he landed in my very small yard a few feet away to get peanut scraps and hot Cheetos which the crows appear to love as we learned when someone left a nearly full bag with some garbage on the curb. This is to me the greatest act of trust as the dog was also sleeping at my feet although I think they’ve deduced that she’s useless as the whole family watched with amusement when she got beat up by the cat the other day. Anyway, recently this lovely picture has been disturbed when I accidentally fed a strange crow and a their accompanying fledgling out in the front yard. I mistook this pair for members of the family although I did find it odd at the time that they were so standoffish and now having seen them all together close up I’m ashamed I mistook them. Now they are showing up routinely in the morning and it has resulted in near daily territorial battles in the street although there is never contact, just posturing, and dad has had to chase them away repeatedly but they rarely go far and linger nearby waiting for the family to wander elsewhere so they can sneak in and take what they’ve left behind. I am wondering if these new crows may have been part of the larger group that was frequenting before nesting season started and I am hoping that this constant pressure isn’t going to scare off my family eventually because mom has her hands full still so it’s left to dad to carry the load of defending the territory. Is it safe to assume that because there is no contact, this is probably part of their larger family group that was here earlier in the season and dad is just warning to make sure they know who is in charge in case they get any crazy ideas about moving in? I know I am anthropomorphising these birds, but I’ve been quarantined so long it’s one of the few joys I have right now 🙂
Hi Erica! I completely understand what a source joy and relief these birds, and their antics, can provide so no worries about anthropomorphizing.As for your question, it’s impossible for me to say exactly what’s going on here based on your description alone. My guess is that’s is simply a competing pair, but I really can’t know that for sure. Part of the joy of watching them is that some things will just remain a mystery!
My story has come to a tragic end with a series of events since I wrote that 😢 the trusting baby landed on my small backyard lawn to investigate a squirrel digging holes for peanuts. They both sat there in a curious and peaceful coexistence for a minute until my cat, who had snuck outside unseen, sprang from the bushes at both of them and the frightened squirrel reacted by launching himself at the baby crow and both nearly collided as baby crow sprang straight up into the air screaming and mama shrieked from the power line. Total chaos ensued. Since then, everyone has been on edge and their visits when I’m present in the yard have become more and more rare, wary and distant. As a result, the crows I reported as previously lurking on the sidelines have moved in with more confidence. This morning I saw one aggressively chase one of the fledglings away from the food and invite another unfamiliar crow to come in. I am devastated. It’s clear that the seeming trust of crows is incredibly fragile and it doesn’t take much to break it. I realize the seasons are changing soon and the family dynamics and their movements will shift, and I’ll just have to look back on this past spring with fond memories after I‘m done grieving the loss of this deeply felt bond that was so clearly unrequited. My family is completely mystified and somewhat amused by my distress but I really feel like I lost a little friend. 💔
I’m sorry to hear that Erica. People here will certainly understand your heartache even if your family doesn’t!
Wow! Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge. I am just beginning to befriend some crows in my neighborhood. They are so weary and smart! I’m in for the long haul, as these lovely animals are not easy to win trust from! My new crow friends enjoy peanuts. Take care!
Do crows share food with their family members? I have a pair crows that I’ve been feeding for quite some time – I’m pretty sure they’re descendants of crows I originally befriended several years ago and have been giving snacks to since. They hang out every day on the deck railing outside my windows. When I place food on the railing for them, one of them (the larger and I think older one) is quicker to grab it, and the other one is often left with nothing. Sometimes I try to put scatter the snacks far enough apart that they both have a fair chance, but the littler crow still misses out sometimes. Do they go off somewhere and eat together? Or is the big crow just being a jerk?
Adults will feed fledglings, but outside of food provisioning females while they’re incubating, I’ve never seen birds go off and feed each other.
I’ve seen one crow feed its mate. It was funny because it looked like he was trying to shut her up, she was cawing over and over right in his face so it seemed he was sick of it and just shoved a peanut in her beak
Why do crow’s fear more of men and less fear women.
Hi Naf, in my expert option this isn’t true. What experiences lead you to believe it is?
Hi! I am day feeder of the crow family in my maple tree. 3 of them, always. Until about week or so ago when suddenly 15 or 20 crows showed up in the yard, all acting like they are starving, or saving up for winter. Will they stay forever or disperse again? I worry about my original family, and don’t want them chased off.
