The Mysterious Crow
Intelligent, Haunting, and Fascinating
Over the past couple of years I have had to re-think my thinking on these clever birds. I used to think of them as annoying, dirty, and even a bit scary. I never thought of them as smart or social, or as a species of bird I particularly cared about. In fact, I never thought much about them at all. I am a (very) amateur bird watcher, so to say I didn't care much for crows is kind of rude. All of that has changed now. I hope to convince others who don't care much for crows to join me in my new-found appreciation for the crow.
I had a friend a few years back who had a thing about crows. I guess I just thought he was nuts. Now, though, I see he had the right idea. These fascinating birds are growing in numbers, and it largely has to do with their ability to adapt, especially to the increasing urban population. Turns out, they love to be around people. As they adapt more and more to the human environment, we learn more about them. For instance, did you know that one population of this clever bird in Israel has learned to use bread crumbs to bait fish?
What really got me interested in learning more about their behavior was a TED talk by Joshua Klein, where he describes his creating a Crow Vending Machine! For real! I thought, if they can do that, what else might they do?
Image Credit: Torresian Crow
Joshua Klein on his Crow Vending Machine
Did you know this?
These magnificent birds are very social. In fact, they grieve when a member of the group dies, and they seem to hold a sort of funeral. They gather silently near the dead crow, sit for a couple of minutes, then fly away all at once, never uttering a sound.
A flock is actually called a "murder." The source seems to be from a period when naming groups of birds was popular. Probably so-called as they are associated with death.
Scarecrows only work with moving parts. Birds are not scared off by a scarecrow that is still. The only ones that really keep the birds away are ones that have parts that move with the wind or rotate on their own.
Families can have up to 15 members or more! Juveniles often help their parents raise younger siblings, and can wait until they are 4 years old to leave the family to raise their own.
Females are faithful to their mate for life, but males often cheat (go figure)
They often assign one to be the lookout to warn the others if danger comes.
They might travel up to 40 miles a day from their roost to forage for food!
Photo credit: Vermin Inc
Omnivore means 'all-eater' . They eat just about anything that can be considered food.
We humans are omnivores too.
Nat Geo Kids
A Crow Funeral
Crows can do what?
Adapt - like hobos.
Recognize your Face
The Creepy Side - Do they really just get a bad rap?
Or, maybe they deserve it? They are scavengers, and because of that, are associated with dead animals and even dead people - such as in battlefields, and cemeteries. When an animal or person is dying, they are sometimes known to circle above.
Yet, it could be, that they have so many human-like characteristics, that we are in general creeped out by them because we don't want to see ourselves in that way. They are clever, can learn and evolve, and are extremely social and intelligent.
Then there is this: They watch us...
Literature and Film has programmed us to think of Ravens and other birds in the family as creepy too. Think Hitchcock's "The Birds' or Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven
"Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Raven
Photo credit: "Silent Hill" by Dimitri
Counting Crows - Or Counting Magpies?
Depending on where you grew up, you've likely heard the rhyme, but called it by a different name. Which do you know it by?
"One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
... you probably know how the rest of it goes!
(from the version as sung by the Counting Crows in the song "A Murder of One.")
Traditional Magpies (the ones which are black and white and found throughout the Northern Hemisphere) are a part of the Crow (Corvid) family. Why American children count crows as opposed to British kids who specifically count magpies, I have not been able to ascertain. The best I can tell is that the original rhyme was "Counting Magpies" from 16th century Europe, and adapted to the more general Corvid term in the United States.
More Great Resources on the Crow
- 6 Terrifying Ways Crows Are Way Smarter Than You Think
by David Dietle
- Black Spirit: The Way of the Crow
Read my book, "The Way of the Crow," directly from this website.
- Crow Sounds
Learn how to identify American Crow, its life history, cool facts, sounds and calls, and watch videos. American Crows are familiar over much of the continent: large, intelligent, all-black birds with hoarse, cawing voices. They are common sights in t
- Video: A Murder of Crows | Watch Nature Online | PBS Video
Although cultures around the world may regard the crow as a scavenger, bad omen, or nuisance, this bad reputation might overshadow what could be regarded as the crow's most striking characteristic - its intelligence. New research indicates that crows
- A Murder of Crows ~ Crow Facts | Nature | PBS
See images of one of nature's most intelligent animals.
- Aves Noir | Creative Couture for the Corvid Connoisseur
Beautiful Crow artwork and writing
- Friend or Foe? Crows Never Forget a Face, It Seems - NYTimes.com
Do Scarecrows work?
- Living with wildlife