American Crow

 

 

Common Name: American Crow

Class:  Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Corvidae

Genus: Corvus

Species: Corvus brachyrhynchos

Photo: M. Noonan

 

TAXONOMY

The American Crow is a member of the Order Passeriformes, meaning perching birds. It is in the Family Corvidae, which includes crows, ravens, jays, magpies, nutcrackers, and jackdaws. The genus Corvus means “True Crow.” The American Crow is a medium-sized, all black corvid that has a black bill, black legs and feet, and black plumage. Its typical length ranges from 43-53 centimeters, with an average mass anywhere from 315-575 grams. The species is not dichromatic, meaning that males and females look very similar. The only difference observed is that males tend to be slightly larger.

 

HABITAT/DIET

 

American Crows are found almost all over North America, preferring open habitats with the presence of scattered trees, windbreaks, or forest edges. As such, they can be found in or near pastures, parks, golf courses, cemeteries, villages, rivers, etc. They are omnivorous and are known to eat just about anything that is edible, ranging from small birds and animals, eggs, crops, seeds, fruits, and even trash thrown away by humans. American Crows are known to be opportunistic and vigilant hunters and foragers and their increased capacitance for intelligence helps them in this regard.

 

Photo: M. Noonan

 

BEHAVIOR

 

American Crows are monogamous and have only one brood per mating season. However, if the first attempt fails, a pair may try to re-nest. Both males and females participate in nest building but once the eggs are laid, the female incubates the eggs while the male protects her and the nest. The male rarely feeds the female while she is nesting though she will be fed by helpers which are often offspring from a previous brood. The American Crow is known to stay relatively close to where it was born so they are living near their relatives. Predators of the crow include raccoons, hawks, owls, and cats. To defend against such predators, crows will use mobbing calls and attack the predator in a large group. Crows tend to walk with a noticeable waddle and head bob. They have been observed participating in many odd behaviors, particularly when they are young, such as logrolling on plastic cups, playing tug-of-war with one another, or even fencing one another with their bills. Their higher degree of intelligence, compared to other birds, makes them curious about their environment and more likely to interact with in unique ways.

 

 

WHERE TO FIND THEM

 

American Crows are can be seen any time of the year pretty much everywhere that has at least some open space. This includes cemeteries, homes, and fields. Check in suburbs and along forest edges for crows as well.

 

Photo: Sara Morris

Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.