Hi Midge, they will move on. It’s probably this year’s kiddos in their flocks of “ooo look at us we’re independent now!”. What ended up happening?
Hi. I’ve read all the above with great interest. Thank you! I live in northern England and we have a small river and lake on our property. The lake (which is full of fish) has attracted a heron and a couple of cormorants but a large family of crows has moved in and persists in chasing off the larger birds. They’re not competing for food, so can you tell me why the crows are acting this way and if there’s anything I can do about the battles? I like the crows, but equally i don’t want them chasing off the larger birds, whose lives and behaviours are equally fascinating.
Hi Simon, these larger birds are accessing food that the crows cannot. So naturally the crows are seeing an opportunity in obtaining the food by stealing it away from these other birds. That behavior is called kleptoparasitism and is how some animals (like certain gulls) get nearly all their food! Not much you can do I am afraid, as it’s just a matter of a highly prized resource. I’m envious of your wonderful sounding property! Good for you for creating a space for so many birds.
Dear Kaeli — I’ve only just discovered your delightful blog. Re: Simon’s post, we have been feeding squirrels for a couple of years, and recently a crow family has moved into the big trees in our yard. A couple of days ago, I bought a cheap peanut feeder to see how long it would take the squirrels and crows to empty it. The crows deduced that they couldn’t easily land on it, so they marched around nearby until the squirrels figured out how to climb the holder and swing peanuts onto the ground. Then they and the squirrels vied with each other to grab the peanuts. I spent three happy hours watching this, by which time all the peanuts were gone.
A crow sat in high our tree at 7 am calling in a very soft rolling sound, for a good 20 mins. I’ve heard it in the neighborhood recently making that same sound. Can’t find it on a recording. It seemed a bit plaintive. Any idea what this call is? Thanks.
Hi Anna, without a recording it’s pretty useless for me to just try and guess. If you record it feel free to post it to the corvid research facebook page so I can listen!
Was it a crow or raven?? Years ago, one sat on my head, then followed my car up the hill when I drove away. This happened 2 or 3 days in a row, then it never came back. I did not have shiny things in my hair, nor fed it. But it singled me out. My father witnessed it.
No idea Lindy! Could have been either.
I think it also knew when I was coming home from school …watching for me, because when I got out of the car and walked to the porch, it then sat on my head.
I’ve started observing a pair that comes to my yard each morning. I give them a little dog kibble. Today I saw one of them fan their tale, bob, and make a cooing sound. I haven’t had any luck finding a description of the meaning of that body language. Any ideas?
It’s a greeting. Hello food barer Rachel!
Here in the UK I’ve been feeding a couple of crows, who appear to be a pair, for about 3 years now. I first noticed them about 8 years back when they would arrive with maybe 5 youngsters who would disappear as the summer wore on (there are others living close by). I started feeding primarily because the male has acquired a wonky wing and I thought he might need some help though he still flies perfectly well. This year they seemed to have had 1 youngster who also now seems to have gone to make his own way in the world now but they still come. I also put water down and it makes me smile to see them sometimes putting food in the water before eating it. Dry crusts of bread they pick up often end up in the bowl and they go back to eat them when they’ve got nice and soggy. Great birds and very intelligent.
Thanks for sharing your story Sheila!
Hi Dr. Swift! we live in SE PDX and have been feeding crows in our neighborhood + a pair of california scrub jays in our garden roasted/unsalted peanuts in the shell. We love feeding them and befriending these great birds!! We have noticed that both the crows + scrub jays will cache the nuts and then return for more — is there any risk of giving them too many peanuts? First heard of your work on Ologies and have been following since! thanks!
Only risk is to folks in your neighborhood with peanut allergies. But the birds will be happy as clams to get as many as you will give!
Andy! My husband and I also live in SE PDX, and we’ve befriended crows during this pandemic. I was cleaning out a cupboard in the kitchen back in March and found a stash of unsalted nuts–too stale for us, but perfect for the crows. We quickly befriended a crow that is missing a number of feathers from its wings–we call it “Dapple.” Since then, he/she comes by daily for nuts along with a small crew of what appear to be younger crows. If we aren’t out fast enough for them in the morning, they will wait on the roof and then move down to the railing outside our kitchen. It’s fun to open to blinds and see them waiting for us. … glad to see so many people who also enjoy being around these smart birds. This is a terrific blog, Corvid Research! Thank you.
