Crows, ravens, jays and magpies - Corvids

Click on the crow to hear it caw.

crow picture

Crows, ravens, jays and magpies are all corvids, and are some of the most intelligent of birds. Farmers know that crows can count to four or five: the birds are wary of people and if three hunters enter a blind to shoot at them, the crows won't come near. Even if one or two hunters come out again, they aren't fooled. Not until five people go into the blind and four come out will the crows think it's safe to return.

There are documented cases of crows assisting injured members of the flock by distracting predators, and of crows using tools like twigs. They know how to drop clam shells from a height to break them and get at the meat inside.

Crows are social birds that congregate in huge flocks. While the flock grazes in a field, lookouts will be posted to watch for approaching danger. They'll raise the alarm if humans approach. During the day crows fly around alone or in small groups. You'll often see a solitary crow on a pole and hear its "caw! caw!" that seems to mean "Where's everybody? Come fly with me!". Often another crow will answer, and the two will fly off together.

At night, crows return to a common roost where thousands of birds gather, sometimes flying as many as 80 miles back home. Again, sentries watch for their main enemy (besides humans): owls. Crows are most vulnerable at night, gathered in a large group, and an owl can do a lot of damage. If crows happen upon an owl during the day they'll mob it and drive it out of the area. Speaking of humans, they used to take advantage of crows roosting habits by dynamiting them at night. Some states paid bounties for the dead crows. Although crows do damage crops, they don't deserve their bad reputation and are now protected as wild animals

Crows form strong pair bonds, and both parents help raise their young, called simps. The young bird will stay with its parents for a couple of years, and help feed the next nest of simps.

Ravens tend to be more solitary, but they're usually seen in pairs and they mate for life. They have also been observed playing, by sliding down icy rocks. Their acrobatics in flight seem to be part of courtship rituals, but may be a playful activity for them.

crow picture

Last updated January 1, 2001.
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