They have always been there by our side. Every one of us have seen at least one in their lifetime. Usually, when we think about birds, characteristics like vibrant color, melodious vocals, chirping among themselves and picking up grains etc. fills our thoughts. Defying most of these characteristics of birds living around us, they are surely different. Yes, we’re talking about crows.
They’re black, no melody in their voice and do not appear pretty at all. Chances are high that kids would even get scared by them! They have been infamous among humans for stealing eggs and soap bars, raiding crops, disturbing early morning sleeps and even hurting humans sometime! (Well, they might had some reason to do so!)
Moreover, they say that ‘beauty and brains is a rare combination’ and crow seems to be a classic example for supporting the statement. Guess what, they’re intelligent birds and probably more than us at certain things! I am sure you remember the story about a thirsty crow and the pebbles. Studies have shown that crows can remember faces and even count to some extent and make use of tools by their own.
So the next time you throw a stone at a crow, wear a mask!
How to identify crows?
They’re quite common and easy to spot. Their signature cawing voice is the easiest way to find one. They appear coal-black in color. Their bill and feet are also black. They’re about 50cm in length from beak to tail. The tail of a crow is fan-shaped. Eyes of a grown-up crow appears brown. They have strong claws to hunt their preys. They do not fly very high up in the sky.
Where to find crows?
Most of the time, crows are found within residential areas, forested areas, fields, pastures and even in coastal plains. Late summer till the winter is the most active time for them. Crows in large number can be found in agricultural lands raiding the crops and near dumps and garbage areas in cities.
Crows are secretive by nature when it comes to find their nests. Deciduous and coniferous trees are a common place for them to build their nests. They start living around the nest areas and start building nests with the help of dried broken tree branches. They’re also known to form several decoy nests. They’re known to come to the same nesting sites year after year.
Roosting sites are chosen nearby water source and groups of trees. They stay by forming crow community to keep themselves safe and warm. This also makes the food-hunt easy for those who are new to the location.
What do crows eat?
Well, these birds are kind of omnivorous and in fact scavengers to some extent. They are known to consume fruits, seeds, worms, other birds, mice, eggs and molluscs etc. They almost eat anything. They even finish up dead animals and helps the micro-organisms to start the decomposing process. Corn is one of their favorites and they cause too much damage to this crop at certain areas of the US.
Species and Types of crows:
In biological world, crows are classified as the following:
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Subkingdom: Bilateria
- Infrakingdom: Deuterostomia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
- Class: Aves
- Superclass: Tetrapoda
- Order: Passeriformes
- Family: Corvidae
- Genus: Corvus
- Species: Even more than 40
Crows fall under the genus Corvus and the other members of this genus includes raven, crows, rooks and jackdaws. All of them might look similar, but they certainly differ from each other.
Crows can further be classified as following:
This species of crows is the most common of all and are seen in different parts of the US, majority of them living within residential areas. This species of crows have extended their presence from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. They usually nest on evergreen forests but are also seen to stay nearby human dwelling. They feed on insects, small rodents like mice, seeds etc. They measure about 50cm in length from beak to tail. These crows are said to be aggressive by nature and often seen fighting away larger birds like owls and hawks. This species is also said to get infected with the West Nile virus but no incident of transmitting it to human has been noticed so far.
This species of crow is quite similar to American crow i.e. the common crow. They are mostly found in the eastern and southern part of the US. This species of crows is a bit smaller than the American crows measuring about 30-40 cm in length. The plumage of this species of crow appears greenish but gradually turns black with a greenish tint. They have comparatively slender bills and feet than the American crows. One more way to differentiate fish crows from American crows is their voice. The common ‘caw-caw’ sound of the American crows are not the sound that the fish crows make.
Fish crows prefer staying around marshy lands, on lands nearby rivers and in beaches etc. They usually feed on insects, buts, fishes both dead and alive.
Quite similar to American crows but found in the northern regions of North America. Their size is more like that of the fish crows but with smaller feet, smaller wing chord and even smaller bill. The dietary habit of this species of crows are similar to that of the fish crows. They also feed on crabs, berries, eggs, seeds, stranded fishes, both alive and dead.
The northwestern crows are observed to make different types of voices. Apart from the ordinary cawing, they are good at producing varied mechanical voices.
Lifecycle of crows:
The early summer period from March to April is the ideal breeding time for the crows. Building of nests with the help of other crows known as ‘helpers’ starts from this time onwards.
- Eggs: Now here is how Mother Nature played brutal with the crows! The eggs of crows are colorful in appearance. These might appear bluish or bluish-green and also sometimes with a pigmented with the color of olives. Anyways, the final result is ‘a crow’! They are known to lay about 4-7 eggs with a size varying around one and half inches and weighing about 15-20gms at maximum. They lay one egg a day. The female crow starts incubating right after the first egg being laid. This results in hatching gap between the first and the last egg. It typically takes around 18 days to incubate the eggs.
- Nestlings: The newly hatched baby crows are born blind and the mother crow keeps feeding them for a couple of weeks. At this stage they aren’t strong and are helpless. The male ones are responsible to collect food and bring it to the nest. About a month later, these nestlings develop their eyes, gets stronger and are able to leave the nest too.
