American crow

American Crow [Corvus brachyrhynchos] Habitat, Diet, Sound, More

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Scientific Classification


American Crow

The American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) is a notable example of a large passerine species found in the Corvidae family of birds. Most of North America is covered in its presence. The ecological niches occupied by the New World carrion crow and the Eurasian hooded crow are the

same as those occupied by their American counterparts. The American and hooded crows differ in their unique vocalizations and physical attributes, even though they are comparable in size, anatomy, and behavior. From beak to tail, an American crow is 40–50 cm (16–20 in) long, with

the tail accounting for more than half of total length. Its wingspan is between 85 and 100 cm (33 and 39 in). Females are usually less mass than males, with males typically weighing between 300 and 600 g (11 and 21 oz). All-black feathers with an iridescent appearance. Its look is similar to

other corvids that are entirely black. They can adapt to human environments and possess a high level of intelligence. CaaW!-CaaW!-CaaW! is the most often occurring call. Due to their vast distribution, American magpies are useful bioindicators for tracking the West Nile virus’s

progress. Although people cannot directly contract the virus from magpies, they are susceptible to it. They fall under the category of agricultural pests and are so targeted for hunting and management.

American crow


  • Size: 40–50 cm (16–20 in) from beak to tail, wingspan of 85–100 cm (33–39 in)
  • Weight: 300 to 600 g (11 to 21 oz), with males generally larger than females
  • Plumage: All black with iridescent feathers
  • Distinctive Features: Resembles other all-black corvids; can be distinguished from common raven, fish crow, and carrion crow by size and behavior
  • Intelligence: Highly intelligent and adaptable to human environments
  • Call: Most common call is “CaaW!-CaaW!-CaaW!”
  • Ecological Role: Common and widespread, susceptible to West Nile virus, serving as a bioindicator for tracking the virus’s spread.
  • Distribution and Habitat:
  • Common and widespread throughout North America
  • Adaptive to various habitats, including urban environments
  • Diet:
  • Omnivorous, feeding on a diverse diet of insects, carrion, and plant matter
  • Reproduction:
  • Details of nesting, eggs, and fledglings
  • West Nile Virus:
  • Susceptible to West Nile virus
  • Used as a bioindicator to track the virus’s spread
  • Relationship with Humans:
  • Considered an agricultural pest
  • Subject to hunting and management practices
  • Status and Management:
  • Common and widespread
  • Vulnerable to West Nile virus
  • Classified as an agricultural pest

Taxonomy and Systematics

German ornithologist Christian Ludwig Brehm formally described the Corvus brachyrhynchos in 1822. Derived from the Ancient Greek terms βραχυ- brachy- (‘short-‘) and ρυνχoς rhynchos (‘billed’), its scientific name, Corvus brachyrhynchos, means’short-billed crow’ in reference to the length of its

beak. Based on both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, a genetic research carried out in 2012 by Knud A. Jønsson and colleagues estimated that they split roughly 5 million years ago from a common ancestry shared with collared, carrion, and hooded crows. The designated

name “American crow” is officially recognized by the International Ornithologists’ Union (IOC).

American crow


C. b. brachyrhynchosEastern Crow: Northeastern United States, eastern Canada, and surroundings. Largest.Throughout northeastern regions of the United States and Canada1822
C. b. hesperisWestern Crow: Western North America (excluding Arctic north, Pacific Northwest, and extreme south). Smaller with a slender bill and low-pitched voice.Western regions of North America, excluding specific areas mentioned1887
C. b. caurinus (formerly C. caurinus)Northwestern Crow: Pacific temperate rain forests. Formerly considered a distinct species. Smaller in size, distinctly hoarser call. Now considered a geographic variation within C. b. hesperis. Forms hybrid swarm with Corvus brachyrhynchos in coastal Washington and British Columbia.Pacific temperate rain forests, coastal Washington, British Columbia1858 (formerly considered a distinct species), 2020 (lumped with American crow)
C. b. pascuusFlorida Crow: Florida. Mid-sized, short-winged, with a decidedly long bill and legs.Florida1899
C. b. paulusSouthern Crow: Southern United States. Smaller overall, with a small bill.Southern regions of the United States1913


