Once considered the same species as the carrion crow, hooded crows were recognised as a distinct and separate species in 2002. They are widely distributed across northern, eastern and southeastern Europe and the Middle East, and are common in Ireland, north-western Scotland and the Isle of Man.
Close up portrait of a Hooded Crow
Hooded Crow coming in to land
Hooded Crow perched on the end of a branch
Hoodie crow, Hoodie bird
48cm to 54cm
93cm to 105cm
396g to 602g
Hooded crows are large corvids, the same size as their close relative the carrion crow. They can be easily identified with their contrasting plumage, with a black head, bib, wings and tail, boldly standing out against an ash-grey body, belly, nape and rump. Their legs are dark grey and irises are dark brown.
Female hooded crows are identical to males in terms of colouring and plumage, and can only be told apart visually by their size (females are marginally smaller than males) and their behaviour.
Juvenile hooded crows are duller than adults, with a browner tinge to their grey plumage. Immature birds have blue-grey eyes, and the inside of their beaks is pinkish-red rather than the dark grey of adult birds.
Close up of a Hooded Crow
Male hooded crows are usually noticeably larger than females in both length and weight.
Juvenile Hooded Crow perched on a rock
The call of the hooded crow is similar to the familiar harsh cawing of a carrion crow, although slightly softer and less hoarse.
Hooded crows are ominvores, although their diet is primarily carnivorous. They scavenge for carrion, roadkill, scraps, small mammals, birds’ eggs and young nestlings.
At coastal locations, molluscs, crabs and sea urchins are frequently eaten. Small quantities of weeds, seeds and grain are also eaten.
Young hooded crows are fed almost entirely on insects in their first few weeks of life, adding grains, weeds and seeds as autumn approaches.
Hooded Crow with a large nut in its beak
Hooded crows thrive in mixed farmland landscapes, with open land and some sparse tree cover. Parks and gardens are popular in urban areas, and the species is equally common in coastal areas as in expanses of moorland.
Hooded crows are also relatively tolerant of human presence and are frequently spotted scavenging on streets in busy city centres.
Ireland and western Scotland form the western boundary of the range of hooded crows, which extends eastwards across northern Europe to western Russia.
To the south, the species is present across Mediterranean Europe, and into Egypt, throughout the Middle East and into Iran and Azerbaijan.
Countries with the largest hooded crow populations include Norway, Sweden, and Finland in northern Europe, and Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey in the south. Russia has between 1 and 10 million resident hooded crows.
Hooded Crows live across a wide variety of habitats
Across their entire range (including Northern Ireland, western Scotland and the Isle of Man), hooded crows are common and widespread, and spotting one would not be considered an unusual or rare event. However, across England and Wales, the species is not well-established or numerous at all.
Out of breeding season, some migratory birds may be seen along the northern and eastern coast of England, but these sightings would be considered scarce.
In the northwest of Scotland and throughout Northern Ireland, hooded crows are far more prevalent than carrion crows, with the latter considered a rare vagrant species in these locations.
During winter months, the UK’s resident population of hooded crows increases with the arrival of overwintering birds that migrate from Scandinavia after the breeding season. These temporary residents may be spotted along the eastern coast of Scotland and England.
Hooded Crow making a lot of noise!
The lifespan of a hooded crow is unknown, but is estimated to be around 4 years, with the oldest known individual to have reached 16.8 years. Breeding takes place for the first time in either the second or third year.
A species with few natural predators, hooded crows are preyed on by very few other birds in the wild. These include golden eagles, Eurasian eagle owls, and northern goshawks. Occasionally buzzards will also prey on hooded crows.
Hooded crows are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, meaning that they cannot knowingly be killed, injured or caught and taken into captivity.
In the UK, hooded crows are classified as a Green species on the Birds of Conservation Concern list. Their population is currently stable, with losses in Scotland balanced out by increases in numbers in Northern Ireland. The British Isles are home to an estimated 285,000 pairs.
Hooded Crow in flight
Hooded crows, like carrion crows, build bulky stick nests mostly in the upper branches of mature trees, but in the absence of suitable trees, they may get a bit more inventive, using electricity pylons or rocky ledges and clifftops.
Nests are usually at least 20 m (66 ft) from other birds and are formed from sticks and twigs, which are collected by the male and crafted into a nest structure by the female.
Construction usually takes between 7 and 8 days. Occasionally an existing nest may be repaired and reused. Moss, mud, animal fur and bones, and soft grasses are added as a rough lining, and hooded crows in coastal locations may incorporate seaweed into their nest structures.
A typical clutch contains 4 to 6 pale blue eggs, streaked heavily with dark brown mottled markings. Eggs are relatively large, measuring 4.3 cm × 3.0 cm (1.75 in by 1 in) and weighing 19.1 g (0.7 oz).
Incubation lasts for between 17 and 20 days, by the female alone, and in a typical breeding season pairs will raise one brood.
When hooded crows pair up, it’s usually for life - with the pair bond lasting until one mate dies. With a lifespan that regularly surpasses 15 years, these bonds certainly class as long-term.
The nest of a Hooded Crow, with four pale blue eggs inside
Although pairs of hooded crows are generally solitary during the breeding season, they are more sociable than carrion crows and more tolerant of the company of other birds of the same species nearby.
Once breeding finishes, night-time roosts tend to be communal, and may be loosely formed of dozens of birds.
Preferred night-time roosts of hooded crows are located in the upper branches of tall trees, and at dusk large groups of birds may gather together to form a communal overnight roost.
A pair of Hooded Crows foraging on the beach
Most UK hooded crows are sedentary and resident in their territories all year round. The native population, found mainly in Ireland and northern Scotland, is joined in autumn by migratory hooded crows that leave their breeding grounds in Scandinavia in search of less harsh conditions until spring.
Such birds are not limited to the usual British breeding spots favoured by our resident hooded crows, meaning sightings may be recorded along the eastern coast of England.
Parts of the UK do have resident hooded crows all year round, including the Isle of Man, the whole of Northern Ireland and large areas of western and north-western Scotland. In these regions, hooded crows replace carrion crows.
Close up of a Hooded Crow
The Internet is full of anecdotes of “friendships” being established between hooded crows and humans, and as corvids in general have a reputation as being highly intelligent, and having the ability to recognize human faces, it’s no surprise that with a bit of preparation, a crow may be trained to gradually feel more comfortable around an individual human.
By offering food in the same spot at the same time of day on a regular basis, and keeping calm and a fair distance away, after a while, you may begin to gain a hooded crow’s trust. Hooded crows have long memories, so consistency, patience and a calm environment are key.
Long-since ranked as one of nature’s most intelligent bird species, hooded crows are known to be able to recognize faces, use tools to access food and even design and construct “tools” to solve problems.
They have also been observed to demonstrate awareness of their own body size, using this knowledge to their advantage to feed safely.
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