Thursday, June 28, 2012

AMERICAN CROWS

This summer we have a whole bunch of crows in our neighborhood.  I don't know why, since this has not happened to us before.  Well, sometimes we see one or two crows, but this year we have a regular murder of crows hanging out here.  My own theory is that a few crows came here to scout the place out, and then they went and told all their friends that this was a nice neighborhood to live in, and everybody came here.



Anyway, I got curious about crows, so I decided to learn more about them.  What I would really like to do best is to eat a crow -- which is not the same thing as eating crow -- but so far I haven't been able to catch one.  Mom says I would have more luck hunting crows if I spent more than two minutes at a time outside, but that's just long enough to potty, and then I prefer to go back inside where it's air-conditioned and cool.

So now I will tell you some stuff about crows.  Most people know that crows are black, so I don't have to tell you that.  Almost anyplace you go in the world, except for South America or Antarctica, you will find some type of crow.  The American Crow is called Corvus brachyrhynchos, which is Ancient Greek for "short-billed crow."  Crows are related to a bunch of other birds in the corvid family, including ravens, magpies, rooks, choughs, jackdaws, and jays.



The average crow is 16"-21" long and has a wingspan of 33" to 39".  The feathers are iridescent black, and the feet, legs, and bill are also black.  A crow's bill is about 2" long.  Crows are very talkative, which is how you can always know if they are around.  They say "caw! caw!" a lot, but they also make a bunch of other sounds.  Sometimes they mimic the sounds that people and other birds make.  In the wild, crows live about 7--8 years, and in captivity, they can live as long as 30 years.



Crows like to eat all kinds of stuff, including seeds, eggs, nestlings, invertebrates, carrion, grains, mice, frogs, nuts, acorns, and scraps of human food.  They often go to landfills or get into people's trash, looking for food.  Their favorite food is corn, wheat, and other crops.  Farmers find this annoying and are always putting up scarecrows and doing other stuff to try to keep the crows out of the field.  But the good thing that crows do is they eat up a bunch of insects in the fields while they are there.

A crow named Betty who figured out how to bend a wire
into a hook to use to pull food out of the glass tube.
When crows want to get to some food they can't reach, they can usually find a tool to use.  Or they can even make a tool, like by bending a wire.  This is pretty amazing, since not many animals can make tools, especially animals that don't have opposable thumbs.


Crows mate for life.  They build big nests in trees or in large shrubs.  The nests are made of twigs, branches, bark, moss, hair, twine, cloth, and other soft stuff.  The female crow lays 3--6 eggs and then sits on them for about 18 days. The baby birds get all their feathers by the time they are 35 days old.


A lot of animals like to eat crow eggs and crow babies.  Like, for instance, snakes, raccoons, ravens, and domestic cats.  Sometimes the adult crows get preyed on by owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles.  Another thing that attacks crows is a disease called West Nile Virus.  In 1999, this virus got introduced into North America from Africa.  Since then, the population of American crows has fallen 45%.  Luckily, crows can't give the virus directly to humans.


When the baby crows grow up, they still live with their parents for a few years.  Family groups start hanging out together in roosts at night.  Crows like to do this because they are very social birds.  By the time winter comes, there might be hundreds or even thousands of crows.  In the daytime, they break up into smaller groups to go out looking for food.  Then at night they all come back to the roost.  When they sleep together like that, they can stay safer and warmer than they could if they roosted alone. Roosting spots are usually located in groups of trees, and near water.  They can be used for many years.


Okay, well, that's all I know to tell you about the American Crow today.  I will just add that sometimes people get "crow's feet" around their eyes, which I think must be caused by letting a crow walk across your face while you're asleep.  So I would recommend not letting crows do this to you, unless you especially like the look of crow's feet.



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