Andy and Erin, I, too, live in Portland, Oregon…NW Cedar Mill area. I’ve been feeding my crows for about 4 years. Unfortunately, a couple years ago we lost their 3 babies to avian pox! It was really hard to watch them die. I don’t think it was our fault was we are rigorous with our cleaning of the bird feeders and we feed them separately anyway. This year I believe they are currently feeding their new babies as they like to soften the kibble/meat/bread with water so now I just put it in some water for them. I can’t wait to see the new babies. Also, they have adjusted to my cat and dog. They squawk at the cat to go away but still eat even if he’s around. The dog has a routine of going outside to see if they dropped any food bits on the ground for her to pick up. Today I witnessed a crow catching a bird!!!! I wish I hadn’t seen this.
This morning, I was walking my small dog as usual around my neighborhood. As I was turning a corner towards my house, I noticed a crow flying slightly above me cawing softly. When the crow noticed that I noticed it, it immediately did a couple of backflips when it was flying and then landed on top of a tree half a block away looking at me. I felt like it was trying to impress me. When I have peanuts on hand, I do put a small basket of shelled unsalted peanuts out with some water on my balcony. I have seen the crows come and take a few every morning and a couple of blue jays. But I haven’t had the time to buy more and the basket is empty right now. Think that crow was trying to nudge me to get some more peanuts? I don’t even know if they are the same ones that visit. Also, whenever I’m out in my front or back yard, there is one crow that just likes sitting on the electrical line above me and will just hang out.
Hi Rony! You know, I really can’t say. That wouldn’t be among the more common methods I’ve seen crows use to beg for food. But I lack the hubris to assume I know what was going through its mind so who knows! Their acrobatics are so fun to watch either way.
One day I heard a commotion of crows calling. At first I ignored it, but it kept up for several minutes. I finally stepped outside and found a group of crows pecking at another crow in the street. I shooed the crows off and found the victim to be still alive, barely. I took it to a local vet, not to be fixed but more likely to be humanely put to sleep. The incident was traumatic for me as well as the poor crow. I had never seen anything like it before, nor have I since.
Yes, those events can be quite distressing to watch!
We have one black crow which visits several times a day. It is very scared or anxious when it approaches the bread we leave for the birds. It leans forward and jumps back several times before actually grabbing a piece and then flys off. It is the largest bird to visit and is scared of the smallest birds in the garden. Is this common? We live on the Gold Coast, Australia.
It can be! Depending on where you live and how much persecution they have experienced, or just general personality, individual crows can be quite fearful and wary.
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Funny that you mention how some crow feeders like to make an audible “come and get it” cue such as whistling. I got into the habit of making a loud clicking noise with my tongue. The crows in my neighborhood will sometimes fly over to me on a nearby tree but if I make the noise again, it seems to bother them and at times, they will fly away despite the promise of food. I wonder if the sound is similar to a crow obscenity in their language.
For the last 2 years we have had an abundance of crows. Sometimes in the summer the racket is so loud it drives us all indoors. There are dozens of them, maybe as much as a hundred. They seem to drive all the other birds away. I’ve seen them mob hawks. They are literally everywhere. I can understand like a few of them, but these are getting out of hand.
But we have a white crow. Almost totally white and certainly stands out among the other black ones. I’ve been told it’s a condition called leucism. If it’s genetic can we expect to see more white crows next year?
Hi Judy, it’s recessive, so you likely won’t see a big uptick in which crows apart from a very rare case.
For the past 6 months I am feeding the black crow at my kitchen window.. Initially I used to feed them with Cooked Rice. Without hesitation it will eat. One day I have given Britannia-milk because Biscuits. The very next day, I have given Cooked rice it literally refused to eat by giving different noise as if humans used to ask for specific things. I Went out and bought the Same brand Biscuits and fed that crow & Britania milk because Biscuits become its regular favorite. Most of the time it used to eat by putting the biscuits in water and used to drink semi solid form… don’t know why? I tried Britannia marie gold flavor biscuits it refuses to eat. After a week, due to lock down & unavailability of regular milk bikes at my home, I have given Curd. Now it started to demand either Milk bikes or Curd depends on its necessity. I used to show milk box, rice, curd… it will go one step back if it doesn’t like and it will come near if it likes and it starts giving different noise (as if gargling) to ask for a specific food item. Sometimes I used to feel it is talking to me…If my kitchen windows were closed it will peck hardly using its beak and ask her for its favorite food…
Hi Parthasarthy, sounds like you have a very picky crow on your hands! The reason they dip the biscuits is to soften the food and incorporate more water into their diet. I don’t doubt it loves the milk products, but just don’t over do it as dairy can upset their system.
