American Crow

Common Name: American Crow.

Scientific Name: Corvus Brachyrhynchos.

What to look for?  A large, black bird! American Crows are large birds about twice the size of a Blue Jay. They have a uniformly black, glossy plumage and a fan-shaped tail. American Crows are an unusually thick-necked bird with a heavy, long, straight bill. They have stiff bristles that cover their nostrils. They have long, black legs. In flight, the wings are fairly broad and rounded with the wingtip feathers spread like fingers.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? American Crows are around here most of the year. Rather than looking, you may find American Crows first by listening and following the sound of their “caw caw”. Then you may find them in the skies over the fields and woods north of our ponds. They may be more likely sighted during the fall as migration activity occurs.

How big are they? The American Crow averages approximately 18 inches in length. Their wingspan is approximately 36 inches. They weigh in at only around one (1) pound.

What are their flight patterns? Their flight style is unique. They use steady, low rowing wingbeats. They do not soar like hawks and their flight is rarely broken up with glides.

How else do they behave? American Crows are very social. They will form flocks, sometimes into the hundreds or even thousands. American Crows have been characterized as inquisitive and mischievous. They are good learners and problem-solvers. American Crows are also aggressive and often chase away larger birds including hawks, owls, and herons.

What’s for dinner? American Crows are omnivores. Their diet includes grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, and berries. They also feed on small animals such as earthworms and mice and many insects. The American Crow is a nest predator, consuming the eggs and nestlings of many species of birds.

Where do they take up residence? They are widespread throughout the United States and southern Canada. The American Crow is a common, statewide resident of Illinois. American Crows are highly adaptable and can be found living in many habitats including cropland, woodland edges, forests, and urban areas.

When and where do they breed and nest? American Crows mate in early spring. The nest site is usually in a vertical fork high up in a tree. The female will lay up three (3) to nine (9) eggs. Incubation is by female and lasts about 18 days. The young are fed by both parents. Young leave nest about 4-5 weeks after hatching. American Crows often stay together in year-round family groups that consist of the breeding pair and offspring from the past few years. The whole family cooperates to raise young. Young American Crows do not breed until they are four or more years old. The flocks disperse in late winter when the crows begin to pair up for the breeding season.

Where do they migrate? American Crows are permanent residents in many areas and short-term migrants that move to warmer weather between their summer breeding grounds and their southern winter range. Most of the crows that breed in Canada will winter in the United States. Fall migration includes mainly American Crows moving into Illinois from more northerly states and northern Illinois crows moving into central Illinois.

What is their conservation status? There is no concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, American Crow populations have been stable throughout their range over the last several decades. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 27 million in North America. The American Crow is extremely susceptible to West Nile virus and no other North American bird has died at the same rate from the disease.

Do they make any interesting sounds? American Crows are highly vocal birds. While the American Crow makes a variety of sounds, they are most identified with their harsh, loud “caw-caw” noise.

Interesting Facts About the American Crow:

  • American Crows congregate in large numbers in winter to sleep in communal roosts.

  • Flocks of crows are called “murders”.

  • In the United States, there once was a bounty on American Crows where large, foraging flocks would damage agriculture, particularly orchards and cornfields.

  • Partners in Flight estimates a breeding population of 27 million.

  • The oldest recorded American Crow in the wild was approximately 16 years old.

For more information on the American Crow and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, the Audubon Society, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the University of Michigan Animal Diversity Lab. And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!