Making Friends With Crows

It’s a lot of fun to feel like you have wild friends, and feeding birds is a great way to connect with nature.  I’ve been asked many times how to make friends with local corvids, crows in particular.  While this post is mostly aimed at American crows in North America, it’s applicable to most corvids.  However, please be aware of local laws regarding feeding birds.

The best way to get on a crow’s good side is through their stomach.  Unsalted peanuts in-shell work wonders (i.e. crow crack).  The best thing you can do is put out peanuts consistently and don’t look directly at the birds when you do so (at least initially).  Be conspicuous about you being the one to drop the food, but do not throw the food toward the crows or look at them initially, but do make sure they are in the area.  Then, go back inside.  It may take them no time at all to come to your food, or it may take them a while before they trust it.  Crows are very neophobic and suspicious, and even if it’s a food they love, they will be careful simply because it came from a human.  (I suspect if you live in an area with high traffic or restaurants nearby, they will take less time to come to your offering than if you live in a quiet, low-traffic suburban area.)

Over time they will get more comfortable with you and start to expect food from you, and from there, you can build a bond of trust.  The big thing is not startling them once you put the food out.  Eventually you can look at them, be outside when they come down, and in some cases, they might just perch nearby while you are hanging out in your yard.  Other foods that are great for them are things like dog and cat food (high protein) and even cooked eggs and egg shells (especially during the spring).  Cheeze puffs and cheezits also tend to be a favorite, though I can’t say much about their health value.

A word of caution: You may alter social dynamics.  Neighbor crows may get wind of what you are doing and challenge the family that normally occupies your yard.  If you provide too much food, your home may become a communal site, and the number of crows can get out of control.  Use your best judgement and I recommend just feeding a particular amount on a schedule and maybe supplementing them as you see them, to build your relationship.  Another thing to keep in mind is the dynamics with your neighbors.  Most people are fine with occasional feedings, but sometimes neighbors get upset if too many crows hang around for too long.  Be mindful of your neighbors, and better yet, as you build your relationship with the crows think about educating your neighbors and getting them interested in your new buddies too.

Observing crow families and getting to know their individual personalities is highly rewarding.  Having them trust you enough to use your yard as a safe haven for foraging and eventually, even bringing their young kids around is especially rewarding.  Enjoy and I hope this helps you make some new, wild friends!

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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!

38 thoughts on “Making Friends With Crows

  1. Jen

    A few other words of caution for potential crow attractors: consider monitoring and removing any offered food if crows don’t approach it within a few hours. This is much more important for things like cat/dog food, meats, eggs, and enticing “people food” in general. You can easily attract unintended visitors (in NA, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, foxes, bears, etc are some of the possibilities) with these items, especially if left overnight. Feeding some wildlife this way, even if unintentional, is not a great idea and may even be illegal in your area.

  2. pamnbrad12

    Absolutely love the Corvids! Even though I have two cats that are outside alot and two dogs, they seem to know that the cats are afraid of them, and the dogs don’t care. I am going to follow your advice about the peanuts!

  3. JJ

    Good advice about the social dynamics and upsetting the neighborhood ecosystem. I enjoy crows very much but wish my neighbors didn’t feed them so much: piles of stale bread set out every day. We have a lot of crows and not many songbirds. Thank you.

  4. dish7

    Feeding a family in our backyard and enjoying watching the young ones as they grow. I give them peanuts and as a treat every morning at 8am, a few pieces of raw meat…which they are ready and waiting for. If I’m late, I get the caw caw reminders lol! Absolutely LOVE them. Your information is hugely appreciated.

  5. jennjilks

    This is an excellent post! We have too many crows to count (16 acres!). They are reluctant to come to the backyard, but sit and watch frequently!

