About Me

My name is Jenn (short for the mouthful that is Dr. Jennifer Campbell-Smith) and I love corvids. I study wild American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and am constantly impressed by them, even after years of working with them. 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 🙂

These are truly some of the most fascinating birds on the planet!

47 thoughts on “About Me

  1. dyan campbell

    Hullo – I was lucky enough as a child in Canada to know a crow named Barkley, whom my Mum nursed to adulthood from a shaky start as a chick, brought to us by a cherry-tree owning neighbour who had shot the mother & was feeling remorse. (My poor mother was the recipient of every animal in the neighbourhood that needed assistance, so much so our vet used to give her special rates for the strays foisted on her).

    Barkley was pronounced un-savable by a vet who offered to euthanise, but accompanied by me, a weeping 9 year old, and my friend, also weeping, she agreed to take him home and try her best despite the vet saying “not possible”.

    Turned out it was – he walked after us as he grew up, so much so we had to teach him to fly by tossing him in the air. He could walk over our dog’s head and saunter around the cats’ dishes without a second thought (though he didn’t climb in the cats’ heads they way he did on our dog’s head).

    When he was about 2 and ranging further and longer in his flights in his own world, he attracted very negative attention from other crows, who he always seemed to be trying to join. He was only about 2/3 their size, but we didn’t know if his shaky start (crushed green caterpillars mixed with warm water by eyedropper at frequent intervals, then a varied dog food, fruit, caterpillar and seed-y kind of diet, then he seemed to forage more and more on his own but then he also knew an entire neighbourhood of people who fed him tidbits, many of them dreadful (ice cream etc) despite my Mum issuing frequent requests that he be fed dog food or fruit or caterpillars.

    Anyhow, little by little he flew away. He stayed away sometimes for days at a time, then once came back after more than a month’s absence, then we never saw him again. My Mum said that was much more a success than if he’d stayed our pet, even if he had perished trying to make it in his own world. I mourned him for years, convinced hostile fellow crows who couldn’t except a half human crow had done him in, though I suppose I’ll never know. It was a great experience to know him, though. He was quite a character.

    Anyhow, thanks so much for this blog.

  2. Natalia

    Hi!
    I just discovered your blog, loved it! Here in Brazil we have only species of the genus Cyanocorax as representatives of the Corvidae. Where I live I can easily find two: C. chrysops and C. cristatellus.
    I will come back here more often, congratulations for the texts!

  3. The Corvid Blog Post author

    That is SO cool that you get to see those jays easily!! Wow!! I love the “worried eyebrows” of C. chrysops so much and and the doofy crest on C. cristatellus. I was lucky to see white-throated magpie jays (Calocitta formosa) and brown jays (Psilorhinus morio) on my ventures to Costa Rica, but that’s it. I would love to make a concerted effort to see as many “southern” New world jays as possible! Someday I’ll write a post about how only the jays made it in to South America and theories on why none of the Corvus did.

    Thanks for the comment!

  4. The Corvid Blog Post author

    Dyan,

    First off, hooray another Campbell! I’m sure it’s not an uncommon name in Canada, but I have a bit of family in Saskatchewan and Alberta 🙂

    Thank you so much for sharing this story! What a wonderful opportunity for you to experience as a child! My guess is Barkley probably found him or herself a mate especially since it sounds like he left you around 2-3 years old. That’s the age when the crows in our population tend to range away from their homes looking for potential mates, and if found, seek out their own territory to start a family. It sounds like you guys did an amazing thing for Barkley and I have to agree with your mom, sounds like a success! 🙂

  5. Georgianne

    If you don’t mind some crow stories, I’d like to share mine.

    I used to live across the street from a large forest preserve in Illinois. Our trash cans were ransacked by racoons (before ‘green’ bins). To avoid picking up after the racoons, I used to walk about 10 feet into the forest preserve and dispose of food garbage (I know, not the best thing to do). Shortly after I’d do that, I noticed that the crows would come and delight in finding a feast. After two or three time of tossing out food garbage, all I had to do was head towards the forest preserve and the crows would be there within seconds. I used to think that I had mastered making crow calls, but I now realize that they can recognize faces. That experience reinforced my love of crows. I fancied myself as some sort of crow whisperer.

