The American crow is one of the most widely distributed birds in North America, and despite historic persecution through poisoning, hunting and other means, these birds are highly adaptable and continue to thrive in many areas.
American Crow, Common Crow
- Bill: Black, thick
- Size: 18 inches long with 35-40-inch wingspan, long legs
- Colors: Black, iridescent, brown, white (rare)
- Markings: Both genders are identical with allover black plumage that may show blue-violet iridescence in bright sunlight. The legs and feet are also black, and the eye is a dark brown that frequently appears black. In flight, these birds show a square-tipped tail that is straight across, and rare individuals may show white wing patches. Wings in flight often have joints pushed prominently forward.
Insects, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, eggs, mollusks, seeds, fruit, carrion, garbage
Habitat and Migration:
The American crow is found year-round throughout the continental United States in many habitats with the exception of very heavy forests or arid deserts. During the summer, the breeding range extends to include most of Canada except the extreme north. Highly adaptable, American crows prefer open or sparsely wooded habitat such as agricultural areas, but they can become urbanized and are frequently seen on golf courses, athletic fields, parking lots and landfills.
These gregarious birds are best known for their familiar "caw-caw" call that has a raspy, hoarse quality. The pitch, tempo and length of the call can vary, as well as the number of repetitions. A rapid rattle is also common, and American crows have been known to mimic other birds' calls and non-bird sounds.
These are highly intelligent birds that have shown problem solving skills in lab settings, typically for gaining access to food. In the wild, they will mob and dive bomb hawks, owls, herons and other intruding birds, and some American crows even seem to instigate mobbing as a form of entertainment. These birds will collect shiny objects and often cache them in their nests. In the winter, they will form large flocks of up to 1 million birds or more, and even in summer they are rarely solitary.
American crows are monogamous birds and a mated pair will both incubate a brood of 3-8 eggs for 18 days. The altricial young are cared for by both parents for 28-35 days, and unmated birds may assist in hatchling care – it is common for birds from earlier broods to help raise siblings, even in consecutive years. American crows may raise 1-2 broods per year.
Attracting American Crows:
American crows readily visit backyards offering cracked corn and suet, particularly in hopper or ground feeders. Because these birds can form huge feeding flocks, however, they are often considered a nuisance. To keep them away from your backyard, avoid offering these foods and remove outdoor pet food and other scraps as well. Keep garbage cans securely covered, and clean up spilled seed to prevent ground feeding. Specialized feeders for smaller birds are also designed to prevent American crows and similar birds from feeding.