Crow Display Question

From combackzinc via Tumblr:

“I have three non-releasable American Crows, and my wild-reared adult ‘male’ displays some interesting calls and behavior. Could I get you opinion on what’s going on here? w w w.youtube.c o m/watch?v=LaGR4WXi4FQ”

The short answer, unfortunately, is that I don’t know (I’m referring to the bird that begins standing on the “stump”).  The long of it is that I’ve seen this kind of call/display (bow followed by a guttural/soft/odd vocalization) before, in many contexts.   I’ve seen it used when two birds greet one another at a communal foraging site or at their home territory.  I’ve seen it used after a territorial issue is resolved between two families.  I’ve seen birds, totally alone (i.e. no one to signal to), just sort of start up these kinds of calls.  I’ve also seen it as a common posture for birds in captivity to mimic certain sounds. It could also be a self-soothing, and sometimes even aberrant, behavior in the context of captivity.

As it stands with American crows, we still have a lot left to uncover about their vocalizations.  Heck, many people don’t even realize crows make a lot more sounds than just the classic “CAW!”.  Their repertoire includes the sounds in the above video, soft cooing (a personal favorite), atonal rattling, musical rattling, and mishmashes of bizarre clicking and gurgling noises, not to mention they can mimic humans.  (Here’s a website that has the atonal rattle call followed by the cooing.  And here’s another site with lots of American crow calls and some other corvids.) …I’m sure you know all this, having raised and kept captive crows, but I thought I’d mention these things for my other readers.

I apologize that I can’t give you much insight in to your bird’s behavior, but I do recommend recording the context in which it occurs and trying to work from there.  I’d love to know what you find, or have found!  I firmly believe crows have far more complex vocal communication than what we are currently aware of, and that it’s highly, highly context dependant, the work just needs to get done 🙂

Also, thank you so much for including the second paragraph disclaimer on your video 🙂

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About The Corvid Blog

Hi, I am Dr. Jennifer Campbell-Smith and I love corvids (well, anything nature really, but these birds have a big place in my heart). I received my PhD in behavioral ecology studying the social structures and social learning of wild American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos). I now teach at a STEM school while continuing to do research where I can and with my secondary students. My goal on this blog is to spread the corvid love by sharing information, photographs, and artwork, and dispelling common myths. Feel free to ask me anything, but note that it can take me a bit to reply. If you have an emergency with a captive corvid, please call a local avian vet. If you have an emergency with a wild corvid, please call a local licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility. Thanks! These are truly some of the most fascinating birds on the planet!

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