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American Crow

Overview

The American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) is a common and widely recognized species that breeds throughout most of the contiguous United States. Clearing of Ohio's vast forests allowed this native species to increase in number. As a result, crows are more abundant today than in pre-settlement times. Although not a forest species, crows thrive in areas with ample trees for roosting and nesting, and abundant fields for feeding. Crows continue to thrive in Ohio, in spite of intensive land use, modern farming practices, and their nuisance status to many people.

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Description

The American crow is an all-black relative of the blue jay, magpie, and raven. Chunky and heavy-billed, it is nearly as large as the familiar red-tailed hawk, but can easily be distinguished from a hawk at a distance by its frequent, steady wingbeats.

Reproduction

Crows mate the second spring after they have hatched, and they are monogamous (birds form a pair and work together to rear the young). Peak breeding activity is mid-April, and crows nest from mid-March to mid-June. They will nest in a wide variety of trees. The nest is built about 30 feet above the ground, and typically close to the trunk of the tree. The female is almost entirely responsible for incubating the eggs. The male spends most of the day nearby, occasionally bringing food to his mate. Both adults will care for the young; they regurgitate food to the begging nestlings. Incubation lasts 18 days, and they young fledge 30 days after hatching. Although re-nesting may occur if the first nest is disrupted, 1 brood of 3-7 eggs is typical in a year.

Habitat & Behavior

Crows thrive in habitats with open fields (where they feed) and trees (where they nest and roost).

Crows are found in all 88 Ohio counties, but are most numerous in the more heavily forested farmland of southeastern Ohio. They begin to flock in late summer, roosting together at night and dispersing over a large area to feed during the day. As cold weather approaches, the birds may begin to move southward. The loud raucous caw-caw of a crow is unmistakable. Crows diets typically consist of waste grain (mostly corn), insects, carrion, bird eggs, young birds, small mammals, and the fruits of mulberry, blackberry, and poison ivy.

Research & Surveys

Best Viewing & Hunting Opportunities

Crows occur statewide in diverse habitats, especially where agriculture, woodlands, open fields, and residences are interspersed. Successful hunters use owl decoys and calls to lure crows. Best viewing & hunting opportunities are in eastern Ohio, such as Woodbury Wildlife Area, Coshocton County.

2012 Update

American crows are well distributed throughout Ohio and are very abundant. The North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) has shown an overall slightly increasing, but variable trend, for the last 45 years in Ohio. Crows and other Corvids have shown high susceptibility to West Nile Virus with locally high mortality rates in Ohio and other parts of the eastern U.S. This likely explains the decrease in crow abundance detected by the BBS in some recent years. Despite this recent decline, crows remain very abundant in Ohio, and crow viewing and hunting opportunities should continue to be good in 2012.