Black Beauty

On a recent sunny day on PAWS' campus, a host of crows erupted in a raucous chorus of caws. A few staff and volunteers investigated the commotion to discover the source of the crows' agitation - a Red-tailed Hawk was hanging around. Hawks can mean serious competition for crows, so they were doing their best to encourage him to move on.

Crows' vocal exchanges and bold behaviors sometimes irritate humans. However, short of the occasional raid on a garbage can, crows are seldom responsible for any appreciable mess or property damage. For those in the know, the sleek black birds are actually pretty amazing creatures, and if you stop and think about it, they are very similar to people.

A lot like us

Crows are among the world's most adaptable and highly intelligent birds. They can recognize individual human faces, solve simple problems and use tools (search videos online to see several examples of crows using tools). Crows have evolved a varied language, and are capable of mimicking many sounds they hear, including other animals. They also learn to associate noises with specific events, especially food distribution.

Family is also very important to a crow. Young birds will remain with their parents through the next nesting season to help care for the new nestlings by bringing them food and guarding the nest. In winter, hundreds of crows will gather together in the sky before heading to their nightly roosting sites. It is also widely believed that crows mate
for life.

Keeping the peace

Spring is upon us, which means mated pairs of crows are building their nests. Odds are very good that your neighborhood will contain one or more crow nests. Like any good parents, the crows will attempt to defend their young from anything they perceive as a threat. That could be you, your cat, your dog or visiting in-laws. If you approach the nest and/or young too closely, you might become the dive-bombing target of very agitated and vocal crow parents.

If you fi nd yourself being divebombed, stay calm. The crow parents are simply reacting out of concern for their young. Try to avoid that area, and if you can't, carry something to deflect the attacks. As the young crows mature, the parents will relax, and by mid-summer the dive-bombing will subside.

Here are some other tips for keeping the peace with crows:

  • Secure a metal garbage can with a tight-fitting lid and bungee cords to stop crows (and other animals) from rummaging through your garbage.
  • Cover fruit trees and berry bushes with flexible bird netting to keep crows from snacking from your garden.
  • If you are experiencing conflicts with crows or other wildlife, call PAWS Wildlife Center at 425.412.4040 for humane and effective solutions. You can also find helpful tips at paws.org.

Does that baby crow need help?

When young crows and other songbirds first leave the nest, they spend a period of time on the ground making short, clumsy flights while they develop their flight muscles. This is a vulnerable time for the birds, but their parents do their best to protect and keep them well-fed.

These fledglings are often as large as their parents, and are sometimes mistaken for injured adult birds. In spring and summer, many people unknowingly bring healthy young birds to PAWS. Before you rescue a bird, call PAWS and we will assist you in determining if the bird needs help.

Sadly, there are many baby birds who do become injured or orphaned. PAWS cares for hundreds of these fragile creatures every year and relies on volunteers to do so. If you have an interest in helping to care for wild baby birds for release back to the wild, become a PAWS Wildlife Center volunteer. It's a great way to get up close to and learn about Washington's wildlife while helping to save lives. Learn how to get involved.

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