I guess we have all seen these birds at some stage in our lives. There are plenty of them in Australia. So, here are some interesting facts about these creatures. By the way, a group of crows is called a ‘murder’. They are extremely intelligent birds. Some have been observed using basic tools!
- Type: Bird
- Diet: Omnivore
- Life span: 7 years but have been known to live as long as 14 years in the wild
- Size: Length around 17.5 inches. Wing Span
- Weight: 450g
- Habitat: Almost any environment, urban or rural
- Range: Most of the UK, Western Europe and East Asia
- Scientific name: Corvus Corone
Amazing Facts About the Carrion Crow
- Crows are extremely intelligent birds. They have the largest brain of all birds except for parrots. The body to brain ratio of a crow is the equivalent of a chimpanzee! This means that it is not far off that of humans.
- Crows have been observed using basic tools. For example, some crows in Japan use cars on the road to crack open nuts. In some instances, crows have even been observed using sticks to access food out of reach.
- Crows have an excellent memory. They have been known to hide food away to save it for later. Sometimes moving the food 2-3 times, always remembering where it was hidden.
- Crows can be identified by their distinctive ‘caw-caw’ sound. Considered song birds due to their vast range of melodies, crows have been known to vocalise their feelings in response to hunger or being threatened, for example.
- Until recently, Carrion crows and Hooded crows were thought to be the same species. However, they are different, occupying different parts of Europe and Asia. In some areas where territories overlap, interbreeding occurs. The Carrion crow can be distinguished from the Hooded crow by it’s all black body compared to the ash-grey body of the Hooded crow.
- Crows can be distinguished from rooks as they have feathers around their thighs and around the base of their beak.
Adult crows can be set apart from juveniles by their black eyes. Juveniles have pale blue eyes and duller, more brown plumage compared to an adult crow’s light violet gloss on their body and greenish-blue gloss on their wings.
Crows are often described as fearless. They will chase eagles which can weigh nine times more than the crow! Despite their fearlessness, crows are often still wary of people, who are their biggest predator.
The crow can be found across a huge area spanning Europe and Asia and its population is estimated to be between 43 and 204 million and growing.
Crows have been known to perform ‘anting’ where they rub ants all over their feathers or lie near an ant hill allowing the ants to crawl through their feathers. It is yet unknown why exactly birds do this. Some Suggest the ant act as an insecticide and anting helps control parasites such as feather mites. Others argue it is carried out as a method of catching prey – enticing the ants to rid themselves of their poison sacks, allowing the birds to eat them harmlessly.
When crows mate they often stay together for life, separating only at death. However, some instances have found only the females mate for life while the males will cheat on occasion!
Crows build nests all over the place: in pylons, trees and cliff edges, almost anywhere can be suitable. Nests are built from twigs with a lining of hair and bark. Both the male and female build the nest together and the female then incubates the eggs. Once the eggs are hatched both birds help feed the chicks. A nestling crow can eat as many as 100 grasshoppers in 3 hours!
Crows are mostly resident. This means they do not migrate and will stay near their breeding grounds. Crows living in urban areas have a much smaller territory compared to those in rural areas. The nesting territory of city crows is only 10% that of rural crows.
Scavengers by nature, a crow’s diet can involve over 1000 different food items. From worms, insects and carrion to scraps of food, fruit and seeds.
Crows are very good egg thieves. They will watch other birds build their nests, observing and inspecting what the birds do. This makes it much easier for the crow to rob the nest once the eggs have been laid. As highly opportunistic birds, crows will watch other birds bringing their young food, which they may swoop in and steal!
Clancy's comment: These birds are ancient. They are probably the first bird I recall seeing on black and white television as a kid.