Hey guys, welcome back! Today, the American Crow. Found throughout the majority of the continental U.S. and southern Canada, the American Crow is an opportunistic omnivore, eating pretty much anything it can find, from insects and worms, to seeds and fruit, to garbage, and even baby birds they steal from nests! American Crows are large. Very large, often with a three foot wingspan! They are, however, much smaller than ravens which average a wingspan around four feet. Their bills are smaller than a raven, and they call with a very distinct and familiar “Kaw!”
American Crows are in the family Corvidae, along with magpies and jays, and are among the smartest birds in the world. In fact, some scientists even consider them to be behind only us and our ape cousins in intelligence, putting them above cetaceans like whales and dolphins. Crows will hide food to eat later, like a lot of birds, but crows have also learned to pretend to hide food to throw off other birds that may be watching. They can use reasoning and tools to problem solve and get food. At least one study showed that they can even recognize and remember human faces.
In terms of ID, it’s pretty straight forward. They are large, and entirely black. Crows will often appear in groups, known famously as murders, as opposed to ravens that are much more solitary. There are, however, two other crow species found in the U.S. The Northwestern Crow, found in the Pacific Northwest where American Crows are seldom found, and the slightly more widespread Fish Crow, found in the east. Though there are ways of telling them apart visually, you rarely get a good enough/close enough/long enough look to do so, making their call the best way to tell definitively.
American Crows are found in nearly every type of habitat, from fields, to beaches, to parking lots! My mom is always complaining because she puts peanuts out for the squirrels (as a way of keeping them out of her bird feeders), but the peanuts attract the crows. Lots of them. Haha! My most memorable crow story happened a couple years ago in Central Park. I came across a murder of at least 10 crows, ganging up and mobbing two Cooper’s Hawks. For a size comparison, crows are about the same size, or a bit larger than a Cooper’s Hawk. It was quite a sight. I stood watching these crows mobbing these two hawks, chasing them from one tree to another for at least 20 minutes. The hawks weren’t backing down either. It was a stalemate. It was such a cool thing to see, and to be in the middle of it, and to experience it, I felt privileged, honestly, to be able to be a part of it. In the end, I’m not sure who ended up winning, as they were still going at it when I left. Some say they’re still fighting to this day lol
Crows have been important symbols in cultures all over the world. They’ve been depicted as bringers of life, bringers of death, messengers of omens and information, as well as tricksters. Whether they are any (or all) of those things, I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that the American Crow is one bad ass bird! I also can’t ever help myself from telling people I witnessed a murder, only to reveal it was a bunch of crows. I do love a good (if not overused) pun! That should wrap things up for today. Check back next time when we go from one of my favorite birds to one of my mom’s favorite birds. We’ll take a look at small backyard bird that likes walk… down a tree!? Check back next time for the White-breasted Nuthatch!