birds

Do Crows Eat Rats?

Do Crows Eat Rats, and how do they hunt them down?

Crows and rats are both available nearly everywhere, so it would make sense that their paths will cross. But do crows eat rats, or do they find them abhorrent like some humans?

Crows are often seen as portents of ill omens. While that might all be superstition, they are certainly bad news for rats and mice! 

Crows are adept at hunting down smaller rodents and often work in pairs or groups to flush them out of hiding. So if you’re wondering whether crows eat rats, the answer is a resounding yes!

Do Crows Eat Rats
Do Crows Eat Rats

Do Crows Eat Rats?

Yes, they do. They like to chase, hunt, and kill small rats, chipmunks, and mice. Since crows are omnivores, they can eat just about anything under the sun. 

This includes insects, seeds, cadavers of dead animals, and live (albeit small) animals. The preferences are first for scavenging and next for hunting.

Crows also seem to have a special affinity for torturing and killing rats. For example, in this video taken in Tokat (Turkey), crows seemingly punish a rat as a group!

They keep dragging the poor rat back by its tail each time it tries to escape before finally escaping and seeking refuge in a nearby trash can. 

Why Are Rats Easy Targets?

Rats are easy prey because they are abundantly available, relatively small to crows, and move slower than them.

They cannot also defend themselves when confronted by a predator.

Additionally, rats are often found in areas where there is a lot of garbage or other food that crows love to eat, so they end up crossing paths with them quite often.

Availability

Did you know that there are about 7 billion rats in the world? Yes, there’s a rat for almost every human on the planet! 

It is no surprise that they can be seen almost anywhere, which also means they are an easy source of food for many animals and birds, which includes crows.

Small size

Crows find it easier to catch and fly off with smaller prey like baby rats and baby rabbits. For comparison, the American crow, at full growth, weighs about 1 pound, whereas rats weigh lesser. 

The male rat is about 0.88 pounds, and female adults weigh about 0.66 pounds. Baby rats weigh only about 0.2 – 0.3 ounces at birth.

Watch this video to understand how small a baby rat is in front of a crow.

Closeup Image of Common Raven (Corvus corax)
Closeup Image of Common Raven (Corvus corax)

Slower speed

Crows can dive at speeds of 70mph. They routinely fly at 30-60mph speeds. Rats are much slower, running at just 8-9mph. 

While it is true that they can quickly scurry into small holes in the ground or hide in any corner, it is still a significant advantage for a surprise attack by a crow.

Moreover, crows have beaks and talons, and they have a height advantage.

Unable to fight back

The rat species is rather timid. When they are confronted by predators, they will either flee or hide rather than put up a fight.

Crows can easily hunt them by swooping down from above. Rats have nearly no way to fight back.

How Do They Hunt Rats?

Crows are known to be one of the smartest birds in the world, and their hunting tactics are a big part of that. When it comes to hunting rats, crows use these smarts in bundles.

Firstly, crows will always prefer smaller rats, rat babies, injured or sick rats, and older rats. These are easy to catch, hunt, and kill.

Once it zeros in on its target, the crow will start by pecking at the base of the rat’s tail. It also makes sure that the rat is not able to run to it and fight back. 

By pecking continuously, the crow can weaken the rat. The crow also keeps pulling at the rat’s tail to keep it from running away. Once it is weak enough, the crow will simply peck it to death. 

After that, it will either eat it (if there are no other crows around), or else carry it to a safer area and then have a well-deserved feast.

Here’s a video showing how crows do all this:

https://youtu.be/NbjWeCjslKk

Are Rats Nutritious?

Rats are surprisingly not so bad as far as nutrition is concerned. An average rat would have:

  • Calories: 648
  • Protein: 63 grams
  • Fat: 33 grams

Given that proteins are useful for birds for building their immunity as well as in the production of feathers and tissues etc., this is not a bad meal for a crow to have.

Other Predators of Rats and Mice

As we said earlier, rats are easy prey for a lot of animals and birds. Here’s a list of who all is having a feast at the poor rats’ expense

Birds

Many birds of prey eat rodents. Eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons can kill mice, rats, and other rodents by swooping down and piercing their skin. 

Barn owls and American kestrels (a type of falcon) have been used as a natural and eco-friendly way of rodent control in the US in some areas.

Non-raptor birds like crows can use their smarts for hunting them down. Herons and bluejays also use such techniques.

Reptiles

Snakes normally eat bugs like grasshoppers, birds, and small animals like rats, mice, and squirrels. Another reptile that can take on rats is the giant lizard.

Mammals

Did you know that humans also consume rodents like rats and mice? So do many other mammals, such as wolves, dogs, cats, weasels, skunks, foxes, mongooses, and even coyotes.

Two Crows Perched on Tree
Two Crows Perched on Tree

Frequently Asked Questions

Will crows eat a dead mouse?

Yes, crows are scavengers, so eating a dead mouse is all par for the course for them. They can hunt mice as well, and since mice are actually much smaller than rats, they are easy prey for crows.

Do crows eat live prey?

Yes, crows do eat live prey. Crows search for any scraps of food on the ground, and in the process, if they find insects, worms, maggots, or other things, they will easily eat them.
Crows are also fond of easy prey, such as baby rabbits, rats, and mice.

Do crows eat live squirrels?

Crows and squirrels are quite evenly matched in terms of strength and speed. So it is often difficult for crows to eat squirrels.
However, crows being the wily creatures that they are, will not leave an easy opportunity like a baby squirrel or an old or injured squirrel. They will hunt them and gobble them down.

What animals are crows afraid of?

Certain birds like the great horned owl can eat crow hatchlings and eggs. Snakes also do the same when the parent crows are not around. 
Since both these predators can do their work at night, and crows cannot see in the dark, these are the ones that crows are likely afraid of.

Wrap Up

Crows are smart creatures who never pass up the opportunity to get a meal. If that means hunting down a rat, so be it. 

Rats are unfortunately small, weak, timid, and unable to defend themselves, which makes them easy prey for crows.

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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