Thank you for this blog. I love it!
Just want to flag an small issue: the link to the flowchart on FAQ 8 no longer works. I think this may be the updated link: https://www.nwrawildlife.org/resource/resmgr/HelpAnimal/FoundBird.pdf
Thanks Mavis, I’ve updated it!
Good morning 🙂
I have a crow (UK) that’s been visiting my garden for a few months now. He (we assume it’s a ‘he’, but have no idea: we’ve named him Hamlet) lands around the same time each morning, spends the morning in the garden then goes again. His right wing hangs quite low and it looks like he has had a bit of an injury at some point but he can still fly. I feed other birds that visit my garden so I’ve been putting some food out just for him on a rock we have. He seems to have gotten used to me now and doesn’t fly off if I go in the garden – although, he does watch me closely!
Yesterday morning, another crow landed in the tree in my garden and starting cawing loudly. Then another crow flew in and dived at Hamlet. I stood up, they saw me and flew off. Then this morning, minutes after Hamlet landed in the garden, two crows (I assume the same two as yesterday) landed and started chasing Hamlet around the garden, cawing loudly. Hamlet was making a growling-like noise that I’ve never heard from a crow. I went to the window to see closer and the two crows again saw me and flew off.
Would there be any specific reason for this behaviour? Would it be territorial?
Many thanks in advance for any response. I’ve become quite attached to Hamlet. He’s amazing to watch.
Hi Mel, it sounds territorial to me, yes, but it’s tough to say for sure without much knowledge on the bird’s identity. Have you happened to notice what color the inside of his mouth is?
Thanks for the reply!
From what I can see, the inside of his mouth is completely black. I’ve been able to get some nice clear photos of him.
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Hi, I’ve been on your site a few times and it’s really interesting. We currently have a crow who comes to eat seed from our patio. It has one foot all scrunched up but this doesn’t seem to bother it too much. My main concern is that it doesn’t seem to be able to open its beak much. It puts its head down sideways to pick up seed with the side of its beak so I put a bit of bread out, thinking that might be easier for it to eat but it didn’t seem to be able to open its beak to take the bread. I know that there is nothing I can do to fix it but I wondered if there is anything I can put out which might be easier for the crow to eat. Or should I just let nature decide whether it should survive or not?
Hi Corinne, maybe try some peanut butter? I’m so curious what’s going on with this bird. That’s an unusual injury!
Do Crows dismantle their nests once they are finished with them? I have upwards of 50/60 nests in trees directly behind our house in West Cork, Ireland – fascinating watching them build and maintain the nests. Once the Autumn begins and trees have shed their leaves, the nests are all gone!!
Carrion crows don’t dismantle nests as far as I know Eddie. However, there are observations in Japan of Carrion crows reusing material from old nests. But I don’t think this happens very often. Probably just the weather at work!
Every work day I eat my lunch sat on a bench in a botanical garden situated next to wooded fields. There are crows in the area but one particular crow, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same one, comes down onto the grass area and forages by flicking the grass cuttings looking for food. It does about five flicks of grass, then it goes through this strange ritual. It leans forward so it is pretty much horizontal and with beak open it makes this beautiful soft cooing noise while bobbing at the same time, almost like it wants to regurgitate. sometimes this is accompanied by clicking noises. Immediately after this cooing and bobbing, it puts its head right under its body and pecks once at the vent area. It’s always only one peck. This behaviour carries on in almost exactly the same way and for the same time. A few flicks of grass, then the bobbing, cooing and one peck underneath. I have never fed the crow and it will forage up to about two meters from my bench. The gardens have been closed for some time so there is minimal human activity around. I have tried without luck to find out what this behaviour might mean and hope you can shed some light on it. I am in South Devon, England.
Hi Sally, would it be possible to get a video of this ritual?
It is caching food. The carrion crow, from the next door garden does this in my lawn. It also observes where they grey squirrel caches food.
Hi Adrian, while caching is a common behavior that’s not what Sally was describing here.
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I’ve noticed crows in the Northgate area where I’ve lockdown/lived for the last year. In the last few days, there seem to be fewer and fewer. And the ones I see are solo. I used to see daily raucous-caucus conventions in trees. But no more. I hope they are not being driven or attacked.
