The Wild Files: It’s our Nature

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

As we kick off the month of Halloween, let’s talk about one of nature’s spookier birds, the crow. While there are 40 different species worldwide, the species we most commonly see flying above the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa Peoples and the land chosen as home by the Métis Peoples of B.C., is the American crow. Despite its name, this member of the Corvidae family, can be found soaring across Canada (along with most of the U.S.) except on the Pacific Coast, where its close cousin, the Northwestern crow, flies in its place. The Corvidae family has many members which include jackdaws, rooks, and ravens, which look almost identical to crows at first glance but are slightly bigger in size.

An adult American crow, on average, is 53 cm in length and has a wingspan of 100 cm. It weighs an average featherweight of 620 grams. These resilient birds, while preferring open fields, woodlands, and forests, are highly adaptable and can thrive around people and live anywhere. A healthy diet for these omnivores is made up mostly of seeds, grain, and fruit. Their diet also includes a myriad of insects, earthworms, small snakes, and frogs. These sneaky scavengers will have no problem nabbing the eggs and nestlings of other birds such as sparrows, robins, and jays to name a few. They also eat garbage or goodies laying out in the open – always a treat when hunger strikes.

Love birds

When crows are courting, they don’t sing loudly to attract their mates like many other bird species. Instead, they sing softly, and up close and personal to woo their mates. Once a male and female crow have mated, they will preen each other’s feathers and touch beaks. More often than not, the American crow mates for life. Their mating season typically takes place from mid-March until the beginning of June. Their average clutch size can range from three to nine eggs with a nesting period that lasts up to 40 days. Baby crows are referred to as chicks or hatchlings. When they are born their eyes are closed and they are mostly featherless except for some sparse grey tufts. Crow chicks are quite clumsy after hatching.

Getting away with murder

While these black beauties can often be seen flying solo, they congregate too; a group of crows is called a murder. There are many explanations and superstitions surrounding the origin of this term but in some folklore, it is said that crows will gather to decide the fate of another. American crows and ravens are known for their intelligent bird brains and are up there with chimpanzees as one of the world’s smartest species. They have been known to work together to recognize unusual food sources and figure out solutions to problems they may face.


The American crow is one of the most common carriers of the West Nile Virus, which was first introduced to North America in 1999. Since the virus hit its peak in Canada in 2003, death tolls are down, and their population is flourishing once again.

The crow-down

A call to arms, alerting others in their murder, and defending their territory are just a few reasons for the shriek noise referred to as a ‘caw’ that the American crow and other crows make, as well as the raven species. The average lifespan of the American crow in the wild is eight years. The longest living American crow in captivity on record was named Tata who cawed for 59 years. A few fun crow facts: Their brain-to-body ratio is bigger than that of humans and is the biggest ratio out of any other bird.  Crows don’t just use tools in nature but also can make tools to achieve what they are their putting minds to. You don’t want to ruffle a crow’s feathers: it is said they not only gossip but will recognize people and hold grudges. These birds of a feather that flock together have also been known to hold funerals for their dead comrades. In many cultures worldwide, the crow has been an omen of death

In many Indigenous cultures, the crow is seen as cunning and intelligent and considered to be an old spirit carrying with it knowledge from past lifetimes. It is known for its adaptivity, teamwork, transformation, and psychic abilities.