Bird Spotlight: American Crow

American Crows are a staple of farmlands and are one of the most intelligent birds.

The American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) is a medium-sized pure black bird and are flock animals. A group of them is referred to as a “murder.” They are easily identified due to their large size and iconic caw.

An adult American Crow. ((Wikipedia))

Crows are highly intelligent and have been shown to problem solve, understand human language, and memorize faces. In many studies, crows have shown the understanding of water displacement. Water displacement is when you fill a cup full of water and drop a rock inside and see how the water rises.

The most surprising of all is their ability to use tools and modify the tools they use. They have been known to sharpen rocks to open nuts, use sticks to pry open feeders, and even understand complex puzzles were only certain items will offer them food.

Their understanding of human language is profound. They can learn the meaning of words and phrases like, “Hello, how are you?; as well as,  good, bad, run, help and such. Some will even caw in response to being asked “Hello, how are you?” and “Good morning.”

Range of an American Crow (red) ((Wikipedia))

Crows have a complex social structure similar to that of humans with a very tight family group and social circle. Like human society ,they also hold “crow court,” funeral services, and celebrations.

Crow court is when a crow is found “guilty” by the rest of the murder, and killed for their crime, whether it be stealing food, killing young or even not helping with parental duties.

Parental crows chasing away a Red-tailed Hawk away from their nest. ((Wikipedia))

When a member of a murder is found dead, all other crows in that murder will gather around the fallen friend, cawing loudly. They do this in sorrow, like humans, but also to learn about the danger that resulted in the death of the crow.

Juvenile American Crow. ((Wikipedia))

They have been known to give “gifts” to people who have shown them kindness, fed them, or simply people they like. These gifts can be keys, bottle caps, feathers, buttons, shiny rocks, and even bones.

Crows are monogamous and usually lay between three to six eggs per clutch. Brooding is usually aided by chicks hatched in earlier years. Most children do not leave their social group; they live and  help their parents until death.

An American Crow egg, in the collection of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis