Photographed yesterday in Bear Creek Park.
I drove to Bear Creek Park yesterday because I did not have a really good photo of a crow. This one is pretty good because it illustrates the cleverness of the crow. The crows in Bear Creek are pretty used to humans so you can get close to them. There are lots of wild pecan trees there also which is a favorite food of the crow. I watched this one find a pecan. How's he going to open it? With the pecan in his beak he flew up a tree with a large limb and used the tree like an anvil to peck the pecan open. Smart bird.
Crows are thought to be among our most intelligent birds, and the success of the American Crow in adapting to civilization would seem to confirm this. Despite past attempts to exterminate them, crows are more common than ever in farmlands, towns, and even cities, and their distinctive caw! is a familiar sound over much of the continent. Sociable, especially when not nesting, crows may gather in communal roosts on winter nights, sometimes with thousands or even tens of thousands roosting in one grove.
Crows can be found all over the world in a variety of habitats. For example, the American crow lives all over North America and prefers open areas — agricultural land and grasslands — with trees nearby. They also thrive in suburban neighborhoods, according to the ADW.
Crows are extremely intelligent birds. They are known for their problem-solving skills and amazing communication skills. For example, when a crow encounters a mean human, it will teach other crows how to identify the human. In fact, research shows that crows don’t forget a face.
Many types of crows are solitary, but they will often forage in groups. Others stay in large groups. A group of crows is called a murder. When one crow dies, the murder will surround the deceased. This funeral isn’t just to mourn the dead, though. The crows gather together to find out what killed their member. Then, the murder of crows will band together and chase predators in a behavior called mobbing. With some crow species, the yearlings and non-mating adults live in a group called a roosting community.
Some crows migrate while other crows don’t migrate in the common sense. They will travel to warmer areas of their territory, when needed.
American crows can be harmful to crops, but they also may prevent damage by eating insect pests, according to the ADW. Recent studies have shown that 60 to 90 percent of insects eaten by rooks are agricultural pests.
As foragers, they also clean up dead animals and garbage. In fact, crows are often blamed for overturning garbage cans; however, the real culprits are usually raccoons or dogs, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Crows are omnivores, which means they eat nearly anything. Crows eat small animals such as mammals, amphibians, reptiles, eggs and carrion. They also eat insects, seeds, grains, nuts, fruit, non-insect arthropods, mollusks, worms and even other birds. Crows have also been noted eating garbage and store food in caches, short-term, in trees or on the ground, according to the ADW.
Crows are cooperative breeders, which means they often stay close to the place where they were born and help raise and defend the area’s young chicks. When it is time to have offspring, a mating pair will build a nest 15 to 60 feet (4.5 to 18 meters) above the ground using branches, twigs, hair, twine, bark, plant fibers, mosses, cloth and other materials. Nests are 1.5 to 2 feet (46 to 61 cm) in diameter, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The female lays four to five eggs and incubates them for 18 days. At four weeks, the chicks are able to leave the nest, though their parents still feed them until they are around 60 days old. Crows can live up to 14 years.
A Murder of Crows (good trivia)
Terms of venery were often based on characteristics people perceived in the animals, not from their intrinsic nature. A "piteousness of doves," for example, refers to the fact that the bird holds a special place in Christianity — dove returned to Noah with an olive leaf to signal the receding floodwaters, and God came down as a dove to celebrate Jesus' baptism. It has nothing to do with a dove's pious peck.
Likewise, the crow received its term of venery based on religion and folklore. Unfortunately, crows lacked a PR campaign as effective as, well, God.
Crows are omnivorous scavengers and will eat just about anything — insects, seeds, fruits, eggs, and small animals. Historically, they would often appear on battlefields, in cemeteries, and after disasters to snack on the tasty carrion we humans left lying around. One of Europe's species is in fact named the carrion crow.
This association with death led people to believe crows portended disaster. The all-black feathers probably didn't help. Folklore and superstitions further fueled the belief. One folktale tells how crows form a parliament to decide the fate of a member of the flock. Should the verdict be unfavorable, the parliament will set upon the lone crow.3 There's also the Irish mythological figure Morrigan (or Morrigu), who is associated with war, death, and doom and appears as a crow.
It isn't hard to see how someone thought a "murder of crows" would be a appropriate.
But this reputation is hardly fair, and science is showing us that we've massively misjudged this species. Crows are incredibly smart, social birds. They are capable of using tools, playing tricks, and learning new skills.
One study asked crows and children to get a treat out of a tall, narrow tube filled with water. The crows quickly figured out that adding objects to the tube raised the water level, bringing the treat within range. Children younger than 8 fared poorly compared with their corvid opponents.4
Crows have also been known to bring gifts to humans who care for them. Gabi Mann, an 8-year-old Seattleite, feeds local crows in her garden, and the birds show their appreciation by bringing her colorful baubles, such as earrings, marbles, and LEGO blocks. I don't know of any dove, no matter how pious, as thoughtful as that.