Monday, October 5, 2009

In the backyard... American Crow

American CrowAmerican Crow, Newport, Oregon on 19 April 2009 by Greg Gillson.


American Crows are familiar to most people in North America. Brash, inquisitive, social, and noisy, these intelligent birds are related to the magpies and jays. They are generalists when it comes to diet, eating seeds, nuts, insects, mice, road kill, human garbage, and sometimes other birds' eggs or nestlings.

Crows are found throughout the Pacific NW. They are resident west of the Cascades and Sierra Nevadas. They are common around open woodlands, residential areas, and agricultural areas. Likewise, east of the Cascades they are summer residents in agricultural areas. In the mountains and rimrock areas, the American Crow is usually displaced by the Common Raven.

The Common Raven is similar to American Crow. The raven is larger with a larger hooked bill, rough feathers on the throat, a wedge-shaped tail (square-ended in crow), and longer wings that are more pointed and flapped more up-and-down. Crows flap with a rowing motion, up and forward, down and back, the wing tips making an oval movement.

In the Pacific NW lives another crow, the Northwestern Crow. They are found along the ocean shore from extreme SE Alaska to Vancouver Island and extreme NW Washington State. They are so similar to American Crows that there is perhaps no foolproof way to tell them apart. Many experts feel that Northwestern Crows are not a separate species at all. There are similar smaller American Crows with deeper voices along the coast all the way south to northern California. To see a Northwestern Crow, visit Victoria on Vancouver Island. But don't be surprised in the future if this form is "lumped" by scientists into American Crow and its full species status revoked.