Crows have unique mating rituals, and many people consider them monogamous. But do crows mate for life? Or can they mate with other partners as well? Let’s find out.
Crows (genus: Corvus) do mate for life, but their social rules are very different from us humans. They usually have one brood every year.
However, they can have different mates in each breeding season. To learn more about the fascinating mating rituals and relationships between crows, keep reading!
Do Crows Mate for Life?
Crows practice social monogamy. In most cases they mate for life. But they can also be promiscuous sometimes. For example, if a crow’s mate dies or is injured, the crow will mate with another.
Pair bonded crows may even mate with other crows while living in the same nest! This happens with both the common American crow and the Caledonian crow.
Research has shown that about 20% crow babies come from extra-pair mates.
But, Does this Mean That Crows are Disloyal?
No, crows are not disloyal when it comes to mating. Loyalty is a specifically human concept, it does not exist in the same terms in the animal (and bird) kingdom.
Crows will stay with their mates for the majority of their lives. But, when their mate dies or is injured so that they cannot mate, the crow will move on.
Crows also mate with other crows apart from their stable mate. Unlike humans, there are no repercussions of this! This is because of something known as “cooperative breeding”.
Cooperative breeding in the bird kingdom is similar to the phrase “it takes a village to raise a kid”. Other adult crows from their crow families help the individual crows who have paired with their offspring.
Cooperative breeding is seen in about 3.2% of all bird species. It can be seen in monogamous as well as polyandrous birds (where the female has multiple mates).
How Do Crows Mate?
Crows have an elaborate mating process including singing songs, courtship, dating and finally mating. We will explain this process in detail.
Using Songs to Attract Mates
You might think that the only sound a crow makes is its harsh caw. However, like most birds, male crows use mating calls and attract mates before starting the courtship.
This is known as the crow song. The male crow sings a soft song to attract the female mate. The mating song of a crow is rich and complex.
It combines affectionate cooing, slow and soft growls, and rattles. While singing, the crow will even bow! Once it finds its mate, the crows will start nuzzling.
Like most birds and animals, crows also have courtship rituals.
The first ritual is showing that they are ready to mate. Male crows will show off their flight abilities and dive down from the highest branches.
Some males even put on their dancing shoes show off some cool moves to attract females!
Another ritual involves getting their mate a present (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). So a crow will usually bring food to its mate. The male will try to move in closer and rub against the female’s beak.
The final ritual in this process is nuzzling.
Like humans, crows, too, have a dating phase. This happens after the male crow has won over the affections of a female.
The mates will spend time together over the next few days. You will find such crows.
- Flying together in pairs
- Diving off branches, and
- Copying each other’s skills in mid-air.
When they are dating, crows will even lick their toes in mid-flight. These are all affectionate gestures towards each other.
The Cloacal Kiss
The cloacal kiss is how birds copulate. This process is different in birds when compared to mammals. The male crow does not have a penis.
Instead, the male and the female have posterior openings known as the cloaca.
During mating, the crows will rub the cloacas together. This will allow the sperm from the male to enter the female’s cloaca.
The sperms will then move down the female’s reproductive tract and fertilize the ovum. This process is known as the cloacal kiss.
You can observe the cloacal kiss in all crows. It is a short process and only lasts about 15 seconds.
How Regularly Do Crows Mate?
Crows mate once a year. The breeding season begins in March but may also occur between April and August.
This process remains the same, whether it is the common American crows across North America, Caledonian crows in New Caledonia/Pacific, or the Carrion crows in parts of Western Europe and the east Palearctic region.
Some ornithologists have observed a secondary breeding season in some crows. This season happens between October and December.
This usually occurs in warm areas where crows do not need to migrate to lay eggs. Thus, they lay eggs twice a year. American crows often breed two times in one year.
At What Age Do Crows Mate?
Crows become mature adults by the age of two. You may not be able to see the growth of baby crows as they are mostly hidden in the trees.
But, just because they have matured does not mean they are ready to reproduce.
Most crows breed at the age of four. There is a gap of about two years between reaching adulthood and participating in the breeding season.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do crows stay together as a family?
How do crows choose mates?
If the female crow likes the male, a mutual courtship will begin and result in mating.
Do crows come back to the same nest every year?
Crow nests are made with sticks and soft material, so nests do not survive a whole year. They are torn down due to wind and rain.
But crows will come back to the same tree or area to build a nest every breeding season.
Why do you never see baby crows?
But, crows also grow up very fast. So they won’t stay babies for too long, and you will likely miss out on seeing that phase.
Crows may be common, but this bird species has some amazing mating characteristics.
Their mating songs, rituals, living together in nests, social monogamy, and cooperative breeding are all traits worth observing.
We hope you enjoyed reading all about it in our article!