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Group of crows is called...

Crows as pets

Taking care of crows/ravens

Difference between crows/ravens

How long do crows live?

Crows tapping on windows

Teaching corvids to speak

Difference between male & female

Crows/Ravens of different colors

Crow habits

Crows and death

Do crows eat dead stuff?

Treating an injured corvid

Crow Merchandise

Changing your snail mail address

Requests for info. (class projects, etc.)

ASCAR's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Crows and Ravens


What is a group of crows called, and why?

A "murder" of crows is based on the persistent but fallacious folk tale that crows form tribunals to judge and punish the bad behavior of a member of the flock. If the verdict goes against the defendant, that bird is killed (murdered) by the flock. The basis in fact is probably that occasionally crows will kill a dying crow who doesn't belong in their territory or much more commonly feed on carcasses of dead crows. Also, both crows and ravens are associated with battlefields, medieval hospitals, execution sites and cemeteries (because they scavenged on human remains). In England, a tombstone is sometimes called a ravenstone.

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How do I get a pet crow or raven? Is there anyplace to adopt, catch, purchase one?

Crows and ravens are migratory birds and therefore protected by federal law. Unless one has a federal permit (these are difficult to obtain), it is illegal, a criminal offense, to keep a crow or raven. These laws are sometimes silly in application, (e.g. a game warden treating a kid raising an orphaned crow as a criminal), but in principle, they have a rational basis -- to keep people from buying or selling native birds in pet shops, as was once a common practice. Also this protects birds from idle, would-be pet keepers whose intentions are good, but are so lacking in expertise that they end up abusing the animals.

With that said, ASCAR does not give out information about how to obtain crows - emphatically does not approve of people intentionally taking young crows from nests or buying from others who have done so.

However...

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How do I take care of a pet crow or raven?

Many people who come across orphaned, nestling crows have successfully raised them and greatly benefited from the experience. These are birds who have not yet passed the stage (3-4 weeks) when they can be imprinted. (Imprinted crows are the "tame" ones). They will eat readily and are easy to care for. Crows are omnivorous and will eat almost anything.

A good basic diet for hand raised young crows is a mix of oatmeal, ground up beef heart (lean, good insect substitute), yoke of hard boiled egg and avian vitamin supplement which is heavy on calcium (for bone growth). Put a gob of this mixture on your finger, insert into the gaping mouth of the bird. Get your finger well into the throat, since this simulates the parent's beak and triggers the swallowing reflex. Young crows need to fed in this fashion until 5-6 weeks old. Thereafter, they will begin eating by themselves, almost anything. Work in as much wild food as possible.

Crows begin to fly sufficiently to be released at eight weeks or so. They should be released! ASCAR emphatically objects to crows or ravens (who can fly) being caged. Caged corvids become demented. They may appear tame and affectionate, but this is only the demeanor of a prisoner. Young birds who were imprinted, hand raised and then released will hang around the premises - being very entertaining throughout the summer, lighting on shoulders, rummaging through pockets, stealing earrings, trying to get in the house, etc. In September they will begin to drift off, hopefully joining and becoming integrated into flocks of wild crows.

It is sad when they leave because they are so affectionate (imprinted) and instructive...but look on the relationship as a memorable summer romance. Also, if you had not spent a lot of time and emotion raising a foundling, it would have been dead within a few hours of being ejected from the nest.

But - to repeat - without difficult-to-obtain permits, it is illegal to hold a crow or raven. We are against buying, selling or going out to intentionally obtain baby crows. With the understanding we do not promote criminal activity, ASCAR recognizes that many people successfully raise and benefit from foundling crows. They care for them at their own risk. They should never be permanently caged.

Addendum: An adult crow, or even young ones past the imprinting age, are among the most difficult of creatures to "tame." They remain hostile and frightened no matter how much care is lavished. People who come upon an infant or injured adult crow, and do not want or know how to care for them, should take them to a licensed rehabilitator. Rehabilitators, by law, cannot charge for their services - see article in Smithsonian Magazine, February 1998 issue, by Bil Gilbert.

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What's the difference between crows and ravens?

Ravens are about 1/3 larger than crows. They have somewhat heavier bills, more fan-shaped tails, sometimes they have a ruff (mane) of feathers around the throat. But essentially, crows and ravens are identical in color, shape - and most importantly - behavior.

Crows and ravens are competitors, and both species are seldom found in the same locale. Ravens are most often found in heavily wooded, mountainous, cold, or desert regions. Crows may be spotted in more temperate, mixed habitat areas.