    My second story is a bit more on the mythical side. I had returned home from attending my uncle’s funeral. I sat at my computer ready to e-mail my family letting them know that I had arrived home from my trip. I was so sad because I never had the opportunity to say goodbye to my uncle before he passed away because I had moved across country.

    I heard a crow outside cawing and cawing away as if it was trying to get attention. Not a stressful call, but just more of a persistent call. I thought my cats were outside and the crow was warning other birds.

    I went outside to my back patio and looked up and noticed a crow on top of the chimney. It was looking down at me and cawing away. My cats were nowhere to be seen. For some reason I then looked back at the crow and said: Uncle Primo (my uncle who passed away)…and the crow flew away.

    Crows did not usually hang around our townhouse, and I had never seen anything like that before.

    I have no idea whether or not there is a true spiritual event in this story, but I can tell you that I felt as if this was some sort of message of goodbye or something like that. That made me feel so much better as if my uncle knew that I missed him.

    Years later, I was playing some music that I know my uncle would have loved. I had my sliding glass doors opened, and the music was loud…what did I hear other than music? Crows cawing away. I again fantasized that it was a message via the crows that my uncle approved of the music I was playing.

    Thanks for reading and thanks again for this blog.

  6. dyan campbell

    Campbell is certainly a common name in Canada – and New Zealand! Auckland was founded by a Campbell (Sir John Logan). We are Campbells of Breadalbane, if that means anything.
    I read a book called “Corvus” by Esther Woolfsten (sp) but I was not very impressed by her account, as she kept her poor birds under lock and key. Barkley was never restrained in any way.

    We were never sure if he was stunted in growth? We thought he must be, as he was probably the best part of 3 years old, but he was about 2/3 the size of the other crows. I would like to think he found a mate, but I have to say the other crows were not impressed by his lifestyle, and objected strenuously to his repeated attempts to join them. We were not too certain he had survived, but always thought there was a reasonable chance.

    Do you know much about ravens?

    cheers

    dyan

  7. Vicki Wingo Grant

    Thank you for sharing your passion in this blog. I’ve been a long time corvid watcher and reading your blog inspired an experiment this summer.

    I have a plot at a community garden in Pleasanton (N. California) Along side my tomatoes, a huge crop of hungry young scrub jays sprouted in the nearby bushes– a rolling circus of raucous, up-tempo, uber competitive-did I say noisy? ADHD birds continually chasing each other and pestering their parents.

    I wondered how long it would take to teach these newly fledged youngsters to come to a whistle, when paired with a tossed worm. (Answer: 3x) The bolder (older?) and more curious jays dealt with the First Encounter: Scary, Squirmy Worm. The others watched and learned. Observing “Race to the Worm”, “Defensive Worm Hiding” (and the subsequent learning process –buried worms in tanbark do not stay put!) and “Pound Your Brother” made trips to the garden plot last all morning. For two or three weeks, I became a well trained worm digger/tosser. Hat or no hat, those opportunistic birds recognized me as a snack dispenser. Even before I whistled.

    What fun to watch smart birds learn their world.

  8. Christian Falk

    Hello Jennifer,
    today i saw your beautiful blog. I love corvids and i got a website and a blog too. Hope you can speak a little bit german, because of my stories. Kind regards Chris

  9. The Corvid Blog Post author

    Hi there! Thank you so much for the compliment.

    I saw your blog! I don’t know German, but google translate does a pretty decent job. I’ll definitely be keeping track of your work!

  10. The Corvid Blog Post author

    Haha, sounds like corvids and sounds like such a blast for you!

    “ADHD birds continually chasing each other and pestering their parents.”

    Haha! Yup!!!

    I’m so glad you interact with these birds in this way! Thank you so much for sharing this story! It was great, I shared it with some of my research partners as well.

  11. gcrcrisis

    I met Prof Nicky Clayton recently, which reminded me how interesting corvids are. I love watching the flying antics of ravens and hear their calls when I go walking along the cliffs in south Devon, UK.
    I have tweeted your Q&A session on Jan 27th:
    <>
    Keep up the good work!