Hi Richard, the breeding season is in full swing and many birds will stop going to the roost during this time so they can attend to their nests at night. Not to worry
I live in Vancouver, and have found that crows generally pipe down during nesting season. They don’t flock to the rousting trees like will later in the summer, but hang around their nests (those that are nesting, that is), becoming very territorial, chasing squirrels, seagulls, and whatever they perceive as a threat to their offspring. They will buzz you, unless they know you for a friend (i.e. one that feeds them), in which case they will leave you alone.
Good observations nick, you’re exactly right!
I have been trying to attract corvids to my feeder that i place daily peanuts (shelled and unshelled) in, sunflower seeds (shelled and unshelled), and have a beautiful family of blue jays that come to eat…but not a single crow or raven. Ever. I love to watch the majestic beauty of these beautiful birds…but after 2 years, not one has come to grab any food left in the stand. What could be the reason for this? Have I somehow offended them at some point in my life where they won’t come? I live in NE NYS, where they are plentiful, and would love to watch these beauties.
Hi Kimberly, it’s unlikely this has anything to do with some transgression on your part. It’s probably that the blue jays are just more aggressive and have managed to keep the crows away. After all, it’s not in their best interests to share, even if it’s technically with “family” 🙂
South coast, England. We feed a number of birds, mostly pigeons and seagulls, and 2 sets of crows. For the last three days, I’ve been hearing a single caw, followed by a gap of about 20 seconds, then repeated. It keeps this up for some time. At first I thought maybe it was in trouble, but investigation instigated silence – not a peep until I walked away from the trees! Might this be a female on her nest, calling to her mate? The sound seems to come from the same place.
Hi Caroline, it’s probably the female begging from her nest. They do this while they are incubating to encourage the male to bring them food.
Thank you so much!
I’m so glad I’ve found your blog!! Thank you for all the information !!
I have two new crow friends and I love them a lot!! Can I send you a video to know what sort of corvid they are, please ?
Sure thing. Email me at email@example.com
Hello. I believe there is a family of crows living in a large Chinese Elm tree in front of our house. We’ve noticed them for several years now. The problem is that every five years or so, we must trim the tree for its own health. It’s a 75 year old tree and if we don’t trim it back significantly, it gets out of really out of control. It’s about time to trim the tree. However, I hate to disturb the crow family. Any advice?
Is it possible to wait until August? if they’re nesting in the tree this year then pruning it might very well kill the chicks. But if you can wait a few more months you can trim away!
At what age does the inside of the mouth change from red to black? I have a crow family nesting in my backyard and I believe one of the young from last year is hanging around to help. It’s full sized and can fly, but it was begging for food from one of the parents today and the inside of its mouth is still red.
It depends, but it often happens around the second year
I noticed a hurt crow in my yard and tried to help by placing it in a box and giving water, but left in place. Now the crows squak and follow me around the yard. What can i do to show i didnt hurt the crow and mend the relationship?
Hi Kim, try giving them a little food and see if that helps.
I have been feeding the same family of crows for over two years now. I actually started feeding the mom and dad their first year becoming parents and now there is a family of 5, with mainly 3 of them that live/nest in my yard. Occasionally, when they do not see me put out the treats, and I am walking my dog, I will get swooped by them. And very recently, I have been bonked on the head and back quite hard. This is not nest protection(it happens at all times of year and in different areas around their territory), this is them saying “hey, vending machine, where are my treats”. Any thoughts on how to stop the bonking and swooping without have to wear eyeballs on the back of my head?
Hi AliO, yes the “bonk the vending machine” is absolutely a thing. And it’s something you want to stop right away lest they bonk the wrong person and face retribution. The reason they are bonking is that it works, you feed them when they do it. So the simplest (though not necessary quick) way to address them is to never feed them if they bonk. Just like deconditioning a dog that begs at the dinner table.
Ravens extreme behaviour … an you help us determine what’s going on?
