Next to sea gulls the most common bird you will see on the Sunshine Coast is the crow. With the exception of a few rare parrots, crows are the most intelligent of birds. They are referred to by some scientists as “brainiacs”. They are found everywhere in the world except southern South America and some islands. There are about 45 different species of crows or more formerly, the corvus family, in the world. Crows have been around this planet for a long time. Fossils have been found in Europe dating back 20-25 million years. A few of the crow family you might be familiar with are jays, magpies, rooks, ravens and our own northwest crow.
Crows are very social, and when not mating travel in large groups unlike ravens which travel usually in pairs. Crows often mate for life. They engage in a societal living with the group having some control over the individual crow, in some instances expelling an individual from the group for some behavior that the group deems inappropriate. Crows are very emotional, expressing happiness, anger and sorrow. On some occasions a group has been observed conducting a funeral for a dead crow. They circle around the dead bird and silently stare at it. Scientists believe that the purpose of the crow funeral is that the crows somehow are studying as to what happened so they can avoid the fate of the dead bird.
Crows are absolutely fearless even with larger birds such as eagles. When an eagle is observed with food several crows will continue to dive bomb the eagle until it drops the food and one of the crows quickly recovers it. They also have a softer side being quite musical. We think of the crow making a loud “cawing” sound but in reality the crow is considered a song bird and is capable of producing at least four different tunes.
Crows are not only extremely intelligent but also very adaptable. They have adapted to urban living. Their diet is omnivorous and the fact is that a crow will eat almost anything it can swallow. Most crows can be taught to use simple tools. They know from what height to drop a jar so that it will open without destroying the contents. Crows have excellent memories. Unlike humans crows only have to have an experience once to learn. If it was a good experience they will readily repeat it, if a bad one they will avoid repeating it. They memorize your garbage truck route because they are not strong enough to remove the lid to the can but when your garbage man removes the lid they are right there to claim anything that spilled.
One of the most amazing crow stories occurred in Chatham ,Ontario which is the centre of a large farming area. Crows are not the farmer’s friends. Chatham was on their migratory route and there were 600,000of these black birds in the area. The mayor of Chatham declared war and called upon the citizens to protect the crops. The next morning the hunters went out . Word travels quickly on the crow network. One crow was shot ,only one out of 600,000. After that day crows flew above shotgun range and no further crows were shot that year.
In late fall and winter crows “roost” together in large numbers. Crows can be playful and devious and are accomplished thieves. Never underestimate them.