Cascades Raptor Center

Resident Bird - American Crow

Edgar Allan Crow

Cascades Raptor Center does not currently have any American Crow resident birds.

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhyncos)

Courtesy of Barbara Gleason The crow belongs to the corvidae family: large perching birds that includes crows, ravens, jays, magpies, nutcrackers, and their relatives. This black bird has a short and blunt-ended tail, broad wings, and a large head. Plumage is all black, with a metallic, purplish appearance on the body in bright sunlight. The wings, which can sometimes have a greenish gloss in bright light, extend beyond the tail when folded. Bill and feet are black; eyes are dark brown in adults, blue in immature birds; young birds are pink/red inside their mouth, which later turns to the adult black. There is no size difference between the sexes.  Crows can be distinguished from ravens by their smaller size, smaller and straighter bill, shorter body, blunter tail in flight and higher-pitched, more nasal calls.  Crows fly with a smooth, rowing wing motion, or glide with wings slightly raised. Unlike their larger relatives, the ravens, they never soar.


Size - Length: 17.5" ave. • Wing Span: 39" ave. • Weight: 1 lb. ave.

Status - Federally protected, though with a hunting season in many states, and with blanket permission to be taken when depredating or threatening agriculture.

Habitat - This species is found in many different habitats, including woods, meadows, marshes, fields, riparian areas, towns and cities. The American Crow has adapted to a great variety of human-altered land-scapes, ranging from farms, pastures, and woodlots, to suburbs and urban centers. Although solitary or seen in pairs much of the time, crows can also be gregarious; during the fall and winter they may gather in very large roosts near a source of food. During nesting season, a youngster threatened on the ground or, at any time, a hawk, eagle or owl, will bring in crows from all points of the compass to defend or 'mob' and harass.

Diet - Crows are opportunists when it comes to what they eat. They have the ability to adapt to many habitats and food sources, and their diet consists of whatever is readily available: insects, fruits, vegetables, farm crops, eggs (and sometimes nestlings), amphibians, snakes, shellfish, and carrion. If water is nearby, they like to wash their food before eating. They often cache food in the ground, to be retrieved later.

Call - A hoarse kaaw...kaaw is the best known call, but this has many variations in tone, inflection, and pitch. Immature birds tend to give a higher-pitched and longer call. Crows have many other vocalizations; these range from a rapid, hollow rattle of greeting, to the sharp call of sentinel birds communicating danger, to the mimicry of other species' calls.

Nesting - Crows prefer nest sites in tall deciduous trees, building their branch and twig nests 20 to 60 feet off the ground. In arid regions they will sometimes nest in loose colonies in trees along rivers and streams. They have been known to nest on the ground occasionally and to use other structures where trees are scarce.

Most Common Problems - Except in agricultural situations, crows can no longer be legally persecuted in the US, as they were in the past. The most common problems now include the ingestion of plastic items, tangling in wire, gunshot, being hit by vehicles, or young who have fallen or been tossed from their high nests.

  ANCA Member

Cascades Raptor Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (Federal ID No. 93-1038827) dedicated to wildlife rescue and public education to enhance appreciation, respect, and stewardship of the natural world.


CRC logo art by Jeanne Hammond-Elliott.  Drawings by Barbara Gleason & Karl Edwards.  Photographic sources noted as provided.