  12. Nate Martineau

    Hi there! I just got finished watching/listening to the Crow webinar and had a question that I would love to get an answer for, if there is one.

    I’m a High School Junior who has been watching crow roosting behavior for the last three years. I’ve also been able to read some of the scientific literature that is about American Crow roosting behavior. For the last two winters, my mom and I have been going out in the evenings tracking the crows from their pre-roost sites to their roosting sites. I’ve also been trying to keep counts of the crows.

    Last year, the crows used several different pre-roosting sites, then they would take off as the sun went down and fly straight to their roost site. They seemed to stream into the roost site from the four cardinal directions with those furthest west coming in last. I was able to go to the roost site early and count the crows as they flew in. This seems to fit with what I’ve read in the literature, which suggests that crows tend to come to the same roost sites year after year.

    This year has been really frustrating and I haven’t been able to figure out what’s going on. First off, they have been in many different pre-roost sites. I’ve gone to many pre-roost sites that I never saw them visit last year. When they take off, they seem to be heading to the roost site. As we try to follow them, they swirl around in the sky flying every which way. The other night it almost looked like there was a giant circle of them a mile wide in the sky (we have somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 crows in our roost in Lansing, MI). They will start to land as if to roost and then all get up into a swirling vortex again.

    Last year I experienced the vortex while they were at the roost site. They seemed to rise up as new groups of crows came to join them. They would fly around like a tornado and then all land in the trees again. The vortex this year is different since they haven’t decided where they will roost for the night. It’s usually nearly dark before they choose a site and each time I’ve been out to watch them, they’ve roosted in a different location! One night it got too dark for us to find the location of the roost because they continued their activity until it was too dark for us to track them in the sky anymore.

    I’m wondering about the erratic behavior I’m seeing this year. Have you ever seen or heard of this kind of behavior? Do you have any ideas as to what might be causing it?

    I have one more request as well. I plan on watching the crow roost again next winter. I’ve been trying to figure out a research question to figure out some data to gather and hopefully analyze. I’m wondering if you or another researcher would be willing to write back and forth with me a bit to try to determine some research I could conduct.

    Thanks in advance,

    Nate

  13. Jen Das

    Jenn, I just recently saw the PBS special on corvids and wondered if you had any thoughts on how to interact with them in a suburban neighborhood. I was thinking of setting up something for them to do on my deck. I may sound terribly naive, if so I apologize!

  14. Andrea

    Can you tell me a bit about the normal development of a baby blue jay (scrub)? Specifically when does she lose her pin feathers and be able to fully fly? I found her in a suspicious situation (cat nearby). After removal of the cats I decided at the advice of rehabbers to just observe and hope she would be able to fly soon. In the meantime, her parents fed her very consistently and regularly but on day 16 (after finding her) I took her to local rehab center because her leg had swollen up in the hypotarsal region and she was having difficulty perching. The rehabber told me her pin feathers are still there and there might be some underlying developmental issue (beside having a knot in the tendon which rehabber is giving physical therapy to aid in healing) –any ideas, suggestions? thanks so much

  15. The Corvid Blog Post author

    That was probably “Murder of Crows” that you saw. They filmed our population a bit too 🙂

    I’d say first get the crows used to you. Peanuts (in shell) are a great way to attract them, and once they are used to you, feel free to set up puzzles for them. However, don’t be surprised if they get scared and won’t touch the new “toys”, they are quite scared of new things.

  16. The Corvid Blog Post author

    Hi Andrea,

    Sorry for the delay in my response, but I wanted to talk to my colleague Dr. Kevin McGowan, who worked with scrub jays during his PhD research, in order to give you the best possible information. This is what he had to say:

    Sounds bad. Jays usually have the tips of the primaries opening around day 10 after hatch, and are mostly fully feathered by day 20 (fledging at 18 do). They can fly by day 30.

    See developmental series at https://picasaweb.google.com/101683745969614096883/FloridaScrubJays, or starting with https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/9tF4Ge3TC39MRIlVPqRV-NMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=directlink

  17. Steve Shipton

    Hi, Jen,

    Thanks for the great blog which I really enjoy reading.

    I was wondering whether you might give me permission to use one of your images of a Clark’s Nutcracker on my science website for school kids.The article is all about seed dispersal by animals.

