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Crows are Cool

Kaeli Swift, my new best friend introduces herself (at “I’m Kaeli Swift, Ph.D. Since I was a kid I’ve loved wildlife—especially birds—and asking questions about animal behavior and cognition. While an undergrad at Willamette University (2005-2009), I discovered that crows and other corvids offered the perfect marriage of these interests, and I have been hooked on them ever since.”

Here are some fun facts from her website:

“How many difference sounds can a crow make? More than most people think. The loud caws make up the bulk of their vocalizations, but they will also utter rattles, growls, coos, and other odd sounds. They are also decent mimics, and can learn to imitate the vocalizations of other animals (including people).”

I have heard my backyard baby crows quietly say “hup, wup,” when alone. “Do crows ever talk to themselves? Meaning, make sounds not intended for the ears of other crows? Young crows will “babble” quietly to themselves.”

My backyard crows migrate. “While common ravens are residents wherever they are found, American crows are what’s called a “partially migratory species” because some populations migrate while others do not.  Most notably, the northern populations of crows that occupy central Canada during the summer breeding season, travel south to the interior United States once the snow-pack precludes typical feeding behaviors.”

Crows are devoted to their families. “ Although trios of ravens are not uncommon, and there have been observations of young from previous years remaining at the nest, ravens are not considered cooperative breeders. Crows are considered cooperative breeders across their entire range.  If helpers are present they typically have between 1-3. So if a nest is very busy with more than two birds contributing to nest construction, feeding nestlings, or nest defense, it’s more than likely a crow’s nest, not a raven’s.”

Crows eat bugs. “Although both species consume a host of invertebrates, crows consume a larger proportion of inverts and garbage relative to ravens.  Mammals, especially from carrion, meanwhile make up the largest proportion of a raven’s diet across surveyed populations.  Access to refuse and population location, however, can dramatically shift the dietary preferences of both these omnivores.”

Early this spring, I saw a small group of adult crows harassing a hawk, “Get outta here!” “In places where they do overlap, interactions between the two are often antagonistic, with crows acting as the primary aggressors in conflicts.  Ravens will depredate crow nests if given the chance.”

And here’s five reasons to like crows: “Crows belong to the smartest bird family on the planet, Corvids! They are fun, interesting and intelligent. Sometimes they bring gifts to people that have befriended them and they never forget a face, a good or bad one! Lots of people love them but many hate them too. It’s thought they destroy corn crops and spread West Nile virus but actually, this isn’t true.  Crows are misunderstood birds that need some love!” See the ten-minute video at

But don’t crows eat other birds’ eggs and young? Yes, but so do a lot of other animals.

This is from


Pine martens and polecats generally carry eggs off to eat elsewhere. They characteristically bite across the egg, leaving an oblong or rectangular hole through which they lick up the contents. Small canine tooth punctures may be left in the eggshell. Stoats and weasels, being smaller, eat larger eggs in the nest. They bite a hole in one or both ends of the egg.

Foxes generally carry eggs away from nests. They may then eat them or they will cache (bury) them for consumption later. The whole egg is taken in the mouth, crushed and the contents eaten. Eggshells are left some distance from the nest.

A fox will often catch mallards, pheasants and partridges on their nests. If this has happened, the nest will be damaged, with scattered feathers if the carcass has been carried away or the remains of the carcass if it has been eaten nearby.

Rats prefer the large, cryptic eggs of colonial nesting birds and consume the eggs in the nest. They make a hole in the side or end of the egg with characteristic chip marks, then lick out the contents. Squirrel signs are very similar.”


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