The Corvus brachyrhynchos is a large, striking bird with a uniform coat of glossy black feathers covering every part of its body, including its bill, legs, and feet. Its total length is between 40 and 53 centimeters (16 and 21 in), of which the tail makes up about 40%. The wing chord reaches

24.5 to 33 cm (9.6 to 13.0 in), while the wingspan ranges from 85 to 100 cm (33 to 39 in). The bill length, which ranges from 3 to 5.5 cm (1.2 to 2.2 in), varies greatly according on the locale. The tarsus is 5.5 to 6.5 cm (2.2 to 2.6 in), whereas the tail measures 13.5 to 19 cm (5.3 to 7.5 in). The

body weight varies from 11.1 to 21.9 oz (316 to 620 g), with males typically larger than females.

  • The most common call of their is a loud, short, and rapid “caaw-caaw-caaw,” often accompanied by a characteristic head thrusting motion.
  • They are adept at producing a diverse range of sounds, including mimicking other animals such as barred owls.
  • Visual differentiation from fish crows is challenging, but distinctions include more slender bills and feet in fish crows, along with a small hook at the end of their upper bill and a hunched posture with fluffed throat feathers during calls.
  • Distinguishing common ravens from Corvus brachyrhynchos can be done by observing the raven’s lozenge-shaped tail, larger head, extended soaring behavior, and more pronounced fluffing of throat feathers during calls.
  • Crows exhibit notable intelligence, with a brain-weight-to-body ratio similar to humans and a complex brain area comparable to the human neocortex.
  • Studies suggest crows are self-aware, and young crows learn from tolerant parents, showcasing their cognitive abilities.
  • The average lifespan of wild Corvus brachyrhynchos is 7–8 years, while captive individuals have been known to live up to 30 years.
American crow

Distribution and Habitat

The large territory of the Corvus brachyrhynchos extends to the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon in the Atlantic Ocean, Canada, the United States, northern Mexico, and the French Pacific Ocean. The suppression of fires and extensive tree planting over the Great Plains for a

century has facilitated the expansion of the range of this bird species as well as that of other bird species. It is found in a variety of terrains, including open forests, farms, villages, and large cities; it is absent only from tundra habitats where the common raven predominates. They permanent

resident of most of the United States, unlike many Canadian birds that migrate southward in the winter. These birds frequently congregate at night in enormous communal roosts, numbering in the thousands or perhaps millions, when they are not nesting.

Bermuda began to record the American crow in 1876.

Species in same Genus

SpeciesCommon Name
Corvus brachyrhynchosAmerican crow
Corvus coroneCarrion crow
Corvus splendensHouse crow
Corvus cornixHooded crow
Corvus frugilegusRook
Corvus coraxCommon raven
Corvus albusPied crow
Corvus rhipidurusFan-tailed raven
Corvus crassirostrisThick-billed raven
Corvus imparatusTamaulipas crow
Corvus orientalisEastern Carrion crow

Behavior and Ecology

It is hard work studying the behavior of Corvus brachyrhynchos because it is hard to catch them for banding, let alone catch them again. As a result, little is known about a large portion of their activity, which includes daily routine, migration, molting, survivorship, age at first breeding,

nestling development, and the makeup of nesting assistance.


As an omnivore, the Corvus brachyrhynchos eats a wide variety of foods, including carrion, invertebrates, human leftovers, fruits (particularly almonds and walnuts), seeds, eggs, nestlings, stranded fish, and different cereals. They hunt actively and eat tiny animals including frogs, mice, and young

rabbits. Their nutrition becomes increasingly dependent on nuts and acorns in the fall and winter. Sometimes they frequent feeders. They are notably one of the few bird species that have been seen utilizing and altering tools in order to collect food. Similar to other crows,

they will forage in landfills, dispersing trash as they go. Foods like corn, wheat, and other crops are preferred when they are accessible. They has long been seen as an annoyance due of these behaviors. However, it’s thought that the benefit they offers by

consuming bug pests outweighs the damage to crops.