  6. Bob Baker

    I have developed a good relationship with a pair of crows. I named them Cashis and Claudia.the names come fthe fact that I feed them unsalted cashews in which they really love over any other nut. I don’t feed them anything else but an occasional apple core that i toss once in awhile. These crows live in the coastal bluffs in a state park and federal land system far away from cities and towns where they can feast on anything. The state beach in California is open to camping during the summer months and closes at sunset in the winter.Sometimes they will loosen their feathers and square up their wings in front of them to show their appreciation of our relationship.During the summer, they had 4 kids and brought them near me to show off. I got to feed them cashews also in which they enjoyed. Cashis would take a nut and feed them in front of e. They get pretty close to me when I lay down on a towel. When I drive in to their territory, they spot me and fly next to me so I can see them . They will perch themselves in front or besides my car before I get out.When they fly above the bluffs,they will put on an acrobatics show spinning and diving looking happy to see me.It’s fun to spot them far away and watch them fly in like an airplane circling before landing.I love the fact that I will walk a mile on the beach and to my car and they will follow along.Sometimes when I climb up the bluff, they will land next to me and make sure I see them in an act to gaurd me from any others and for me to be safe. After all, they want me back so we can hang out together and eat nuts.

  7. Otto Hall, DMD

    I have just discovered the Great Central Iowa Crow Roost. I now understand it’s an “end-of-day” event that appers in mine and a number of adjacent back yards and look forward to observing it here in Grinnell, Iowa.
    Question: Im a beekeeper. The crows will not bother the bees this time of year, I don’t recon. But how about in the summer? Who doesn’t like honey? But bees – they wouldn’t be inclined to want a crow around their hive.
    Thanks – IMAUU

  8. mefurr

    I’ve been trying to make friend with my neighborhood crows. I have worked with them in rehab and education and absolutely love them. One education bird at the rehab center where I volunteer would voluntarily come up to “kiss my beak.” I LOVED that crow!
    How do I follow this blog?

  9. Tobi

    This is a great article! I started researching how to be friends with crows because they are digging in my veggie garden. I know I can’t beat them so I’ve got to work with their intellect somehow. I wonder, since you mentioned eggshells, if they are digging for my composted eggshells? Also, is it a good idea to befriend said birds if I want them to stay out of my veggie garden? Thank you!

  10. kyle williams

    Hi i live in wales i have a draw in my back yard i think he was attacked by a cat n ripped a few feathers an can fly how can i gain trust an will his feathers grow back any info is appreciated thanks my name is kyle

  11. Jason

    Peanuts, really, who’d have thought? Is it the opening of the peanut? I’II get some & try that, very interesting information, thanks…

  12. Steve from Ellicott City

    Thanks for this blog. Don’t know why, but as I’ve gotten older (just turned 60) I’ve really developed an interest in observing birds be bird behavior, particularly crows. I’ve been surprised at how cautious crows are as I approach during my long walks. Now I understand.

  13. Pearl

    Well today after leaving work stopping at 7/11 and heading to the dog park in west Vancouver my son Dunky noticed some people trying to untangle a crow from a tree
    I stopped and said go climb the tree and help he said no it will peck me to death
    So I pulled the car over and said park the car stay with the dogs
    Off I went asking the man and woman what was wrong
    They said its tangled on some thing
    So I told the man please give me a boost
    He helped boost me up so I could get into the tree
    At first the crow pecked at me while hanging and flapping upside down
    Then I gently reached up and held him as I’ve been taught to hold birds
    He instantly stopped fighting and relaxed I talked to him gently and untangled the fishing line that was wrapped in a branch and all around his right foot
    I had to bite the line to break it and literally untie his little foot
    After getting that dealt with I kissed him on the head and massaged his leg and foot he would not put any weight on it or grip the branch with it at all
    it was loose and unresponsive to my touch I was worried it was broken or the circulation was gone to long and had died but when I gently pulled his other leg off the branch he immediately gripped my finger with the right foot that he would not move
    I was so happy he just needed it to rest and recirculate
    I opened my hands and he opened his wings and flew away
    The entire time the other crows were yelling at me but not once did they attack me
    They trusted me and for that I am very grateful
    I finally got to hold a crow and even kiss it but the most exciting thing is I got to rescue this beautiful birdie
    And a few people gathered around and watched I forgot there was people when I was talking to it and massaging his leg and foot and when I kissed him then I heard some one say look at that he’s not even worried he let her kiss him
    They clapped when he flew away and were saying thank you
    It was so wierd
    I’m so blessed

  14. skiamakhos

    I’ve started feeding the crows in my local park. I’m in Birmingham, UK – I didn’t know whether UK crows would like peanuts as they don’t grow here, but wow, they LOVED them. The first time, a flock of seagulls got in on the action so we started surreptitiously dropping the peanuts & treading them gently into the grass. The gulls didn’t realise but the clever crows went hopping along behind us picking them up. If I glanced over my shoulder they’d take off, but they all had nuts in their beaks.
    The second time, yesterday, there was one crow on the ground and 2 in the trees where I know there’s a large colony of them. They started calling & within 30 seconds there were maybe 18 to 20 crows gathered, picking up peanuts in my wake.

