The American Crow. Shiny, black birds with strong, stout bills. They can be distinguished from Common Ravens by their smaller size, their straight to slightly rounded tails, and their higher-pitched calls.
Ravens also have more massive bills and longer, shaggier feathers at their throats.
Crows are familiar over much of the North America.
A Large, intelligent, all-black bird with hoarse, cawing voice. They are common sights in treetops, fields, and roadsides, and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers.
A member of the Corvid family, which also includes, magpies and jays.
Crows are highly social birds, more often seen in groups than alone. In addition to roosting and foraging in numbers, crows often stay together in year-round family groups that consist of the breeding pair and offspring from the past two years. The whole family cooperates to raise young.
American Crows work together to harass or drive off predators, like Red-tailed hawks (a behavior known as mobbing).
Smaller species of birds are known to do the same to crows.
About two-thirds the size of a Common Raven and twice the size of a Blue Jay.
Length: 15.7–20.9 in (40–53 cm).
Wingspan: 33.5–39.4 in (85–100 cm).
Weight: 11.1–21.9 oz (316–620 g).
American Crows inhabit a wide variety of semi-open habitats. They can generally be found in just about any habitat, and are usually tolerant of the presence of humans.
Outside of the breeding season, Crows are sociable and form large winter roosts. They are intelligent and opportunistic, and they quickly take advantage of new opportunities.
Diet and Feeding Habits of the American Crow:
American Crows are omnivores and eat just about anything, including garbage, carrion, seeds, the eggs and young of other birds, and even marshmallows.
They also feed on insects,earthworms, spiders, snails, fish, snakes, cultivated fruits, nuts, vegetables and will even raid your dog food dish.
Crows are known to drop hard shelled nuts onto a street, and then wait for passing automobiles to crack them.
Similarly, along the coast they drop mussels and other shellfish on rocks to crack the shells and expose the flesh.
Outside of the breeding season, crows travel as far as 40 miles each day from evening roost sites to daytime feeding areas.
Crows will usually post “sentries,” who alert the feeding birds of danger.
Despite its tendency to feed on roadkill, the American Crow is not specialized to be a scavenger, and carrion is only a very small part of its diet. Though their bills are large, crows can’t break through the skin of even a gray squirrel. They must wait for something else to open a carcass or for the carcass to decompose and become tender enough to eat.
Crows are crafty foragers that sometimes follow adult birds to find where their nests are hidden. How many times have you seen a band of birds (various species) chasing a crow?
They sometimes steal food from other animals as well.
Reproduction and Nesting:
American Crows are monogamous and form long-term pair bonds. Both members of the pair build the nest, which is a bulky stick platform, lined with mud, moss, grass, and feathers, usually in the canopy of a tree. Both sexes build the nest during a period of 8 to 14 days—beginning as early as mid-March and as late as mid-July—depending on latitude and elevation.
The female incubates 4-6 eggs for about 18 days, at times being fed by her mate or sometimes by offspring from the previous year.
She broods the young continuously at first and then helps bring food.
The young venture out of the nest onto nearby branches at first and begin to fledge at about 4-5 weeks, although they continue being fed by the adults for about another 30 days.
Frequently, one or more young crows remain with the parents through the next nesting season, or several nesting seasons, to help care for nestlings. This cooperative behavior during breeding includes bringing food to the nest and guarding the nestlings.
A point of interest,Young American Crows do not breed until they are at least two years old, and most do not breed until they are four or more. In most populations the young help their parents raise young for a few years.
Crow families may include up to 15 individuals and contain young from five different years.
Nests are built 15 to 60 feet above ground in tall coniferous or deciduous trees. the nests are 1½ to 2 feet in diameter, and solidly built in the crotch of a limb or near the tree trunk.
In areas that lack tall trees, nests may be placed lower in hedgerows or shrubbery. In urban areas, crows may nest on window ledges or the sides of buildings.
Nests are constructed from branches and twigs, and are lined with bark, plant fibers, mosses, hair, twine, cloth, and other soft material.
Hawks and owls inhabit old crow nests; raccoons and tree squirrels use them as summer napping platforms.
Even though crows are common, their nests are not easy to locate, except after deciduous trees lose their leaves. In addition to being secretive nesters, crows may partially construct a number of preliminary or decoy nests.
American Crows return to the same nest territory year after year, often a few weeks before they start building. If a small group of crows remains in a particular area day after day, this may signal that nest building is about to begin.
Many larger twigs that form the base of
the nest are broken directly off trees.
If you see a crow hopping slowly about in some dead branches, continue to watch and you may see it break off a branch and carry it to the nest. This is the best time to try to find nests, as the birds are less secretive than during egg-laying and incubation.
Mortality and Longevity:
Adult crows have few predators—eagles, hawks, owls, and human hunters—with humans being their main predator.
The causes of death of young crows still in the nest include starvation, adverse weather, and attacks by raccoons, squirrels, Great horned owls, and other animals.
In nature, mortality in the first year is about 50 percent, but adults live six to ten years.
The oldest recorded wild American Crow was 16 years old. A captive crow that died in New York lived to be 59 years old.
The American or Common Crow appears to be the biggest victim of West Nile virus, a disease introduced to North America in the past 15 years or so. Crows die within one week of infection, and few seem able to survive exposure.
No other North American bird is dying at the same rate from the disease, and the loss of crows in some areas has been severe.
Despite the disease and the attempt at one time to eradicate the species, American crows are over all, a healthy population.
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