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The American Crow: Successful Urbanite

January 19, 2013

I often look to see what the crows are doing when I drive into town and they have rewarded me with some very interesting glimpses into crow life.

An American Crow on watch

An American Crow on watch

Crows have gotten a bad rap. Sure, they eat songbirds, their eggs and young and spread our garbage around, but they also add life and interest to our asphalt jungles. Crows were the major predators of the Eastern Kingbirds in my study. But the kingbirds got their own back occasionally by  scoring a direct hit on an invading crow.

An American Crow

An American Crow

Crows are animals that have learned to use tools and who pass these skills on to their young. Walk along any city street in autumn when the hazelnuts are ripe and you will see crows dropping the nuts onto roads. Why? They are using our cars as tools – as nutcrackers! Most drivers zoom on by and don’t notice the crows  waiting patiently for a tire to crack the nut.  Crows show a great deal of dexterity and skill at avoiding tires when they retrieve the food squooshed by the cars.

How can I get food out of this?

How can I get food out of this?

I spent a few amusing minutes watching a crow catch and then investigate a plastic bag that was blowing across the mall parking lot. The crow eventually gave up on the bag, but not until it was convinced there was no food to be had with any further exploration.

Crow with hazelnut on the crosswalk

Crow with hazelnut on the crosswalk: using cars to crack nuts

Crows congregate into large flocks late on fall and winter afternoons to roost for the night. There is protection in numbers – owls (mostly Great Horned Owls in this area) can raid roots and wreak havoc with the crows at night. To be fair, crows can make an owl’s life miserable when they find the predator in the day. I have discovered an owl because of the noise and dive-bombing flights of crows just over the owl’s head.

Crow with hazelnut

Crow with hazelnut

All in all, I appreciate the American Crow. I have spent some dismal, rainy winter days in cities that were enlivened by watching crows take advantage of the food a city can offer. It is dusk now and the local crows have just headed over the woods for their roost on the side of the mountain as I write this. The sky is a luminous blue with bright pink streaks.  It will be a cold, clear winter night and I wish them luck in making it successfully through the night out there.

All photos and writing in this blog copyright J.A. Siderius 2013.

  1. Crows are among the smartest of birds and have a highly developed social order. Whenever I see a flock out in a field, I look for the sentinels keeping watch. Blue jays (another member of the corvid family) have also been known to use cars to crack open walnuts. I enjoyed your photos.

  2. ashuni permalink

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