  15. mimitabby

    Our problem is that we also have scrub and stellar jays. The crows rarely get anything. Been feeding peanuts for a year now. We even call the crows first.

  16. Lacy

    I live in eastern Canada and while I really want to make friends with my local crows, I have a concern. What if I move? I don’t plan on moving, but I do rent and it is a possibility. If I begin feeding the crows will they become dependent on the food I’m providing and in some way suffer if that food is suddenly no longer there? Thanks, great article

  17. Jlyn

    I have been trying to work with 3-4 crows in my area for a couple years. We are still a work in progress becasue when I find something that I think is working they change it up. Now they caw for their food at 8:45 am pretty much on the dot and both they and I don’t like when my medications are late (They get here for AFTER them but at the same time 8:45 it is in their mind). I feed them scraps but will try the peanuts in the shells too. If they are spooked away, which happens easily. The seagulls get into it and thank me by redecorating my car. Is there anything I can do or feed the crows that the seagulls are not interested in? Help.

  18. Andrew

    Hello! I’ve been looking for some unsalted shelled nuts, and I was wondering if monkey nuts would be alright?

  19. MC

    Hello! Thank you so much for your wonderful blog! It is so well done and so informative! I am so fascinated by the American Crow or any Corvid for that matter. I have befriended a family of three crows ( I believe 2 adults and 1 adolescent). Recently two other crows have started to appear and my original family seems non too pleased about it. I was wondering about the average daily territory ranges for crows. My family has had to tangle with this couple of other crows and I was wondering if these are an encroaching unrelated couple looking to take over my original families turf, or if these could possibly be relatives that have territories nearby? Do family members scrap over resources? I thought I might have read that related crows in particular are cooperative… Do crows that have aggressive interactions then have to see one another at the common winter roosts? Assuming that they go to the same winter roost location…. Very early on in my crow interactions, I once tried out some crow calls while in my backyard and my original family showed up with two extra buddies, I think to investigate a possible intruder crow (actually me! ). It was either that or they wanted to locate the source of the pretty miserable crow impersonation going on in my backyard! Maybe they had a few caws at my expense on that one! At any rate, I am struggling to understand the social system of my 3 original crows , which I realize is difficult, given that I am not a ornithologist/ biologist and I do not work with crows that are numbered or banded. Is it typical for crows to establish a territory near other familiar crows? Wouldn’t that have an evolutionary payoff in terms of support? The only distinguishing identifier I have is that the male of my original family has a very different call than the two interloper crows. That and the fact that my original crow family is comprised of three and the other group is only two. The male ( I believe, it’s the male) of my original family also is much more brazen about vocalizing near me and flying closer to me than any of the other crows. He also “seems to” answer back when I use one particular type of whistle call that I use when I try to summon them or when I see them. I have been at a local store and had him land on top of a light post and call to me as I have gotten out of my car. ( I understand that this is not unusual among crows to recognize faces and vehicles driven by peanut delivering humans : ) I also went looking for him at the same store parking lot one morning, as I whistled a few times he popped up out of some pines and flew over into the parking lot. On one other occasion I was at the same location and gazing in one direction, looking at a distant crow ,( I think it was his mate, his offspring is often out of view…) when he called down to me from on top of a light post, right above me. I had no idea he was there. ( It was as if he was trying to say, “Hey Einstein, I’m up here”)! Anyway I am enjoying my interactions, but feel cautious about causing territorial disputes.

    I was also wondering if a crow kills another crow is there the same crow response or “funeral” where many crows gather to witness the death of the crow? Or is it only when a crow is killed by a vehicle, a predator or just dies of old age etc, that other crows gather in such a manner?