During the last few days at our summer home in Halliburton Ontario., We have had a large raven approach us sitting on our porch not fearful at all croaking and calling incessantly. He will come right up to you pluck aimlessly at flowers in pots,will pull strings on flagpoles almost exhibiting anxious or nervous behaviour. He is not fearful of individuals he will sit a foot away from us we can approach them and will not move and continue squawking. When examining him he looks very healthy completely healthy pink mouth and shiny black feathers we’ve noticed that there’s a few tail feathers gone but still seems to fly well .If you go up to her and talk to it will cost to tell her listen but you crying. Played some music for him he will briefly cock his head to listen and then continue squawking. At times he would cry out in some other ravens with flying and because by and he would continue squawking. Then they would fly off again. We are not feeding it as there is plenty of food sources here. He would stay on our property for hours and fly over to the neighbours cottage and continue with the same behaviour as we’ve discussed with our neighbors. Almost incessant squawking all day long from five in the morning until seven at night. We’re just trying to determine is anything wrong and is this Raven in distress.. At the time of this writing he’s just left this morning and his phone off it’s a little quiet we’ll see if he returns later thanks for any tips or suggestions or other resources that would help us ensure the well being of this beautiful creature .
Hi Kimberly, the pink mouth indicates that it’s a young bird. From your description I’d guess it’s a fledgling from this year. That would explain a lot of the behaviors you’ve seen. If you have reason to believe it’s not a fledgling but rather an older, but sexually immature bird (in which case the mouth my still be pink) please let me know.
Unfortunately I caught my dogs smelling a dead crow in the yard that appeared to have fallen from a tree. I didn’t want my dogs to mess with it and it was covered in flies so I buried it. There was another one up in the tree looking down making a ruckus. I read on one of your posts, that I should have waited until dark. Now I’m stuck. The other bird has been out there for many days constantly squawking. It kind of follows me as I walk around the yard. I feel bad for it, but will it ever go away?
Hi Julie, with time it will probably settle down, but it’s possible it won’t. Depends on the individual crow.
Could you please tell me if crows have a preening gland.
Hi Jennifer, yes all birds do.
I brought an injured crow into my house. It can not fly. Other crows are still hanging around. If it cant fly, do the others take care if it somehow? I’m worried if I let it go, a dog or something will kill it. If it cant fly, can it survive?
Hi Linda, unfortunately a flightless crow is a dead crow. It’s a matter of time.
Hi there – I have an injured crow in my backyard, at the bottom of my empty water fountain base. I put a ramp on it but he won’t climb up. His whole family seems to be crowing from the trees at him and especially as I approach him. Should I try to capture and take to bird rehab? And will they find each other if he is released?
Hi Heather, what makes you think it’s injured? Is it possibly just a flightless baby?
I have a strange but serious problem. I live on the upper floor of a two-storeyed building. We have a tree in front of our house(we have a lot of trees in and around our street). I have been living here for 10+ years and no crow ever bothered me. However, recently, a particular crow has started attacking me whenever I go out on my terrace. He will dive bomb at me, usually out of the blue, and hit me on my head, and shout at me aggressively. At first, I thought he might be hungry, so I gave him food and water several times. But he will ignore the food and water and keep dive-bombing at me. Also, while other crows tend to be at a safer distance from humans, this crow isn’t at all scared or bothered to fly away even when I am about less than a meter near him. He attacks only me and no one in the surrounding (I have noticed this). Please tell me what to do as it is very frustrating.
Hi Shivesh, is the behavior still going?
Hello. On the street I found a tamed crow, dying of hunger. The crow is clearly young, asks for food like a chick. The bird is able to eat on its own, but prefers to be fed. The corners of the beak are like a chick. When I raise my hand above the bird, it asks for food (it was obviously being fed by people). I live in St. Petersburg in Russia. Unfortunately, there are very poor bird rehabilitation centers here. It is sad, but having given this bird to local organizations, I, most likely, will doom it to death. My question. Is there a way to give this bird to a wild flock of crows so that it can live in the wild among its relatives? I would be very grateful for your advice.
Hi Alisher, so what your describing is not uncommon behavior even among chicks that have not been conditioned towards people. So it’s possible it’s just a little confused but is not starving. If it can eat on its owns and simply prefers to be fed then the bast you can do is not feed it. If it survives it stands a much better chance of re-socializing.
I feed the crows in my backyard, a couple times a month in summer and more often in the winter. There are 3 regulars and then a clan of others. I was able to walk toward them to put food out, getting 3 feet away before they flew off.
A couple weeks ago, after putting out some food, a crow came and sat on the eave of my back porch next to the window I sit at, not making any noise, just sitting there. Today, after putting out food, one of them flew right at the screen where I was sitting.
