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    American Crow Life History

    Habitat

    Habitat Open WoodlandsAmerican Crows are highly adaptable and will live in any open place that offers a few trees to perch in and a reliable source of food. Regularly uses both natural and human created habitats, including farmland, pasture, landfills, city parks, golf courses, cemeteries, yards, vacant lots, highway turnarounds, feedlots, and the shores of rivers, streams, and marshes. Crows tend to avoid unbroken expanses of forest, but do show up at forest campgrounds and travel into forests along roads and rivers. Avoids deserts.Back to top

    Food

    Food OmnivoreAmerican Crows eat a vast array of foods, including grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, and many kinds of small animals such as earthworms and mice. They eat many insects, including some crop pests, and also eat aquatic animals such as fish, young turtles, crayfish, mussels, and clams. A frequent nest predator, the American Crow eats the eggs and nestlings of many species including sparrows, robins, jays, terns, loons, and eiders. Also eats carrion and garbage.Back to top

    Nesting

    Nest Placement

    Nest TreeCrows typically hide their nests in a crotch near the trunk of a tree or on a horizontal branch, generally towards the top third or quarter of the tree. They prefer to nest in evergreens, but will nest in deciduous trees when evergreens are less available.

    Nest Description

    Both members of a breeding pair help build the nest. Young birds from the previous year sometimes help as well. The nest is made largely of medium-sized twigs with an inner cup lined with pine needles, weeds, soft bark, or animal hair. Nest size is quite variable, typically 6-19 inches across, with an inner cup about 6-14 inches across and 4-15 inches deep.

    Nesting Facts
    Clutch Size:3-9 eggs
    Number of Broods:1-2 broods
    Egg Length:1.4-1.9 in (3.6-4.7 cm)
    Egg Width:1.0-1.2 in (2.6-3.1 cm)
    Incubation Period:16-18 days
    Nestling Period:20-40 days
    Egg Description:Pale bluish-green to olive green with blotches of brown and gray toward the large end.
    Condition at Hatching:Naked except for sparse tufts of grayish down, eyes closed, clumsy.
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    Behavior

    Behavior Ground ForagerAmerican 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. Winter roosts of American Crows sometimes number in the hundreds of thousands. Often admired for their intelligence, American Crows can work together, devise solutions to problems, and recognize unusual sources of food. Some people regard this resourcefulness and sociality as an annoyance when it leads to large flocks around dumpsters, landfills, and roosting sites; others are fascinated by it. American Crows work together to harass or drive off predators, a behavior known as mobbing.Back to top

    Conservation

    Conservation Low ConcernAmerican Crows are numerous and their populations were stable between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population at 27 million, with 88% spending part of the year in the U.S., and 37% in Canada. They rate a 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. The American Crow is extremely susceptible to West Nile virus, which was introduced into North America in 1999. Virtually all crows that contract West Nile die within one week, and few seem able to survive. No other North American bird has died at the same rate from the disease, and the loss of crows in some areas has been severe.Back to top

    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 out more about what this bird likes to eat, visit the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

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    Credits

    Dunne, Pete. 2006. Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook. A Field Guide to the natural history of North American birds, including all species that regularly breed north of Mexico. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc.

    Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

    North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

    Partners in Flight. 2017. Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

    Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J. and W. A. Link. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2013 (Version 1.30.15). USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center 2014b. Available from http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/.

    Sibley, David Allen. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

    Verbeek, N. A. and C. Caffrey. 2002. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

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