Interesting Facts about the Crow Family

Interesting Facts about the Crow Family (Magpies, Crows and Ravens)

Species Research and Information provided by: Avian Contributor: Jeannine Miesle

Additional information added by Sibylle Johnson, Avianweb


Crow Species Information

Physical and Behavioral Differences Between Crows and Ravens

Crows (including Ravens) are exceptionally intelligent birds and are able to make complex decision. Neurologist Stanley Cobb noted that ravens have among the largest brains of any birds. Some crow species have a neostriatum (forebrain) of the same relative size as the chimpanzee and human.

(Some YouTube crow videos are provided further down the page)

These clever birds have been known to:

Use bread crumbs to bait fish. One Hooded Crow was observed shredding a piece of bread and dropping the crumbs into the water. This crow then stuck its head in the water and grabbed a fish. The smart crows have also used other methods to catch LIVE fish!

Construct and use tools effectively; for example, the New Caledonian Crow has formed crude cutting tools from stiff leaves and stalks of grass; they have also been observed to drop very hard nuts into a street and wait for them to be crushed by passing cars.

As part of a study, there were given different tool options, and these birds were able to examine and choose a tool of the correct length or width for the assigned task. If no suitable tools were available, they were able to design tools. For example, they would use twigs or bend pieces of wire into hooks to retrieve items from inaccessible crevices.

Ravens form cooperative relationships. They have been observed alerting coyotes, wolves and other such predators to carcasses that they themselves were incapable of tearing open. Once opened, they themselves have access to the soft tissue inside and can share the meal.

Crows have been recorded to use their wit to steal prey from much larger predators, including Bald Eagles and other large bird of prey, as well as from wolves and even bears.

Larger Ravens have been observed picking up and carrying off bags of trash, so that they could eliminate competition, and explore the inside at a location and a time of their choosing.

Experiments showed that American Crows can count to three or four.

They can be taught to mimic the human voice – like parrots. However, they may not be able to compete with some parrot species, such as the African Grey or the common budgie (the record holder is a budgie that was able to speak around 1,700 words). This being said, crows are not commonly kept as pets and don’t have that many opportunities to interact with humans. Therefore, to draw an analogy between crows and companion parrots in terms of mimicking abilities is comparing apples with oranges. There are millions of budgies kept in households worldwide and only few of them have accrued such an extensive vocabulary.

According to Fredrick N. Albury (a former Bird Keeper at San Diego’s Wild Animal Park and Wildlife Rehabilitator): “Both Crows AND Ravens can talk very clearly and learn multiple words/phrases as well as household noises. STARLINGS also can talk though their diction is a little more muddled.”

Hide and store food from one season to the next.Interesting Facts about the Crow Family

Use past experiences to predict the behavior of those in their species.

Differentiate one human from another by their faces and hold a grudge as well, remembering them for to three years! Field biologists noticed that crows were able to identify individuals that they consider to be a threat. The researchers trying to capture them for banding went as far as wearing masks to hide their identities.

The European Magpies demonstrated a self-awareness in mirror tests.

Crows are known for their fondness of shiny objects and is estimated that more than US $215 million dollars in coins are lost each year.

Mob Mentality: Crows are often seen gathering in “mobs” to harass intruders or potential predators, such as cats and birds of prey.

Establish the flock’s pecking order by “sparring” in mid-air.

Crows are said to change their entire migration pattern to avoid places where a crow had been killed in the past.


Crow / Raven Intelligence – Recordings


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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