Was wondering if you have any thoughts as to why they are doing this? An information would be appreciated.
Hi Joan, it sounds like they are getting more comfortable with you and more inclined to ask for food in more direct ways.
Kaeli ~ Thank you for your response. I kind of figured that was the case. I enjoy your site and your dedication to Corvids.
Thanks so much for your response. We have rehabbed 3 crows and I thought they had a preen gland but I couldn’t seem to confirm it on any website.
So the other day I was out with the dogs – it was July 4th – brought them out before the fireworks became too bad, but they had started. Before I saw it the dogs saw a crow on the ground, and started running towards it, I thought as always it would fly away, but it just hopped. I ran and yelled for them to leave it…I am not certain if one of my dogs grabbed it in her mouth or just maybe with her paw, but when I got there it was lying still, I got them away and the bird still stayed still I thought it was dead! oh, and all the crows friends were screaming from the trees this whole time. I picked up the crow with the pooper scooper and it moved, I placed it on the other side of the fence, about 3′ from where it had been, and it hopped away…I took the dogs inside and then walked out to the pasture to see if he was still there, alive or dead, and could not find him and all the crow friends were quiet and gone too…so a couple questions, could the crow have been disoriented from fireworks? and if my dog did touch or mouth the crow is it possible for it to be sick just from that limited contact? Thanks for the info. Your blog is very interesting!
Hi Nina, yes I the fireworks could be quite traumatic for a young crow (or any wildlife really-can you imagine?). As for your other question, I’m not sure who you are asking on behalf of, the dog or the crow. In any case it shouldn’t be an issue for either.
These are ravens, not crows, but the aggressive behavior is similar, I think? I’ve been running the same early (sunrise) morning route for a few years. There is a raven’s nest in an evergreen tree along the route, and it’s been used for a few seasons now. I’ve never had any issues running by it in the past, even during nesting season and even while I could see the young ravens in the nest. All of a sudden there are now three ravens who’ve banded together (not sure if it’s a parent and two juveniles, or three juveniles or two parents and one juvenile — they seem similar in size now) along a stretch of my route and who have been ramping up aggressive, coordinated dive-bomb, side-swipe attacks (no contact yet, but we’re talking a mere few inches from me). I’ve stopped running along that route, tried changing things up, but still see these three ravens around the neighborhood (it’s a golf course community, fairly rural, in southern AZ), and they terrify me now, frankly. I feel watched, lol, and in imminent danger of attack! Will this behavior end at some point, or should I give up and just drive to another area to run? Thx!
Hi Helen, it likely has to do with the breeding season. Has it subsided yet?
Well, we had a series of very strong thunderstorms and subsequent floods in the area just after this, which may have scattered/confused them a bit, and I’ve also seen several new pairs playing kissy-face on some of the roofs in the neighborhood (I was lucky enough to be treated to a series of those utterly lovely “water drop” calls as I was sitting out back one day, too, if that’s part of the pairing-up process), and now I don’t see them around much at all anymore in the immediate vicinity.
I will say I was traumatized enough to change my running route and I still cringe a bit when I hear them calling anywhere, lol.
This is such an interesting site. We’ve been enjoying a pair of crow and their 3 young that nested in a large tree near our yard here on the Oregon Coast. It’s been great fun feeding them and seeing them become more and more comfortable with us. Yesterday, we saw some strange behavior, though, that I’ve been wondering about. The two adults were sitting on our deck handrail and one was pulling head feathers out of the other. I went out on the deck, but they just paused for a moment to look at me then resumed what they were doing. The crow being plucked snuggled closer to the one doing the feather pulling. There didn’t seem to be any animosity. The plucked adult now has a white bare face, but is still around. Do you have any idea why the one was plucking the other? Thanks for any insight you can share.
Hmmm. I can’t imagine any reason it would do this outside of some kind of health issue. Maybe there was a reason the feathers needed to go? Clearly the groomer and the groomed know something we don’t. What an interesting observation…
Hello, i had a crow family raise 2 fledglings. Unfortunately one of them flew into a wall and died. The parents are currently mourning, non stop cawing for hours. It fell behind a hedge and parents could not see if it was dead. I dragged it out unto the grass so they could see. I plan on leaving the body there till nightfall. I feel like i should of left it alone, am i doing the right thing?
Hi Alex, I think what you did was perfectly fine. I hope they were able to do the necessary processing.