American crow


  • Corvus brachyrhynchos exhibit social monogamy and engage in cooperative breeding, forming large families of up to 15 individuals that endure for many years.
  • Offspring from prior nesting seasons often stay with the family to assist in rearing new nestlings.
  • Breeding age is not reached until at least two years, and most crows do not leave the nest for breeding until four to five years.
  • Nesting season commences early, with some birds incubating eggs by early April.
  • Nests are bulky stick structures, primarily in trees but occasionally in large bushes or, rarely, on the ground, with a preference for trees like oaks.
  • Corvus brachyrhynchos nest in a variety of trees, including large conifers; clutches consist of three to six eggs, incubated for 18 days.
  • Young crows typically fledge around 36 days after hatching.
  • Predation is a notable threat, with eggs and nestlings frequently targeted by snakes, raccoons, ravens, and domestic cats.
  • Adults may face potential attacks from great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, and eagles, while predators like coyotes or bobcats may attack them at carrion, although such occurrences are rare.

West Nile virus

Due to their accidental introduction to North America in 1999—possibly from an infected passenger who contracted the virus from a mosquito after landing—Corvus brachyrhynchos are extremely vulnerable to West Nile virus. Since 1999, the unintended introduction of an African

virus that has been known to cause encephalitis in humans and livestock since approximately 1000 AD has resulted in a probable 45% decline in the Corvus brachyrhynchos population. The crow is considered a species of least concern despite this reduction. Subtropical climates are particularly

conducive to the spread of the disease and the reproduction of its mosquito vectors, most notably Culex tarsalis. As a result, Corvus brachyrhynchos mortality rates are higher than those of other bird species, and local population losses are significant—a 72% reduction in a single season has

been documented. Corvus brachyrhynchos are therefore a sentinel species that may detect the West Nile virus in a given location. Humans cannot directly contract the virus from crows.

American crow


With all the characteristics of a corvid, they are incredibly smart and inquisitive. Their skillful methods of stealing food from other species, often displaying inventiveness in the process, demonstrate their cunning. Crows robbing a Northern river otter of its fish is exemplified

by a scene in which one crow deftly distracts the otter by pecking its tail, allowing other crows to swoop in and take the fish. Furthermore, they are adept tool users, demonstrating their capacity to apply and adapt tools in a variety of settings.

Relationship with Humans

Crows are a common motif in some human civilizations and are linked to themes of death, graveyards, thieves, misfortune, and other unpleasant associations. On the other hand, crows are considered lucky charms or symbols of particular gods like Odin, Apollo, and others in

several native American and Neo-Pagan cultures. The divergent interpretations draw attention to the various cultural viewpoints and symbolic connotations that these birds are associated with in various communities.


Human Impact and Population ControlHistorically, they have been extensively targeted by humans, with large-scale killings for recreational purposes and organized extermination campaigns. While such actions have decreased, they still pose a threat to the population.
Legal ProtectionsIn Canada, Corvus brachyrhynchos lack legal protections, except in Quebec, where hunting is banned during the nesting season. The United States has varying laws on crow hunting, with states like New Jersey allowing limited hunting unless they are considered agricultural pests. Oklahoma permits hunting even during the nesting season.
Extermination CampaignsIn the first half of the 20th century, state-sponsored campaigns involving dynamiting roosting areas were conducted, resulting in large casualties. However, these campaigns were largely ineffective in reducing crow populations and mitigating agricultural crop damage.
Causes of MortalityIntentional killings by humans have been a significant cause of death for them, accounting for 68% of all recovered bird bands in a study spanning from 1917 to 1999. This continues to be a threat despite decreased extermination campaigns.
Agricultural Impact and ManagementThe actual impact of crows on agriculture is poorly studied, and non-deadly management methods, such as netting high-value crops and frightening techniques, are often limited in effectiveness. While crows may pose challenges to crops, there is some suggestion that they could be beneficial by consuming insect pests and deterring livestock predators.
American crow

Status and Management

The exceptional intelligence and versatility of they have acted as buffers against impending danger. But because of these characteristics, the species is now considered an agricultural pest. Bird Life International estimated that there were about 31 million American

crows in 2012. They are classified as a least concern species, meaning that there is no present threat to its extinction due to its large population size and wide distribution.

