Clever Corvids: The Northwestern Crow

Northwestern crow in the Natural History Centre's exhibit.

Northwestern crow in the Natural History Centre’s exhibit. Photo by Barb Biagi.

This month’s featured treasure is our Northwestern crow, pictured above. This species lives along the BC and Alaskan coast, while a similar species, the American Crow, lives in the BC interior. Crows are generalist scavengers, eating marine invertebrates, other bird’s eggs, carrion (dead/decaying flesh of animals), and human food they find lying around. Crows mate for life and the females lay 4-6 greenish eggs, nesting in trees or sometimes the ground.

Crows are highly intelligent. They have many vocalizations and can learn to repeat words. They can even make tools! For instance, one crow was observed bending a wire with their beak to make a hook. The cognitive ethologist Marc Bekoff says that crows with “tool workshops” meet in one area to practice making tools. Occasionally, on Hornby Island among other places, crows are seen dropping hardshelled nuts onto a street, and then waiting for passing automobiles to crack them. In some places, they drop mussels and other shellfish onto rocks to crack the shells and expose the flesh.

Crows are also very social creatures. They live in close-knit family groups and work together when scavenging for food. Reports of “crow funerals” tell of hundreds of crows gathering around a dead comrade, all cawing loudly. At some unknown signal, they all become silent. Then, after a few moments, they fly away.

It is suggested that crows will gift fortunate humans who leave food out for them. This video tells the sweet story of crows who leave gifts for a young girl who feeds them.



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