- Fledglings: They are able to leave the nest but are not fully capable of flight due to underdeveloped wings. The parents will keep feeding them for some more days. It takes around 3-4 months for the fledglings to be able to obtain food for themselves. At this stage of life the eyes of the young crows appear bluish and gray sometimes.
A fully grown adult is known to live for about 7-15 years but that also depends upon several factors like predators, availability of foods, diseases, staying conditions etc.
How to scare crows away?
Now that we know much about crows, let’s see how can we scare them away and stay away from the nuisance they cause to us. They usually benefit us by eating away rotten stuffs, mice and garbage, but when they turn into a pest, life becomes miserable for humans. The problem with the crows is that they’re very clever, quick learner and stubborn. These are the reasons why they are hard to get rid of. The only way to get rid of these smarties is to act same like them by being more stubborn than them.
- Removing food sources – Once you give them a chance to find food at your place, they will keep visiting your place. Remember, they have a sharp memory and thus they won’t forget any location where they got food from. Do not throw away food items or any such items which the crows feed upon nearby your house. Place these inside tight lidded garbage cans. Crows can very well open up a loosely held lid on a trash can. They can also tear apart garbage bags with their beaks.
- Blocking access to small areas – You can also block access to the areas where you grow crops with the help of bird nets. This would only work for small crops in a smaller area. Bigger areas can be protected by using a large-scale bird net.
- Make loud noises – You can try making loud noises whenever you see crows in your property. You can yell at them, use fire-crackers etc. every time they invade your property. This might be weird for your neighbors, but you should be able to explain this! Make sure to repeat these activities every time you see them else it might not work. Consistent disturbance caused to them will help them to memorize that this spot is troublesome and good to avoid and will eventually scare crows away.
- Use fake animals – String fake crows upside down. You can also string fake owls and other predatory bird for crows to scare them away.
- Laser tag them – Yes, lasers can disturb the crows effectively but provided this sort of harassment is done continuously.
- Use reflective objects – Crows probably are not a fan of reflective objects and thus you can use such items to scare and drive them away. Objects like reflective ribbons, CDs or aluminum pans could be stringed for this purpose.
- Using crow repellant sounds – By using sonic products and products which produce ultrasonic waves can also be used to repel crows from your property. Using only ultrasonic devices might not be that efficient than combining both of these.
- Using bird proof and bird strips like bird repelling agents can also prove effective but only using one of them might help this smarties to adapt to that. Since the bigger problem is their intelligence, you need to use multiple ways to harass the crows. Visual repellents should be placed in different locations for the same reason.
- Bird Spikes – These are steel spikes sometimes also available in other materials which can be placed at areas where roosting takes place. Identify those areas and place these spikes. This won’t hurt them but it will make the area unsuitable for them to roost.
- Bird feeders – One thing you can surely do is get a feeder for smaller birds which closes down when birds of heavier weight comes to feed themselves.
- Using bird gel – This bird gel is an adherent non-toxic substance which you can buy from any local hardware stores and apply on areas where it’s likely for the crows to nest. This sticky transparent substance will prove to be a discomfort for them.
There are other non-traditional ways to scare away crows which surely demands a try!
- Scarecrows – This is a good way to drive crows away from your property and prevent them to hang around here and there at your place. You can do this with the help of a motion-sensing water sprinkler. This will act as a deterrent to the crows.
- Water hose – Spray water on the crows with high pressure with the help of a water hose like a fire hose.
- CROW BE GONE – Unbelievable but there exists a CD that has natural sounds pre-recorded which works as a crow deterrent when played. This won’t disturb your neighbors and comes at a cheap price too.
How to repel crows?
There are certain things which you can take care of to prevent crows from disrupting your early morning sleeps by cawing around.
- Remove leftover foods from open and place all of those inside a trash bin.
- Make sure the trash can is secured and locked with a tight lid. Crows can even get inside a trash can by lifting the lid somehow. Again, it’s the intelligence you should be worried about.
- Composts should be covered well because it’s one of the most inviting thing for crows
- Get rid of dead branches and twigs so that crows can’t find stuffs to build their nests.
- Lights attract crows. So avoid too much of outdoor lighting.
- Shoot’em up – Well, this can be an option provided it’s not illegal at your country. But these crows helps the food chain in several ways too. So. Let’s not create another endangered species for this planet.
Frequently asked questions about crows
Are crows migratory?
Not all crows migrate. Some of the American crows do migrate but most of them are residents. Some of them usually do visit their same nesting place for breeding while others stay put foraging.
How many broods do crows have in a year?
Almost all species of crows broods nearly once a year. From building a nest till hatching and incubating the last nestling, it almost requires 4-5 months.
What is the difference between a crow and a raven?
Although they belong to the same genus named ‘corvus’ but they’re slightly different birds. A raven is slightly heavier than a crow. The tail of a raven is wedge-shaped. The bills and neck of a raven compared to a crow is longer in appearance.
When does crows attack humans?
It’s not that frequent or likely for a crow to hit a human unlike the crow is in early parenting stage. At this stage, they are over-protective and loud. Any perception of threat due to human presence nearby its nest can be a reason for a crow to turn aggressive.