portrait of a Maine-residing American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
This is one of the most fascinating birds we have in America. And although it lives right among us, relatively little is known about it. Here is some of what little I have observed about these birds that live around my Maine home:
Here in southern Maine there are resident crows and there are migratory crows; i.e. some stay the Winter......and some get out of here, presumably for milder temps. How do I know? There are small bands (not murders!) of crows that remain here all year, every year. There are also enormous flocks, numbering perhaps in the thousands each, that leave in the Fall and return in the Spring.
Regarding the bands, each stays in its own "neighborhood" all year round. When a band of crows ventures into another band's territory ("neighborhood") there is a lot of fighting that goes on between the two bands. I have seen and recognized this once. While I have not seen any physical contact, there is a lot of agitated cawing back and forth and much of each group chasing the other, until they get things settled out and apparently the invading band leaves. It was quite fascinating. I knew what was happening because there are just 4-5 crows in my neighborhood, and on this day there were perhaps 10-12.
BTW, I refuse to call groups of crows by the widely accepted name "murders". I much prefer the word "bands". "Murder" perpetuates the morbidity that some superstitious people insist on maintaining toward this fascinating animal. Give me a break! The crow is only another species of wildlife. It is not a species that is somehow and mysteriously connected to morbid spiritual events. But it is also one of our most fascinating species of wildlife. I am one who is really fed up with the ignorance of some people regarding wildlife.
During exceptionally cold Winter nights, the crows around Portland, Maine will gather from surrounding rural areas, into one enormous flock.....in the thousands, and roost inside the city. It could be on a roof top. It could be in a huge parking lot. It is said that they do it because cities are slightly warmer than surrounding country.
I have a band of 4-5 crows that remain around my home, the entire Winter. I do not know if they join that one huge flock in the city, on those exceptionally cold nights. I suspect that they do, for I live only 3-4 miles from that city.
This is one of my crows. I now have these 4 or 5 crows conditioned to trusting me......somewhat. To get the crows closer for this shot, I just tossed a few clumps of cheese to them. They love cheese and they love peanuts. Actually, they love a lot of different foods. Crows are predators and crows are scavengers. Crows are omnivorous. In the end, crows are opportunistic.
If you decided today that you wanted to get your resident crows to begin trusting you, it might take you weeks to get "your crows" to trust you enough so that you could photograph them at this range…..about 40-50 feet. I am just now reaching the point where I can be within maybe 30 feet of my crows when I am outside in the area. But your crows would have no qualms about immediately accepting food you offered them; it would simply be at a much longer distance at first. Obviously, the band works together. That is the idea for having the band in the first place. Crows in the band never go to the ground without at least one crow (and usually just one) remaining in a tree (a sentry crow) to warn the others of any approaching danger……..NEVER! And this often works against them. The band separates and re-groups, often numerous times during the day, but especially in the morning as they are looking for that first food source. When a single crow finds a food source it will NOT go to it, but rather stay in its lofty tree perch, and call with 3-5 "caws", VERY loudly, attempting to let the others know that it has found something to eat. In the meantime (at least around here) Herring Gulls will often find the food too (or come in response to the crow's cawing) and quickly take the food.
So crows are extremely wary of danger and do not even tolerate a human appearing anywhere near a window if they are on the ground, in the area. I am just getting mine to tolerate me somewhat near the window. And from the outside, crows can see FAR into the room to spot me. I am surprised.
BTW, this is a heavily cropped image that was shot at ISO 3200 and so it does not look good if it is bumped up to 3X or even X-large.
More on crows later. Just wanted to show you what a year-round Maine resident American Crow looks like up close. Actually, it looks identical to any other crow, anywhere else in America.
The reason I said that there is relatively little known about the American Crow is that this bird is unusually secretive, though it lives right among us. Example: You will never see a crow's nest? Now, of course, there are exceptions to anything. But I have never seen one and I have lived around American Crows all my life. The reason is that the nest is always placed within the very top sections of the very tallest trees within the area they reside, most often stands of Eastern White Pines (in this region).