    Thanks!

  20. Norma

    Just read The Genius of Birds, by Jennifer Ackerman. A must read. Now, trying to lure in some crows with peanuts and shiny things, I am feeding jays, . hehe, the jays already got me under surveillance and one just came to say hello this morning. It even knew where my kitchen window was and came to cawh once and left. Other little birds just sit watching from a distance.
    Got one raven sighting, I wonder if it was checking me out as it flew above.
    I am enthralled with their intelligence after reading the book.

    Life is stupenduous,

    N

  21. Sammycycling

    I have a question: do crows react to the type of clothing one wears? For example if one wears black all the time, is that something they react to? Is there any reserach on this subject? Thank you!

  22. Lynn Wood

    I live on Georgian Bay in Collingwood Ontario Canada. We have been here almost 2 years and until this past two weeks I have not seen crows in our complex. Then last week one large fella or gal has suddenly decided to adopt me. Thank you for your information as it explains why. I suspect now that he/she had been watching me from a distance for a few weeks before approaching. When snow melted I began putting peanuts out for the chipmunk again then I go inside. My thought is that the crow has begun to watch for me. I hear that they have great face recognition skills which help them to make the connection. Because he/she appears to look for me even when I’m inside, making obvious eye contact. So much so that when I was sitting in a chair in our bedroom that overlooks the bay, this crow came up two storeys above the feeding level deck, and fluttered looking straight at me through the window. Then perched on the adjoining roof edge facing toward me. Thank you for your advice and I am looking forward to this unique friendship with this intelligent fella.

  23. Susan Raftery

    Hi
    My comments on crows, I feed little birds and blue jays squirrels along with chipmunks. All the wildlife that had become comfortable with me left briefly, couple of days. All birds became familiar, with each other. Although chipmunks have not. One of the best is they they seem to help with Hawks. But, it’s a quick competition between when the crows leave with a peanut, a quick chance for Blue Jays to grab a peanut. They did not seem to be excited about cheese puffs. I believe the family has joined. But, do watch only the family and not every crow within mikes. I enjoy them, started to research crows, they are extremely intelligent! I’m trying to establish a more comfortable relationship with the family. Seems to be quick, especially with peanuts. And especially with Hawk warnings. I have seen a quick fight between the two, it was amazing! The crow had more time for an escape. I would never want to see a full flight. Enjoy, except my neighbors think a little bit more about “me”. But, who cares… have fun.
    Susan

  24. GLENN

    i had about 7 crows come to my yard fr over two years i could get real close to the
    this spring they brought two kids for me to see the the rest of them hopped up
    i the trees to watch weeks later i was walking away the person down beloe me
    shot 5 times now i have 2 crows that still come buy if they saw it happen they
    never go there agin i live in the woods near skyline drive Va

  25. Lylelovett666

    I work on boats & last summer I started throwing peanuts to a crow who hung around the marina I was working in. After a few weeks the crow began to follow me around the marina. It became a regular thing thatnid show up 9am & the crow would show up around ten. This went on for two months & then I moved on to a new job. About a month ago I got another Job in that marina & to my astonishment,I showed up one day & waiting at the marina gate was a crow who got very vocal & in close proximity with me. When I ignored it it once again followed me around the marina until I offered peanuts. It’ll now come about five to ten feet from me & has also brought a smaller crow which I’m guessing is her offspring. I do a whistle that brings them around if they’re not already waiting. Wonderful animals.

  26. Diane

    I love all of the crow stories. I have been making friends with the crows at my work site. I feed them every morning, unsalted peanuts, cat food, dried figs, grapes. I started this about a year ago and would feed them when I got out of my car in the morning. One day I took the bus and was walking 2 blocks from my job and the recognized me. They leap frogged on trees and fences and followed me to work. Now, so people don’t get upset, I feed them from my office window. They come every morning and do their best to get my attention if I don’t see them right away. One has taken to posting himself on a metal rod that is just outside the window from my computer and we study each other. I have noticed they come around less in the summer.

