Crows are highly intelligent and social birds that have complex relationships with each other and their environment. While crows tend to be wary of humans, they are capable of forming bonds and even friendships with people over time and with the right approach. Befriending a crow takes time, effort, and understanding of crow behavior, but can be an extremely rewarding experience.
What are crows?
Crows are members of the Corvidae family, which includes ravens, jays, and magpies. There are several different species of crows, but the most common in North America are the American Crow and the Northwestern Crow.
Crows are large, all black birds with distinctive calls. They are omnivorous and opportunistic eaters, consuming everything from insects, small animals, and eggs to fruits, seeds, and human food waste.
One of the most fascinating things about crows is their intelligence. Crows have large brains relative to their body size and are capable of complex cognition, social reasoning, tool use, and episodic memory. Their problem solving skills and communication abilities are comparable to many primates.
Crows tend to mate for life and live together in family groups called murders (yes, really!). Young crows from previous years often stick with their parents to help raise new babies. This extended family structure is key to understanding crow social relationships.
Why do crows form relationships with humans?
In the wild, crows are naturally wary of humans, who they see as potential threats. However, crows are also curious and intelligent. If they have repeated positive interactions with a person, crows can come to see that human as a friend rather than a foe.
Crows may initiate contact with humans for the following reasons:
- Access to food – Crows realize that friendly humans often share food, so they may approach looking for handouts.
- Aid against predators – Crows recognize certain humans as safe and may seek them out when threatened by a predator like a hawk.
- Novel experience – Since crows are so intelligent, they are fascinated by new things. A friendly human can seem like a novel playmate.
- Social bonding – Crows appear to form individual bonds and enjoy ongoing positive interactions with humans, just as they do with each other.
Additionally, when a human feeds crows consistently, the crows may share this information with others in their murder. This can result in a group of crows that trust and rely on that particular person for food and protection. The more positive experiences the crows have, the stronger the bond grows over time.
How do you distinguish individual crows?
Crows can be difficult for humans to visually distinguish from one another. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use:
- Look for distinctive features like unusual feathers, markings, or color patterns.
- Pay attention to behavior and personality traits – some crows may be more bold, shy, friendly, etc.
- Note where you most often see a particular crow – they establish feeding and nesting territories.
- Associate crows with their mate – crows almost always stay close to their bonded partner.
- Listen for distinct vocalizations – crows have a wide variety of calls.
- Use food caching games to identify individuals – note who solves puzzles fastest.
Assigning names to the crows you want to befriend can help build rapport and make it easier to identify them. Just be sure to pick names that are easy for the crows to mimic and associate with rewards.
How long does it take to befriend a crow?
Befriending a wild crow takes time and patience. It may take weeks, months, or even years before a crow fully trusts you. However, you can improve your chances by following these tips:
- Start early – Make contact with young crows right after they leave the nest. They will imprint on you faster.
- Introduce yourself – Appear non-threatening and allow crows to observe you from a distance at first.
- Be consistent – Visit crows daily at the same time so they learn to recognize you.
- Offer treats – Feed crows small amounts of peanuts, cheese, dog food, etc. when they approach.
- Use small talk – Speak to crows in a calm, quiet voice as you feed them.
- Don’t force contact – Let crows come to you. Never grab at them.
- Respect their space – Keep a reasonable distance and let crows adjust to your presence.
The more positive interactions you have with an individual crow over time, the more it will learn to trust you. But don’t get discouraged if bonding takes many months. Persistence and consistency are key!
What are the signs a crow trusts you?
It can be hard to tell if your crow friend sees you as a partner or just a food dispenser. Here are some behaviors that suggest a crow genuinely trusts you:
- Comfortable at close range – Stays calm when you are within 1-2 meters.
- Takes food from hand – Feeds from your palm or fingers.
- Positive vocalizations – Makes soft, guttural calls instead of harsh caws.
