Crows are common sights in Missouri, particularly in winter when they tend to congregate in flocks for foraging and safety purposes. Crows are becoming familiar sights in urban areas where trash bins are ready-made foraging areas.
Species: American crow or common crow
Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Claim to fame: Crows are common sights in Missouri, particularly in winter when they tend to congregate in flocks for foraging and safety purposes. Crows are becoming familiar sights in urban areas where trash bins are ready-made foraging areas. Crows have the reputation of being an agricultural pest, although this is a somewhat antiquated image. Crows were more of a problem for farms of previous centuries – when methods were simpler and more inefficient - than they are for today’s highly mechanized farm operators. In fact, a crow’s consumption of grasshoppers, cutworms and other insect pests are beneficial to farmers. Missouri has a crow season which runs from November 1 through March 3. Crows are also highly intelligent birds. Crows have the largest brain, in relation to their size, of all species of birds.
Species status: Crows are found throughout Missouri and much of North America.
First discovered: Crows were known to Native Americans and to early settlers. According to Sioux folklore, crows were once white. They had a habit of warning buffalo of approaching hunters, which would cause the buffalo to stampede and leave the hunters empty-handed. Eventually an angry Native American caught a crow in the act of alarming a herd of bison. The Indian threw the bird into the fire, it turned black and the bird has been this color ever since.
Family matters: Crows belong to the family Corvidae; a group which includes ravens, magpies and bluejays. This family primarily consists of large, perching birds with strong, long bills and forward-pointing bristles at the base of their bills.
Length: 17 to 21 inches
Diet: The diet of the crow is diverse. It includes insects, grain, nuts, fruit, bird eggs and bird nestlings
Weight: Information not available
Distinguishing characteristics: The common crow is a stocky, black bird with a stout bill and a fan-shaped tail. The call of the crow is the familiar “caw.” What many people don’t know is that a crow’s call has variations that signify warning, threats, taunting and cheer. As mentioned above, winter is a time when crows congregate in large flocks. When these flocks are feeding, one or two crows can be seen on high perches; serving as lookouts for the rest of the flock. This behavior allows the rest of the flock to forage more efficiently.
Life span: Information not available
Habitat: Crows have adapted to a variety of habitats, but they seem to prefer deciduous growth along rivers and streams and mixed coniferous woods. They also have shown a fondness for city parks.
Life cycle: A crow’s breeding season begins in February and extends into June. The nest is built at various heights, usually in a deciduous tree, conifer or bush. The nest is cup-shaped, built of twigs and sticks, and lined with finer material. The female lays four to six eggs that she incubates in 18 days. The male feeds the female while she incubates. The young remain in the nest for 28 to 35 days. Both adults feed the young while they are in the nest and for a short period after they fledge.