Something to Crow About

With fall settling in and Halloween just around the corner, what better birds to talk about than crows and ravens?

Whenever I mention crows, folks seem to turn up their nose, or scrunch up their face – “they’re dirty,” “they make too much noise,” “I don’t like ‘em.” The poor crow seems to be getting a bad rap – yes, they aren’t the prettiest or friendliest, but they are fascinating, very intelligent and clever. They are known for their adaptability and their harsh squawking “caw.” Crows come from the genus Corvus, comprised of crows, ravens and rooks. They are all part of the Corvida family that includes jays, magpies and nutcrackers. There are approximately 40 species of crows found all over the world in a variety of habitats. Some crows migrate to warmer areas when needed, others stay put.

Many types of crows are solitary, but they will forage in groups. A group of crows is called a murder. When a crow dies, the murder will surround the deceased to mourn and find out what killed their member. A murder of crows will band together to chase away predators, a behavior known as mobbing. Being the smart birds that they are, they are also known for their problem solving skills. When they encounter a threatening human, they literally teach the other crows how to identify that human!

Ravens, while similar to crows, have hoarser voices, are larger, have bigger bills, thicker necks and shaggy throat feathers (see photo). They too, just like crows, are known for being super smart. Ravens don’t seem to get the bum rap that crows get. I could never figure out why since they are so similar  — maybe because Poe immortalized them in The Raven.

So don’t let crows and ravens spook you this Halloween season. Next time you see a crow landing in your yard, check to see if it really is a crow — or is it a Raven?  Both crows and ravens may look dark and ominous, but don’t hold that against them – they are some of the smartest, most intelligent birds around!