Birds Blog

Species in Focus: American Crows

American Crows are medium to large passerines. In North America there are three types of Crow: the American Crow, the Fish Crow, and the Northwestern Crow.

This post is about American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).

American Crows

The American crow is a corvid, part of the family Corvidae under the genus CorvusCorvidae include ravens, magpies, jay, and others (Taylor 2014).

“Family” and “genus” refer to taxonomic ranks. Taxonomic ranks are how scientists categorize organisms/species in order to communicate information about them.

There are 40 known species of Crow. In North America there are three types of Crow: the American Crow, the Fish Crow, and the Northwestern Crow.

The American Crow is a medium to large passerine (bird with a toe arrangement that allow them to perch).

Young American Crow Perched. Image Credit: Animal Perspectives.
Young American Crow Perched. Image Credit: Animal Perspectives.

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Cooperation

The American crow is an omnivore, meaning that it eats a wide variety of foods including other birds, road-kill, seeds, fruit, and even trash (Armistead, Small, 2016). American crows work together to ward off predators by using a series of calls to alert other crows.

In the YouTube video below, a flock of American crows are calling out to warn others about the presence of two red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus) and a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). The event was preceded by the crows mobbing (attacking together) the two red-shouldered hawks (the red-tailed hawk joined in after the even began).

Nesting

American Crows build large basket-like nests, high up in trees. Think of the nautical term “crow’s nest”. The crow’s nest is the highest place on a ship. In fact, Crows can build their nests at heights of 70 feet.

If you’re out birding and notice a basket-like nest made from sticks, vines, and bark, way up in the trees, it could be a Crow’s nest.

The Childrens Museum of Indianapolis - American Crow Egg. Image Credit: Michelle Pemberton Licensed under CC 3.0.
American Crow Egg. Image Credit: Michelle Pemberton Licensed under CC 3.0.

American Crows lay between 3-8, blue-/gray-green blotched/spotted, oval-shaped eggs. Both parents take turns incubating. Incubation is approximately 18 days. American Crows will have one or two broods depending on location. In northern parts of the U.S. Crows will typically have one brood, while in southern areas of the States they will have two (Harrison).

Stay tuned for more about Corvids!

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