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Crows are masters of making and using tools to obtain food. Sticks, leaves, grass, wire, and more have been employed by crows to reach food.
A crow may carry a favored tool with it as it forages.
During the winter, American Crows congregate at night in large communal roosts. These roosts range in size from a few hundred, several thousand, or even up to one million crows.
The winter roosts of some American Crows have been located in the same area for well over 100 years.
In recent decades, some American Crows have moved their winter roosts out of rural areas and into cities. Their noise and mess have created numerous conflicts with residents in these urban areas.
Just as a flock of quail is called a “covey,” a group of crows is called a “murder.”
Unlike most American Crows that maintain a year-round territory, the majority of crows that nest in Canada leave their territories and migrate south to the United States for the winter.
Since American Crows do not breed until they are between two to four years old, they often stay with their parents and help them raise the young of following years. Family groups may include over a dozen individuals from five different years.
Birdwatchers know to listen for American Crows raising the alarm when predators are discovered. They vigorously mob owls and hawks and can tip off their location to alert birders for a closer look.
Crows themselves are often mobbed by smaller birds, especially kingbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds.
The loss of American Crows to the West Nile virus has been the highest of any North American bird species. They die within a week of exposure and very few appear to be able to survive once infected.
American Crows are commonly seen feeding on road-killed animals but carrion is only a very small part of its diet. The bill is not strong enough to break through the skin of most animals and they can only feed on partially decomposed or previously opened carcasses.
Crows also naturally consume earthworms, insects, small mammals, frogs and lizards, eggs, fish, and fruit. They will also raid garbage for food and steal dogfood from bowls left out for pets.
Crows will make use of other animals to obtain food. Instances include a group of crows distracting a river otter to steal fish it had caught and crows following a group of Common Mergansers to catch minnows that were chased into shallow water by the feeding ducks.
Crows are able to recognize and remember individual humans, even in crowds of several hundred people.
Shiny objects seem to fascinate crows. They have been known to fly off with bits of glass, rings, keys, and foil.
Crows can imitate a large number of sounds including whistles, cats, machines, and the human voice.
The oldest known American Crow in the wild was recorded to be almost 15 years old. The oldest known captive American Crow lived to be 59 years old.
The Fish Crow, found all year-round in coastal areas of the southern and eastern United States, opens mollusks for eating by continuously dropping them on a hard surface to crack them apart.
The best way to identify Fish Crows is by their short nasal calls car or cuh-cuh as opposed to the caw of the American Crow.
Like a stunt pilot at an air show, the Common Raven often performs rolls and somersaults while flying. They have even been known to fly upside down for over a half a mile.
Common Ravens will often “commute” up to 55 miles a day to reach good sources of food.
Ravens are well adapted to cold weather. Thick soles on their feet and dense plumage allow them to maintain a normal metabolism until temperatures drop below -4°F. Only then does their metabolism need to increase to generate extra body heat.
Common Raven pairs will try to exclude all other ravens from their year-round territories. When a carcass is found during the winter, young ravens will call other ravens into the area to help them overwhelm the local resident pair. This distracts the “rightful” owners and allows them all to steal a meal.
The Common Raven often lines its nest with sheep wool and will cover its eggs with the wool when it leaves its nest.
Ravens use their intellect to put together cause and effect. A study in Wyoming discovered that during hunting season, the sound of a gunshot draws ravens in to investigate a presumed carcass, whereas the birds ignore sounds that are just as loud but harmless, such as an airhorn or a car door slamming.
People the world over sense a certain kind of personality in ravens. Edgar Allan Poe clearly found them a little creepy. The captive ravens at the Tower of London are beloved and perhaps a little feared: legend has it that if they ever leave the tower, the British Empire will crumble. Native people of the Pacific Northwest regard the raven as an incurable trickster, bringing fire to people by stealing it from the sun, and stealing salmon only to drop them in rivers all over the world.
Common Ravens are curious and have been known to peck holes in airplane wings, steal balls off of golf courses, peel radar absorbent material off buildings at the Chinal Lake Naval Weapons center, open campers’ tents, and raid cars left open at parks.
Human presence has allowed ravens to expand into areas where they didn’t previously occur, such as using artificial ponds and irrigation to survive in deserts and living on human garbage in some forests.
Young ravens will play games with sticks and other small objects, dropping and catching them repeatedly in mid-air as they fly.
Aware that another Raven is watching, a Raven will pretend to cache food at one spot but then hide the food somewhere else when it is not observed.
The oldest known Common Raven in the wild was recorded to be over 13 years old.