The gray crow is a bird known to urban and rural residents. It differs from black crows in its color, reminiscent, rather, of a magpie. Like all crows, birds of this species are unusually intelligent and quickly get used to people.
Origin of the species and description
The gray crow is a separate species of the genus of crows and the family of corvids. Sometimes it, along with the black crow, is considered a subspecies of crows. As a genus, crows are very diverse and include from 120 different species.
- all crows that live in different parts of the world;
- jackdaws ;
The first fossils in which similarities with corvids were found were found in Eastern Europe. They are dated to the middle Miocene – this is about 17 million years ago. Corvids first developed in Australasia, but soon, being nomadic birds, they scattered around the world, successfully adapting to various living conditions.
Video: Hooded crow
Scientists argue about taxonomy family birds. The boundaries between related species are blurred, so some experts argue that there should be more species, others for fewer. Some classifications based on DNA analysis also include birds of paradise and larvae among corvids.
Interesting fact: Contrary to popular belief, magpies and ravens are not related birds.
Charles Darwin, by arranging species according to the hierarchy of intelligence, carried out corvids in the category of the most evolutionarily developed birds. Corvids show high learning abilities, are aware of social ties within the flock, have high intelligence, and some species can speak, parodying human speech or imitating other sounds that they remember.
Appearance and Features
Hooded crows have minimal sexual dimorphism – males are slightly larger than females, but this aspect is not noticeable without detailed consideration. The male can weigh from 465 to 740 grams, the female – about 368-670 grams. The body length for both sexes is the same – about 29-35.5 cm. The wingspan also does not vary depending on the sex – 87-102 cm.
Gray crows have a large black beak, approximately 31.4-33 mm long. It has an oblong tapering shape and is slightly pointed at the end. The beak is thick, able to withstand blows on hard fruits and tree bark. Its tip is slightly bent down to hold berries or nuts. The tail of the gray crow is short, about 16-19 cm. Together with the wings, it forms a streamlined body shape. The crow can spread its tail feathers during flight planning and landing, and the tail also plays an important role in the sign language of these birds.
In color, gray crows are extremely similar to ordinary magpies. The body of the crow is gray or white, and the head, chest, wing border and tail are covered with black feathers. The eyes are also jet black, small, merging in color with the feathers. Crows have a small head and a large belly. This makes them not the most mobile birds in flight. But they have strong short black paws. The fingers are set wide and long, which allows the crows to walk, run and jump on the ground and on tree branches. Each toe has long black claws that also help crows hold on to food.
Where does the hooded crow live?
Grey Crows are an extremely common bird species. They live in Central and Eastern Europe as well as in some Asian countries. Less often, such crows are found in Western Siberia, but in the eastern part of these birds there are none at all – only black crows live there.
Hooded crows are widespread in the European part of Russia. They live both in the city and in the forests. Gray crows settle almost everywhere and are unpretentious in habitation. They avoid only steppes and tundra, where there are no trees, and, therefore, there is nowhere to build a nest.
Crows also avoid severe low temperatures. Under these conditions, birds cannot get their own food, so the northern gray crows lead a nomadic lifestyle. But gray crows do not fly long distances, but, with the advent of winter, they only fly off to more southern regions, returning to their usual habitat in the spring.
Crows living in warm climates do not migrate at all. In winter, gray crows often settle in cities and villages. They choose places under roofs near heating and warm up between rare flights for food. Nests are built both on houses and on trees.
Grey crows get along well with medium-sized relatives – rooks and jackdaws. Together they can be found in city parks, under the roofs of houses and in more secluded places. In winter, crows often go to the garbage cans to feed.
Now you know where the gray crow is found. Let’s see what it eats.
What does the hooded crow eat?
Gray crows can be called omnivorous birds, although their stomachs are mostly adapted to the digestion of plant foods.
Their daily diet consists of the following ingredients:
- grains, nuts;
- various tree fruits and roots;
- vegetables, fruits that can be dragged from gardens;
- small rodents – mice, baby rats, shrews. Less often – moles;
- beetles and larvae, earthworms;
- eggs of other birds – gray crows willingly ruin other people’s nests;
- carrion – they do not disdain to eat the dead animals or eat up after other predators;
- garbage waste – urban hooded crows often rummage through garbage cans.
Crows have an amazing ability to hunt underground insects. They especially love the larvae of the May beetle: arriving in the fields where many beetles have started, they do not start digging the ground, looking for food. They “hear” where the beetle is and deftly get it out of the ground with their beak, sometimes helping themselves with tenacious paws. They can dig into the ground with their beak up to 10 cm.
While in the garbage area, crows tear open plastic bags and take out the food they like. They are not in a hurry to eat it on the spot, but fly away, holding a piece in their beak or paws to eat it in the nest.
Interesting fact: Hunters talk about cases when flocks of gray crows in hares were driven into the forest, pecking at their heads.
Sometimes gray crows can prey on small birds. This phenomenon is especially frequent in winter, in times of famine – crows attack sparrows, tits and swifts. Sometimes they can attack squirrels and chipmunks. Gray crows that live in coastal areas can beat the caught fish from gulls.
Character and lifestyle features
Ravens are diurnal birds. In the morning they disperse in search of food. The flock does not have a specific territory, so in search of food, crows can fly extremely far. But in the evening, all the birds gather again in the place of common nesting. Birds also make joint respite between the search for food. After the birds have eaten, they come together again to rest. These are very social creatures that live exclusively within the framework of the team.
