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Brooklyn Bird Watch: November 16

American Crow. Scientific Name: Corvus brachyrhynchos

November 16, 2021 By Joseph Palmer
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Today, Brooklyn Bird Watch features a Heather Wolf photo of the American Crow. A fascinating and familiar bird considered to be one of the smartest birds.  The Crow will, if necessary, learn to use a tool to help it obtain food. The Cornell Lab tells us that the crow will “eat almost anything”: earthworms, insects, small animals, garbage, and chicks they rob from nests. They are common sights in treetops, fields, roadsides, and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers.

I might add that crows are also frequently seen, certainly in Florida, on golf courses where they will steal snacks from the golf carts, wisely, while the golfers are preoccupied on the tee, or the green. They have definitely earned their reputation for being “crafty forages.” I remember one afternoon while playing golf I was walking back to the golf cart from the tee and noticed a crow fly off from the dashboard of the cart with the unopened pack of M&Ms I had just purchased in the pro shop. They have learned when to snatch food from the golfers, and exactly where to find it.

Sometimes they will follow adult birds to find out where their nests are hidden. They sometimes steal food from other animals. A group of crows was seen distracting a river otter to steal its fish, and another group followed some Mergansers to catch minnows the ducks were chasing into the shallows.

In wintertime crows like to congregate in large numbers and sleep in communal roosts.  According to Cornell these roosts can be populated with a few hundred up to two million crows. Some roosts have been forming in the same general area for well over 100 years and some of these roosts have formed in urban areas where noise and mess cause conflicts with people.

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And like most birds, crows are resilient. Audubon tells us “crows are thought to be among our most intelligent birds, and the success of the American Crow in adapting to civilization would seem to confirm this.  Despite past attempts to exterminate them, for example, some of the roosts mentioned above have been dynamited, the crow remains abundant, even more common than ever in the farmlands, towns and even cities with their distinctive caw.

Crows have been known to shape pieces of wood in order to search for food in the cracks and crevices of a fence post.  And they also live long lives. According to Cornell, “a captive crow in New York lived to be 59 years old.”

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