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What Do Crows Eat? The Crow Diet Explained

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crow eating on branch

Crows have quite the reputation for being mischievous birds who scavenge. In some cultures, these shiny, black fowl are considered bad omens. In other parts of the world, they are believed to unlock ancient mysteries. But one thing is for sure—you’re likely quite familiar with this species.

We’ve all seen crows hanging out on the side of the road, in parking lots, or out in a field. It’s not unusual to see crows feasting on or pecking at a variety of items—from roadkill to plastic bags. So, what exactly is a crow’s standard diet?

All About Crows

Scientific Name: Corvus
Family: Corvidae
Lifespan: 7-8 years
Wingspan: 2.8-3.3 feet
Length: 16-21 inches
Weight: 0.7-1.4 pounds

The crow is closely related to ravens. At first glance, the two might be indistinguishable to the naked eye. However, ravens are typically much larger than crows. Ravens usually inhabit sections of western and northern parts of North America, whereas crows live all over.

There are two main types of crows: the carrion and American—the difference? American crows are found (you guessed it) in America, while carrion crows are throughout most of Europe and Asia.

Crows are one of the smartest birds in the world, stunning experts with their problem-solving abilities and impeccable memories. Many studies have been performed on these magnificent creatures, finding that they might possess intelligence close to that of primates.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Crow Habitat

If you’re out and about, you might see at least one crow on your outing if you’re beyond city limits (or even within.) These birds are plentiful with increasing populations throughout the United States.

However, naturally, these birds inhabit agricultural and grasslands since they have the most abundant food source for them. Crows also thrive well in populated areas, since there are a lot of scraps to feast on.

These birds are widely revered for being secret nesters—they are even capable of making decoy nests. Crows make their nests in the crotch of tree trunks, typically in deciduous trees. Although, if none of these trees are available, they will house in other varieties.

Crow Diet

Crows are opportunistic and versatile eaters. These birds are omnivorous, meaning they feast on both plant and animal matter to survive. Since they eat practically anything they can find, their diets mostly consist of:

  • Earthworms
  • Spiders
  • Frogs
  • Snakes
  • Insects
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs

  • Baby birds
  • Seeds
  • Berries
  • Fruit
  • Garbage
  • Carrion

Yes, the carrion crow didn’t get their name as just a clever hook—these birds will absolutely feast on the dead. While it isn’t always their primary source of sustenance, they will eat whatever is readily available to them.

If you’ve seen them sifting through garbage, you can bet they’re looking for snacks. However, it’s very common for them to search for nesting materials this way, too.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Crows Communication Systems

If you’ve ever seen a crow picking at something dead on the side of the road, you might notice how they fly away long before your car reaches them. The likelihood of catching a crow off guard, even at high speeds, is incredibly rare.

So, why is this? Crows are excellent communicators with very complex social structures. They have very tight-knit units that often hunt together in small groups of threes—sometimes more or less.

It isn’t unusual to see one crow up in a tree, acting as a lookout while their mates are enjoying a freshly killed opossum. If danger is imminent, they have no problem sounding the alarm, letting their comrades know.

Crows Sometimes Feed Each Other

Because of their closeness with their family unit, they take care of one another. When a mother crow is sitting to incubate her eggs, the dad will go out and retrieve food for the both of them.

Females spend over 90% of their time in the nest, so the males gather up what they can to make sure she is taken care of. The mated pair will usually stay together for life, though they sometimes mate with other crows.

Most of the time when you see crows feasting, they enjoy dining close together. They have no problem sharing the same dead squirrel or pecking over an area riddled with delicious bugs.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Feeding Crows

It isn’t uncommon to make friends with a whole murder of crows by feeding them. Crows remember who is nice and who isn’t—who is beneficial and who is dangerous to their wellbeing. Crows never forget a face.

So, if you’ve noticed crows around your yard or neighborhood, you can lure them in to befriend them with goodies. Before doing so, make sure these birds will stay safe and no threats are around your home that could cause them harm.

Crows like junk food, so just make sure the snacks you feed them are yummy but also healthy. Many people who feed these flying friends choose menu options like:

  • Cat or dog food
  • Unsalted peanuts
  • Eggs
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Chicken

Once you have their attention with a snack of choice, create a feeding routine. A routine will establish constancy and trust with the animals. Once they know what you have to offer and when to expect you, they will be in your yard waiting for their daily treats.

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In Conclusion

Crows are a species with voracious appetites, eating just about anything in front of them. This survival diet proves very well to keep the population up. After all, crows are highly dense and growing every year.

If you’re looking to befriend some crows, it shouldn’t be hard as long as you offer the right foods to keep them coming back. Crows are social and food motivated, so they will quickly pick up on the fact you’re a food source. Once they develop trust in you, they will never forget.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

About the Author Ashley Bates

Ashley Bates is animal writer and enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Ashley's mission is to create awareness and education about animals of all shapes and sizes to promote proper care and respect.