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American Crow

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Is the American Crow right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Corneille d'Amérique; Cuervo americano

Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos

The basics:
The American Crow, the most widespread native crow in North America, is known to be one of the world's most highly intelligent birds. This social crow's ability to mimic, solve problems, and play tricks has sparked legends that go back for centuries.

In the United States this species is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, so they can't be traded on the pet market. If a U.S. resident wants to work with American Crows, your best chance is to volunteer with a wild bird rescue.

This highly successful North American crow thrives in the wild thanks to its intelligence and adaptability. A possible challenge appeared in 1999, when West Nile Virus (WNV) entered New York and eventually spread across the continent. Almost 100% of crows infected with this neurological disease will die within a week, causing declines in American Crow populations in some areas. However, at least for now, this familiar species seems fairly secure.

There are three other lookalike species – Fish Crow, Northwestern Crow, and Tamaulipus Crow. The smaller Fish Crow, in particular, appears to be expanding in the east, especially along coasts and waterways. However, the American Crow and Fish Crow are easily distinguished as soon as the birds speak up. The Fish Crow has a distinct nasal “Unh uh” caw that makes it sound as if the bird is disagreeing with you.

Appearance:
The American Crow is a striking, solid black.

Weight:
450 grams (16 oz.)

Average size:
53 centimeters (21 in.)

Lifespan:
15 years

Behavior / temperament:
A baby American Crow, imprinted on its human owner from an early age, can learn to speak and will become dependent on humans for food and companionship. Rescue workers may have to take special steps, such as using a feeding puppet, to avoid imprinting if they plan to rehabilitate the bird for return to the wild. Hunting permits can be issued for crows in areas where they are regarded as agricultural pests, so you don't want your crow to be too friendly to humans if the bird will eventually be released.

Housing:
The active American Crow deserves the largest flight or aviary that you can reasonably provide, with plenty of enrichment items like toys and swings to capture its imagination. The aviary or playpen needs to be located where these highly social birds can enjoy your companionship throughout the day.

Some people in the past have free flown imprinted birds, allowing them to offer a somewhat smaller sleep cage. However, you need to be alert to keep your curious crow out of trouble. Like other corvids, they are well-known for stealing and hiding shiny objects, including jewelry.

Diet:
American Crows are considered omnivorous, but they consume a protein-rich diet including live grubs, eggs, and even tiny vertebrates in addition to green food, carrion, grain, and fruit. A captive diet could include a low iron softbill crumble supplemented with mealworms, crickets, and other insects as well as treats like cooked chicken, chopped grapes, tiny pinky mice, and more.

Written by Elaine Radford

wonderful

lovable bird, intelligence, rehab situation

challenging

MENTAL STIMULATION, bird knowledge, loud bird, Crow babies, pets

interesting

worms, fresh meat, distinctive sounds, Baby wipes, shiny things

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