  27. Ron

    When I worked for the U.S.P.S. , I would take lunch behind a church with a large field. Many times I would buy my lunch at the sandwich shop and they always gave me about a half pound of french fries in any order.
    This was always more than I could eat.I usually threw the fries along with the paper waste in a garbage can ,but one day as I watched some crows eat the seeds from the ground I decided to throw out at french frie At first as I threw the fry they fly back away from me about 20 feet. I threw several more out and finally caught the attention of a couple of them. There were about 20 crows that always gathered there and finally one of them went over and ate the fry . He went to a few others and ate them too. The days that followed he was the only one that would grab the fries i threw out . He would eat one or two but after that he would gather them in his beak ,usually about 4 to 6 of them ,He would then fly to a part of the fiels and bury or hide them. After a while he wouldn’t even eat the first fry , but instead grabbed as many as I could throw and hiding them all in the field. I never once saw another crow get any from his hiding places , Though I never saw him do it either. I did notice that he had several places that he repeatedly hid the fries.Also I just toss them right next to the car. He had no problem getting them. There was always 2 or 3 other crows that would get near the fries , but never did these birds ever take the fries.I would usually be behind the church at the same time on most days and rarely was he and his other crows not there.I began to speak to him and he would look up at me as he gathered the fries. More and more he would not be so interested in the fries but look up at me as I began to repeat words like “fries” “hide” “closer” “more?” “back up I’m leaving back up”. He bagan to respond to these words and phrases . Always coming closer to the truck when i said the word and always backed up when I said I was leaving. I even had him hop closer to the truck if I had not given him the fries yet and I repeat the word “fry”. We did this for over 2 years and then one day there were less crows and a few dead ones in the field . It was the bird flu and moany crows must have not survived it , including my crow . It was rather quickly that no crows fly to that spot and Though I left out fries they were rarely taken. I did miss my bird , but for reasons that may or may not seem obvious to you I told no one .In Fact this is the first time I am telling anyone about this friendship and it has been almost 20 years since the first fry .
    Well that’s it . Nothing remarkable nothing that will change the world . Just something that happened to someone sometime in the past, that did happen and was real as I have just written .

  28. MC

    Hello, I was just wondering if this blog is still active? It seems like it’s been a while since there were any new replies here… Just wondering in 2018!

    Thanks!

  29. Crowmium Crowmagnon

    There was a time I’d feed 5 crows at 7am, near my house. The neighbor across the street would stare disapprovingly at me while I was walking back from the crow feeding. Since then it took only one diversion with my walk (opposite direction), now they follow my walk very closely to their spot where I feed them; once a week. They actually know what day it is (every seventh day, which is Saturday), when they make loud caws and walk on the roof above the back door.

  30. Aaron

    Great article! I have a family of 3-5 crows that lives on and around our property and I’ve grown quite fond of them.

    Initially, they were tearing up the front lawn in the Spring when we moved in, which I found to be a nuisance. However, I later realized they were getting to the grubs that were killing the lawn in the first place, so that was actually a benefit in the long run and the lawn looks great this year.

    On feeding, I would not recommend cheese puffs or anything artificial, as that can make them sick. Personally, I only do unsalted peanuts during the colder winter months up here in NH and the jays also get in on the action, which the crows seem to tolerate pretty well.

  31. Shelley

    I walk my dog in Seattle and I started tossing some kibble into the street to the crows I would see on our walks, and now they hop down to meet me when they see me coming. I find feeding them in their territory helps keep too many from coming to one spot. I’ve noticed that a pair will have a couple block territory or so here. I love watching them but if I forget to bring treats, they are very vocal! I think they think I’m ignoring them, lol. Thankfully I’ve taught them I only feed them if they’re quiet. They’re smarter than my dog, for sure!

  32. Shelley

    Sammycycling in my experience, not really, they’re smarter than that so they tend to recognize faces. But if they can’t see your face, they’ll use something else. I wear the same hat and sweater in the wintertime and they still know it’s me. 🙂 Of course I think my dog is the one they most easily recognize.

  33. Jack Schrader

    I have a big crow that comes to visit almost every time I mow our lawn. The tractor and mower don’t seem to bother him at all. When I mow my field he is right there looking for the occasional field mouse.
    I’m going to get some unsalted peanuts and see if he likes them.

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