    The image I was hoping you would allow me to use is the one where a Clark’s Nutcracker is storing pine seeds in its mouth.

    I would include a direct link to you blog under the image. You can see the article here at Newtonsapple.org.uk

    Yours hopefully,

    Steve

  18. Jennifer Tarbox

    I am in the midst of writing a novel about crows and am nearing obsession now after many months of research. The more I learn the more fascinated I become and the bigger the book plans get. I’m glad to find your blog and look forward to considering the depth of what is here.

    I am looking for an opportunity to speak with someone who has experience working with American crows in a laboratory setting for background for my novel. Can you point me in a good direction toward someone who would be willing to answer some questions about the practical considerations of formal cognitive research and perhaps rehabilitation of injured crows?

  19. The Corvid Blog Post author

    Thank you so much Steve! Unfortunately those are not my photos to give permission on. The photo you are interested in is by Mike Ross. Since that post, I managed to get a number of photos of my own, but none with the pouch storing. If you are still interested in using one of my photos, let me know, otherwise, try to contact Mike 🙂

  20. Jennifer Tarbox

    Jenn,
    Thanks for your offer to help with some information. Would the best way to ask questions be to post them here or by email? If you prefer email, please let me know at jenniferitarbox@gmail.com.

    For everyone who wants to chime in: If crows were storytellers, what kinds of stories do you imagine they would tell? They could be related to teaching youngsters, thoughts about death and grieving, or traits they admire in each other. I have my own ideas and am developing stories, but I would love input from others for my book. Thanks in advance…

  21. tasbiophiliac

    Hi Jenn,

    I was on Twitter earlier, and noticed someone had pinged me a pic of that baby corn crake, assuming it was a raven.

    I’m writing on forest ravens on my blog at the moment, and wanted to comment on this, as well as link to your article on this subject. Could I please use your images with attribution?

    Ace blog by the way!

    Cheers

    Nicole

  22. Marcy Jeppe

    I LOVE Corvids. I am a wildlife rehabilitator and work with corvids and raptors only. I have two wonderful Ravens and one American Crow that are non releasable program birds. i LOVE them dearly !!!!!

  23. The Corvid Blog Post author

    Thank you for your wonderful work! In the future I would also like to get a rehab license and specialize in corvids and raptors, so you are super inspiring! 🙂

  24. Tami

    I just stumbled across your great blog while looking for a pic of a real baby crow to show a friend (who’d posted one of those cute, downy non-crow pics on my FB wall). I linked to your great blog entry about baby crows. We have a very active crow family in the woods behind my house, and they love coming and checking out our compost pile first thing in the morning. My compost is apparently more interesting than my landlady’s, by the way. This morning, I watched them shoo some invading herring gulls out of “their” compost pile. We also have some ravens that occasionally grace us with their presence.

  25. Colin

    Hi Jenn!

    I have always found the intelligence of corvids to be fascinating. I recently stumbled upon your blog and your posts are incredibly interesting! My question to you is- how can I get involved in corvid research? I have a BA in biology, if that helps. Thanks!

  26. Steinar K

    What is the best way to learn recognizing individual crows? I live in Northern Europe, so the locals are the hooded crow. It seems how far the black hood reaches down their neck varies quite a lot, but what is the easiest and most reliable to recognize who’s who?

  27. Anna Russell

    Hello! I am a fellow corvid lover and first want to say- what an amazing blog! I have learned SO much. Very fun to read! If it’s ok I’d love to ask a question about American Crows. I am writing a fantasy book based on a lot of real science and my main characters are crows.(Ever heard of Guardians of Ga’hoole? something like that but for older readers.) This leads to a lot of questions that unfortunately I’ve been unable to find in books or online. I’ve studied crows pretty extensively and have also rehabilitated them at the Rehabilitation Center of MN, but still find myself asking many questions. Would you be open to answering a question every once and a while for me? My first question is simple- about how long does it take for juvenile crows to lose their blue eyes? Thanks for the wonderful blog!

  28. bonjarta

    Check out the roosts of probably thousands, around the 6000 block of North High St. in Worthington, OH 43085.

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