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American Crow

Corvus brachyrhynchos ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: CORVIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

American Crows are familiar over much of the continent: large, intelligent, all-black birds with hoarse, cawing voices. They are common sights in treetops, fields, and roadsides, and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers. They usually feed on the ground and eat almost anything – typically earthworms, insects and other small animals, seeds, and fruit but also garbage, carrion, and chicks they rob from nests. Their flight style is unique, a patient, methodical flapping that is rarely broken up with glides.

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Songs

The American Crow is not known for the beauty of its song, a series of loud caws. You may also hear crows making a “subsong”: a mixture of hoarse or grating coos, caws, rattles, and clicks. These are arranged in sequences that can be many minutes long, given quietly and with a rambling, improvised quality.

Calls

Crows have more than 20 calls. The most common, a harsh caw, has several qualities and lengths that may serve different purposes. Immature begging young American Crows give a higher-pitched, nasal call that can sound like a Fish Crow. You may also hear a variety of calls and alert calls given to rally others to mob predators.

Other Sounds

Sometimes clacks its bill to make a single, sharp note.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Crows don’t regularly visit feeders, but you can attract them to your backyard if you offer a mix of trees, open space, and food. Peanuts left in an open place are a good attractant. Crows are also attracted by compost, garbage, or pet food that the birds can feed on.

Find This Bird

American Crows are fairly common and conspicuous throughout most of the lower 48 states outside the southwestern deserts. You can find American Crows by looking around open areas near patches of woods, or in human modified landscapes like city parks, garbage dumps, campgrounds, manicured lawns, athletic fields, cemeteries and parking lots. Listen for their loud cawing.

Get Involved

You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds! project.

Report your sightings of crows to eBird. Continentwide data are useful in understanding seasonal changes in the distribution and numbers of crows, as well as impacts from West Nile virus.

You Might Also Like

The crow research page of Dr. Kevin McGowan, a biologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Up Close with Crows: An interview with Kevin McGowan

Caller ID for Crows: Sound analysis shows subtle differences in the alarm calls of individual crows

Keeping Company: Crows, sociable and intelligent, are the focus of several studies at the Lab

West Nile Virus Disrupts the Family Lives of Crows: A deadly disease alters crows’ complex societies.

American Crow: Consummate opportunist (Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center)

Counting Crows: Story in BirdScope

Inbreeding in the American Crow: Story in BirdScope

Watching Your Neighborhood Crows: Story in BirdScope

All About Birds Blog, To Know the Crow: Insights and Stories From a Quarter-Century of Crow Study [Video], April 2014.