PEI

P.E.I. wildlife: 5 cool things to know about crows

We curse them when they wake us up too early in the morning. We shake our fists at them when they leave droppings on our windshields, roofs and sidewalks. But if you look on the bright side, crows do have some redeeming — if not endearing — qualities.

They may be annoying, but they can also be endearing

Crows are very intelligent birds. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

We curse them when they wake us up too early in the morning. We shake our fists at them when they leave droppings on our windshields, roofs and sidewalks.

If they were cute, we might cut them a little slack. But they're not. In fact, as Alfred Hitchcock showed us, they can be quite scary.

But if you look on the bright side, crows do have some redeeming — if not endearing — qualities.

1. They're smart as a whip

"They are among the most intelligent of bird for sure," says Garry Gregory, a wildlife biologist with P.E.I. Department of Communities, Land and Environment.

They are among the most intelligent of bird for sure.- Garry Gregory

"They are capable of recognizing people, specific people over long periods of time ... They're capable of hoarding food and remembering exactly where they hoarded the food over long periods of time."

They will even work together to outsmart other birds.

"Sometimes they distract mergansers and go and eat the small fish the merganser was feeding on."

2. They love family

They will fiercely defend other family members, Gregory says, and older siblings will babysit younger ones.

"The young from one year will stay around and help raise the subsequent young from the same parents for several years before they mature and form their own pair bonds."

It's not uncommon to see groups of 20 crows all related hanging out together, he says.

"Outside of the breeding season they'll still maintain those family ties but also flock up into other group of crows that could be thousands strong like you see in Victoria Park."

Families of crows will stay togther for long periods of time, says Garry Gregory. (Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)

3. They're not fussy eaters

Have you ever spent the day cooking a nice meal only to have your children turn their noses up at it? That would never happen with a crow.

"They'll eat almost anything," Gregory says. "They are so opportunistic and can take advantage of any food source that is available."

Fruit, fish, mice, grasshoppers, corn, roadkill, eggs from other nests — you name it.

4. They don't bolt when the weather gets cold

Unlike some songbirds — and snowbirds — crows don't fly south when it's suddenly no longer beach weather. They usually stick it out all year on P.E.I. And some don't make it.

"There is a certain degree of mortality that will occur over the winter," Gregory says.

That's one reason their population is often at its peak around this time of year — they're all alive and well.

Plus, Gregory says, as the young birds mature, the families leave their breeding areas and join other flocks.

"They can seem more plentiful this time of year just by virtue of seeing more of them together at once."

Crows don't fly south for the winter. (Submitted by Linda Matheson-Ford)

5. They punch above their weight

Their only real predators are larger birds of prey, Gregory says, but they usually don't mess with crows.

"A full grown crow, it would be a rare circumstance where a predator would actually take down a crow."

It would be a rare circumstance where a predator would actually take down a crow.- Garry Gregory

In fact, it might be the other way around.

"Crows are quite bold," Gregory says.

"Part of that comes from they're always in a group so you will often see several crows mobbing an osprey or an eagle. Which you would think would be a predator of the crows. By virtue of strength in numbers, they'll be able to chase them off."

Crow nestlings, on the other hand, could be prey if they happen to fall out of the tree before they are able to fly. They could be eaten by foxes, raccoons or other bird.

But if they survive the nest, they usually live upwards of 10 years, Gregory says.

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