Northern ravens (those of Arizona) are transglobal, and found around the world. There are 42 species of crows and ravens (corvidae) found in all parts of the world from the arctic to the tropics, excepting (for reasons known only to God) South America.

Most of them are very similar, predominantly black birds. The American crow is typical, and found throughout the United States, except Hawaii. Other US species include the fish crow (a bit smaller than the common crow) found mostly in southeastern coastal and riparian regions; the Pacific Northwest crows are much like the American crow, and, in fact, may be (according to one's favorite taxonomist) only a subspecies.

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How long do crows live?

In captivity, both crows and ravens have been known to live for about thirty years - tops. In the wild, the average life span of a crow is 7-8 years.

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I live in southeast England and I'm being woken up every morning by a loud hammering noise coming from the room next to me. Upon investigation, I find it is a large black bird...a crow? I think it is a carrion crow, but can't be sure. It has fallen in love with an east-facing double-paned window. It sits on the sill and proceeds to bang the glass with its beak, rather like a woodpecker on a tree. Please help!

This could well be a carrion crow (English natives), but also might be a woodpecker or, as the Limey's say, a Great Tit. As to getting rid of it, ASCAR is in the business of admiring corvids, so does not give out information on how to drive them off. But as general advice, learn to enjoy these birds if you are fortunate to have them nearby (e.g. pecking on your window).

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Somewhere out there I have seen a book that details how one could teach a corvid to speak. Could you help me?

Refer to all the above admonishments about caging corvids. But if one is caged, (e.g., is injured, so can't be released), they will begin to "talk," or mimic. They do it quite well, with potential vocabularies large or larger than parrots. They learn by repetition. We are not familiar with any book specifically devoted to teaching corvids to talk, but there are several books about parrots which may be found through bibliographic research. Basically, they learn either by hearing people talk or by being exposed to tapes of people repeating a few phrases. There is a leading authority on bird speech at the University of Arizona. (Irene Pepperberg, Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) who would probably know more.

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How can you tell the difference between a male and female raven when it is very young?

Sexing young corvids is virtually impossible short of autopsy. Older ones are difficult, but there are ways, having to do with the pelvic bones, but it's too complicated and iffy to get into here. Anyone truly interested should get an advanced ornithological text. They cannot be sexed in the field except by behavior (i.e. courtship, mating, laying eggs and other reproductive-related activities).

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Are there different colored crows? Brown? Albino?

Yes. Rarely do you see an albino crow. A past issue of the Corvi Chronicle contains an article focusing on the even rarer "caramel" crow.

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Do crows form habits in terms of nesting? Can they be displaced from their nest, and if so, do they just find a new nest, or die?

Sometimes crows do return and reuse nests, but very often they will continue to nest in the same tree or adjacent trees for many years, usually making a new nest. Crows nests are rather sloppily built, and don't hold up well in wind and rain. Sometimes old crow nests are used by owls for the basis of their nests. Hawks also have been known to inhabit a crow nest. Squirrels use them for summer napping platforms.

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What kind of attitude do ravens/crows display towards death? Suicide? Is the raven or crow, in fact, a sign of death or dismay?

Who knows what their attitudes towards death and suicide are? Little information suggests any animals think much about these things (one of the areas of superiority). As to people, they do think about death and suicide, and sometimes associate this with crows and ravens. (e.g. Edgar Allen Poe). Reasons? They are black and also for the reasons outlined in the first question above.

Death and dismay exist in the minds of those who brood, their shrinks and druggists. Basically, corvids have nothing to do with what we think about them. Death and suicide are our problems, not theirs.

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Do crows eat dead things or pick up live things like hawks?

Yes. Crows are both predators and scavengers, as are most hawks.

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How should I treat an injured corvid?

Take the injured bird to a licensed rehabilitator or vet. The latter should be able to put you in touch with the former.

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Can you tell me where to get crow merchandise? (Photos, toys, logos, etc.)

Sorry. Other than the ASCAR club stuff there's really not much we can do to help. You might check out some of the links to other sites which have that kind of stuff.

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I'd like to change my snail mail address so my print version of the Corvi Chronicle gets to me. Can I email you the change?

Unfortunately, no. At this time, the best way to get the Chronicle, or change information about you in our database is via snail mail. Cough up the money for a stamp and send it. It's worth the investment.

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I'm doing a school project. Can you send me all the information you have on crows?

All the information we have on crows is on the site. Spend a little time perusing the site and you'll find a many of your questions answered, or at least links to other sites that may help. Also, our online bibliography is a good research resource. We can't possible answer each request for this kind of information. So, knuckle down and do your own work...and good luck!

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