The researchers noticed that before going to bed, the birds gather, but do not sleep, but, as it were, talk to each other. Scientists came to the conclusion that gray crows are prone to the exchange of emotions – they understand their belonging to the flock and are aware of themselves as part of the team. Therefore, such “communication” — part of a daily ritual.
It has also been proven that gray crows are able to empathize with the death of a relative. If they discover that one of their flock has died, the crows circle over the body for a long time, descend and croak. This ritual is similar to “mourning” — crows are aware of the death of a relative, they understand the finiteness of life. This is another proof of the unsurpassed intelligence of these birds.
Crows walk slowly, although they are able to run and jump quickly. They are inquisitive and playful, which is why some people keep gray crows as pets. Ravens like to gain height and dive towards the ground at high speed. They also swing on branches and wires, deliberately rattle slate, tin cans and other “noisy” objects.
Crows also demonstrate intelligence in ways of obtaining food. If the crow cannot crack the nut, it will use tools – pebbles, with which it will try to get a tasty fruit. Scientists conducted experiments during which it was revealed that crows can count. Five people entered the room where the crows lived. Three or four of them came out, but the crows did not return to the house, as they remembered that there were still people there.
In general, crows do not like to contact people, although they willingly feed on garbage dumps and near houses. They do not let a person close to them, immediately flying away and notifying their relatives of the danger with a loud croak. These birds are able to show aggression towards predators – crows become dangerous when they attack in groups.
Social structure and reproduction
The breeding season falls in the spring . Males begin to make an intense impression on females: they soar in the air, make circles, perform somersaults, and so on. They also bring them stones and leaves as gifts. Sometimes hooded crows form stable pairs, but this is rare. The genetic diversity of crows is ensured by the seasonal change of partners.
Hooded Crows nest in pairs, but pair nests are always close to each other. The nest is built by the male and the female, scrupulously laying it out with branches. In polluted areas, gray crows do not nest, but look for a cleaner area. These birds never drag garbage into their nest. This ensures the birth of healthy chicks.
The hooded crow lays eggs in early July – from two to six blue or green eggs with small dark spots. The female does not fly out of the nest, but only incubates. The male, in turn, brings her food every hour and spends the night at the nest. From time to time, the female rises on her paws, airing the nest and checking if everything is in order with the eggs.
Three weeks later, the chicks appear. With their appearance, the female also flies out of the nest, and now, together with the male, she is looking for food. Crows consider the eggs of other birds to be the most nutritious food for chicks – they rob the nests of pigeons, sparrows and starlings, feeding their children with them. A little later, the crows bring the dead chicks of other birds to the grown crows. They simply pull them out of the nests or wait by the birdhouses, grabbing the heads of the protruding birds.
The gray crows guard their nests well. If they see the approach of danger – animals or people, they raise a cry and begin to circle over the enemy. If a cat or other predator approaches the nest along a tree, then the crows are able to attack it in a flock, drop it from the tree and chase it away for a long time.
Natural enemies of the hooded crow
In the conditions of the forest, the worst enemy of the gray crows is the eagle owl. When the crow sleeps in the nest, the owl attacks them, stealing one of them away unnoticed. But crows remember if an eagle owl comes at a certain time, so they change their nesting place.
In the city, crows have much more enemies. This and other crows are black, larger and more aggressive. They attack nests of gray crows and are capable of killing adult birds. Also, hooded crows are attacked by cats and dogs that prey on those when the ravens descend on the garbage cans.
Gray crows are very vindictive and vindictive. They remember animals that hurt or attacked them a year ago. They will always chase away a person who disturbs them in some way.
Interesting fact: Hooded crows are prone to making mistakes, so they sometimes attack fur hats or fur hoods on people, taking them for predators.
With a flock of crows, they become a force to be reckoned with. Together, they are able to drive away a predator for a long time, striking with a strong beak on the head and neck. Cats and small dogs can be pecked to death by crows.
Kites and other large birds of prey rarely attack crows, because flocks of crows can chase kites for a long time, attacking them from all sides and making noise.
Population and species status
The gray crow is a numerous species that is not endangered. However, the gray crows in the city have significantly decreased in their population.
There are several reasons for this:
- deterioration of the ecology of cities. Birds refuse to breed in conditions of poor ecology, which is why they do not breed at all or fly away to forest zones, remaining for permanent residence there;
- lack of food or its harm. With food, gray crows can absorb industrial waste, which leads to the death of birds. There is also a reduction in animals and plants that are part of the natural diet of gray crows.
- artificial destruction of gray crows. Unfortunately, sometimes gray crows become the object of human extermination. Due to the fact that they rummage through garbage cans and eat rats, crows become carriers of dangerous diseases.
- spread of homeless pets. Hooded crows are becoming the target of street cats and dogs, whose numbers are increasing in large cities.
In the same turn, hooded crows have become popular pet birds. They are allowed to be started only by experienced breeders, since gray crows are wayward birds that require special care and upbringing. Despite all the factors of extinction, the gray crow is an intelligent bird that easily finds ways to adapt to new living conditions. Ravens have settled down well in forests and cities, successfully produce offspring and get along next to humans.