Crows are the world’s most intelligent birds and, arguably, the most interesting to watch! While some people consider them a nuisance or even a threat to other songbirds, many birdwatchers are fascinated by crows and may wish to attract them.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at how to attract crows. Read along to learn how to gain their trust and enjoy more sightings in your own backyard.
Before we move on to techniques for attracting crows, let’s take a quick look at these birds and their diversity.
Crows are a group of over 30 large songbirds in the Corvidae family. Most species are pure black, but many have some gray or white plumage. Crows are easily confused with Ravens, although they tend to be smaller. By name, there are two crow species each in the United States and the United Kingdom.
You can learn more about distinguishing between these two birds in this in-depth guide.
Crows are adaptable birds that occur in many different habitats. They generally feed on the ground, so open foraging areas are important. These include farmland, beaches, rubbish dumps, parks, sports fields, and suburban areas. At night, crows generally roost above the ground in large trees.
North American Birdwatchers are most likely to encounter the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), although the Fish Crow (C. ossifragus) is also common in the Southeast. The Carrion Crow (C. corone) is the most common species in the United Kingdom, although the Hooded Crow (C. cornix) is widespread in Scotland and Ireland.
North American Birdwatchers are most likely to encounter the American Crow
The Hooded Crow is widespread in Scotland and Ireland
Crows are naturally shy and wary creatures, and they prefer open areas with good visibility and safe places to perch and roost. If you have a backyard, balcony, or even just a large windowsill, you may be able to attract crows by providing healthy food.
Before attempting to attract crows, take a look around the area for anything that may be dangerous or frightening for the birds. Even inanimate objects that move in the wind, make noise, or reflect light, can deter these wary corvids. Crows will avoid pets like cats and dogs, so keeping animals away from the area is a good idea, too.
Crows are omnivorous and adaptable birds that will eat just about anything they can find. Their diet changes during the course of the year to include different food sources as they become available. However, they have also found a steady supply of human foods throughout the year in urban areas.
The following foods are all important for wild crows:
You can learn much more about the crow diet in this in-depth guide.
It’s not always easy to replicate a wild crow’s diet, but fortunately, crows will eat many readily available food sources, including the following:
Crows are the ultimate scavengers, and they’ll eat just about anything. However, you should avoid the following foods:
A Jackdaw feeding on nuts from a garden bird feeder
Befriending crows takes patience and consistency. Crows have keen eyesight, so start by providing highly visible foods that get their attention from above. They are smart birds, and once they have learned about a safe and reliable food source, they will keep coming back.
Once crows have begun visiting your yard or feeding site, try to note the time they are arriving to develop a regular routine. You’ll need to move away from the area and watch from a long distance at first, but they may allow a closer approach over time.
Birds are keenly aware of eye contact, so ignoring them while putting out food can help to keep them at ease. You want them to associate you with the food, so ideally, they should be able to watch you put out the snacks without flying off.
You don’t necessarily need anything but food to attract crows, although there are some items that can improve your success and make viewing them even more enjoyable. Continue reading to learn about some accessories you can use to attract crows.
Crows will use a variety of larger bird feeders, although they are most comfortable feeding on the ground. They will feed from large tray or platform feeders and sometimes even from large suet feeders.
Crows enjoy bathing and drinking from birdbaths. These clever birds also dip dry food in water before swallowing it to make it easier to digest. The ideal container is shallow and easily accessible for cleaning and refilling. It should also be sturdy enough not to tip over under the weight of birds or other visitors like cats or raccoons.
Crow callers are fun, whistle-like devices that are used to imitate various crow calls. Using them effectively takes a little practice, but they may attract crows and start some interesting interactions. Of course, blasting out crow calls might not make you very popular with your spouse, family, or neighbors, so this is one tool that should only be used in moderation!
An American Crow - Crows enjoy bathing and drinking from birdbaths
Watching crows feed and interact with the other birds in their flock is a fascinating experience. Pay close attention to their body language, calls, and other behaviors as they interact with each other and other birds.
The best way to observe crows around your home without disturbing them is to attract them to an area within a clear view of a window or a comfortable spot like the porch or balcony. That way, you can watch them from the comfort of your home while creating minimal disturbance. You can also watch them outdoors with binoculars, although it will take some time for them to become tame enough to trust a closer approach.
Crows use a number of different calls to communicate various messages with their partner and other birds in their flock. These calls include various caws and rattles, and they differ between species. However, you may be able to decipher their meaning by observing their behavior in the context of each call.
Crows can be challenging to photograph because of their shy nature. Setting up a makeshift ‘hide’ in your backyard or photographing them through an open window is a great way to get some good shots.
You’ll need a decent zoom lens, and soft morning or evening light from the front will help you record some of the finer details of their all-black feathers. These birds also make a great subject for silhouette photography due to their dark plumage and bold outline.
A Northwestern Crow - Crows use a number of different calls to communicate various messages with their partner and other birds in their flock
The ethics around feeding and interacting with birds is always worth considering. Attracting crows can be a wonderful activity, but please do keep the birds’ best interests at heart.
Crows are wild animals that deserve our respect. While they may grow to trust and visit you regularly, you should never feel like you own them or are responsible for them. Feed them in moderation, provide only healthy, fresh foods, and keep water sources hygienic to prevent the spread of disease.
Feeding wildlife may be illegal, depending on where you live. Always consult local authorities first to stay on the right side of the law.
Attracting crows is all about creating an environment where they feel safe, providing food and other comforts that they will appreciate, and respecting their boundaries. With patience, you can gain their trust and enjoy some fascinating interactions!
However, the crows’ health and welfare should be your top priority, and you should always respect your neighbors’ feelings and abide by any local laws concerning feeding wildlife. Happy crow-watching!
A Cape Crow - Crows are wild animals that deserve our respect
Consistency is key when attracting crows, and feeding them daily can be very effective. However, You should feed them just a few morsels to prevent them from becoming too dependent on your offerings. You wouldn’t want your local flock to go hungry every time you leave town!
Crows are naturally shy and wary animals and retain these habits even when living in urban areas. Crows that follow you or remain perched in the hope of a meal are showing that they trust you and have associated you with food.
Crows can recognize humans by their facial features, which means they can learn to trust or fear individuals. They have excellent memories, too, so you can develop a long-lasting friendship with these intelligent avians.
Crows occasionally return the favor by presenting gifts to people who feed them. You may even find unusual objects like toys, crystals, or shiny objects delivered to your yard if you develop a close friendship with these remarkable social birds.
Feeding wildlife on a regular basis comes with the risk of creating dependence. That’s why you should never provide so much food that a crow does not need to forage elsewhere. If you believe the crows that visit your yard have become too dependent, it might be a good idea to ‘wean’ them off by slowly reducing the amount of food you provide.
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