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In Defense of the Misunderstood Crow: Diets (Excerpt 2)

November 24, 2009

 
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It was suggested in the recent Bird Watch column, that although “crows are among the smartest birds on Earth,” crows predate nestling/fledgling songbirds, killing and eating such a large number of nestlings/fledglings as to cause concern and disdain for the entire Corvidae family – which includes ravens, crows, jays and magpies.  Although songbirds are indeed a part of their diet, more information must be provided to the general public about this incredible family of birds.
 
Crows’ diets are composed of many different items.  The Connecticut Audubon Society’s article, “A Hearty Bird to Crow about,” states that approximately 28 percent of crows’ diet is animal in origin, consisting of insects, grasshoppers, earthworms, etc., and also includes amphibians, mammals, young birds, eggs, carrion and reptiles.  Their diet is mainly vegetable composed of cultivated grain – especially corn – and also includes wild seeds and wild and cultivated fruits and nuts.
 
Kevin McGowan, curator of Birds & Mammals, Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, addresses crows’ reputation for eating songbird eggs and young, and believes that this behavior is probably overstated.  It has been determined that earthworms are the primary food resource of crows in spring.
 
National Geographic’s, “The Crow, Bird Citizen of Every Land,” presents crow dietary information, which was based on extensive and intensive examination of the stomach contents of the crow.  In this study, 2,118 crow stomachs were collected in 39 states, including the District of Columbia and several Canadian provinces.  Of these stomachs, 778 were of nestlings.  It was found that again, approximately 28 percent of the stomach contents was animal diet, and consisted of earthworms, crustaceans, all of the common orders of insects, spiders, snails and numerous vertebrates including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
 
 
 

American Crow

(Excerpt 2 from “In Defense of the Misunderstood Crow,” authored by this writer, which appeared in “Voice From Santa Barbara,” Santa Barbara News-Press, July 23, 2000. The article was written in response to the Bird Watch column in same newspaper.)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. jack permalink
    September 11, 2011 11:25 pm

    I have been backyard bird feeding for almost 5 yrs now, The crows and songbirds forage together, It is a misconception that crows eat song birds it is not true. The crows chase hawks away from the feeders and alert the song birds that predators are near.The only way a crows would eat a nestling is if that nestling is weak having weak genes,therefore crows are helping keeping populations down of over crowding, this is how it was meant to be, Raccoons,hawks,mice,voles,flying squirrels,skunks,snakes all eat nestlings and eggs give the crow a break.These are are native predators.

    • September 12, 2011 1:01 am

      My thoughts, exactly! I spent this summer rehabbing wild birds …. and I was astounded at the negative comments made about crows — and starlings. Thank you for your wonderful comment!

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