  • Crows have faced significant mortality due to human activities, including recreational killing and organized extermination campaigns.
  • In Canada, Corvus brachyrhynchos lack legal protections, except in Quebec, where hunting is prohibited during the nesting season.
  • Laws on crow hunting vary across the United States, with New Jersey permitting limited hunting unless they are considered agricultural pests, and Oklahoma allowing hunting even during the nesting season.
  • State-sponsored campaigns in the first half of the 20th century, such as dynamiting roosting areas, caused substantial crow casualties. A specific campaign in Oklahoma from 1934 to 1945 dynamited 3.8 million birds.
  • Despite these efforts, the impact on crow populations was negligible, and agricultural crop damage did not decrease, leading to the cessation of the campaigns due to ineffectiveness.
  • Intentional killings by humans, accounting for 68% of all recovered bird bands in a study from 1917 to 1999, have been a predominant cause of death for crows.


In the wild, they typically live for seven or eight years. Nonetheless, it has been reported that they kept in captivity have longer lifespans—some have been known to reach 30 years. The shortened life span in the wild can be caused by a number of things,

including disease, predators, and difficult environmental conditions.

American crow


When in flight, the average speed of a Corvus brachyrhynchos is 20 to 25 miles per hour (32 to 40 kilometers per hour). Nonetheless, these birds are renowned for their adaptability and agility in the air, and their speed can change depending on the weather and the reason they are flying (e.g., during migration or hunting).

Common Names in Different Languages

LanguageCommon Name for American Crow
EnglishAmerican Crow
SpanishCuervo Americano
FrenchCorneille d’Amérique
GermanAmerikanische Krähe
ItalianCorvo Americano
RussianАмериканская ворона (Amerikanskaya vorona)
Chinese美洲乌鸦 (Měizhōu wūyā)
Japaneseアメリカワタリガラス (Amerika watari garasu)
Hindiअमेरिकन क्रो (Amerikan kro)
Arabicغراب أمريكي (Ghurab Ameriki)
American crow


  1. What is the scientific name of the American crow?
    • It is scientifically known as Corvus brachyrhynchos.
  2. Where is the natural habitat of the Corvus brachyrhynchos?
    • Due to their high degree of adaptability, they can be found in a wide range of settings, such as open forests, farms, towns, and cities. They are found all over North America.
  3. What is the average lifespan of an Corvus brachyrhynchos?
    • They can be found in a variety of environments, including open forests, farms, villages, and cities, because of their remarkable degree of adaptation. North America is home to them all.
  4. Are American crows considered intelligent?
    • They are, in fact, very intelligent birds. They are renowned for their capacity for problem-solving, their proficiency with tools, and their environmental adaptability.
  5. Do Corvus brachyrhynchos migrate?
    • Although several birds from Canada migrate southward during the winter, most of them live permanently in much of the United States and do not go on long-distance migrations.
  6. What is the primary diet of American crows?
    • Their food is omnivorous; they eat fruits, nuts, seeds, carrion, insects, eggs, and small mammals. They have also been observed robbing other species of their food.
  7. How do American crows communicate?
    • They use a range of calls to communicate. The most typical call is “CaaW!-CaaW!-CaaW!” which is clear and loud. They can also imitate other sounds, such as those produced by other animals.
  8. Are Corvus brachyrhynchos susceptible to diseases?
    • Yes, it is well known that they can contract infections, with the West Nile virus being one of the most serious risks. It is impossible for the virus to infect humans directly from crows, though.
  9. Are there legal protections for Corvus brachyrhynchos?
    • Legal safeguards differ by region, with some permitting hunting, particularly for those deemed agricultural pests. But during nesting seasons, hunting is prohibited in several places.
  10. What ecological role do Corvus brachyrhynchos play?
    • In addition to helping to keep livestock predators like hawks at bay, they also aid in the management of bug pests. In some situations, they are regarded as agricultural pests, though.

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