- Preening invitation – Allows you to gently pet its chest once bonded.
- Gift giving – Brings you small treasures like bottlecaps or rocks.
- Roosting nearby – Perches protectively above you or settles next to you.
- Calling out – Flies to you and calls out to announce its arrival.
- Introduces mate/family – Brings its partner and offspring to meet you.
These behaviors indicate that your regular presence and interactions have helped the crow overcome its natural wariness and view you as part of its social circle. If you are patient and keep working to build trust, a lifelong bird friendship may be in your future!
What are the best practices for feeding crows?
If you want to befriend crows, bringing them tasty snacks is a great way to get them accustomed to you. Here are some tips for feeding crows safely and effectively:
- Provide a variety of foods like peanuts, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, or small bits of meat.
- Avoid processed foods, bread, and anything moldy or spoiled.
- Start with small portions – a handful per crow at first.
- Split treats into puzzle feeders or hide around your yard so crows have to work for it.
- Be patient and let crows take food at their own pace. Never force it on them.
- Increase amounts gradually as crows get comfortable. But don’t overfeed.
- Supplement daily with healthy whole foods. Treats alone are not nutritionally complete.
- Avoid feeding dog or cat kibble long term due to nutritional deficiencies.
- Provide clean water for drinking and bathing daily.
- Keep feedings consistent. Crows rely on your schedule.
The goal is to build positive associations between you, food, and your space. Let the crows’ behavior and preferences guide you on what and how much to provide. Be flexible and have fun bonding over snacks!
What are fun activities to engage crows?
Once crows view you as an ally, there are lots of fun ways you can enrich their lives and continue strengthening your friendship:
- Set up nest boxes or platforms for roosting.
- Give them toys like balls, sticks, and puzzles to handle and manipulate.
- Play games by hiding treats and calling out clues.
- Teach them tricks like fetching objects.
- Introduce novelty like new perches, puddles, or gentle music.
- Let them follow you on walks around your neighborhood.
- Build feeders and baths at various heights and locations.
- Offer petting once they indicate comfort with touch.
- Take pictures of them and show the images back.
- Chat with them daily so they learn to recognize your voice.
- Make recordings of their vocalizations to play back.
- Let them observe you going about your daily activities.
Crows thrive when their high intellect is challenged. Anything new you introduce will be met with curiosity and engagement. Get creative in building cognitive complexity into their environment. Your crow friends will be eager participants!
Are there risks to humans when befriending crows?
Befriending crows does involve some risks that responsible humans should consider:
- Disease – Crows can carry bacteria and parasites. Avoid touching eyes or mouth after contact.
- Aggression – Crows may dive bomb or bite if they feel threatened. Give them space when agitated.
- Mess – Crow droppings and garbage they scatter can be unsanitary. Clean up regularly.
- Territoriality – Crows are protective of their area. Humans entering their domain uninvited may anger them.
- Loss of fear – Habituated crows may approach dangerous situations or people. Hard to undo.
- Dependency – Overfeeding crows can prevent their natural foraging and learning. Wean off treats.
- Predation – Well-fed crows draw in predators. Don’t feed them near windows or pets.
- Nuisance complaints – Neighbors may view your crow friends as pests. Keep bonding low profile.
While the risks are manageable with responsible care and common sense, befriending crows does require dedication. Avoid treating them like pets or feathered children. Work to preserve their wildness and independence while building trust.
What are the risks to crows when befriending humans?
The risks crows face when interacting with humans include:
- Predation – Crows focused on humans are vulnerable to ambush by cats, dogs, and raptors.
- Collisions – Cars or windows can injure crows distracted by feeding.
- Capture – Well-meaning people may trap “friendly” crows to keep illegally.
- Abuse – Not all humans treat crows kindly. Some throw objects or persecute them.
- Food issues – Junk foods cause nutritional imbalance and poor health.
- Disease transmission – Crows are susceptible to contagious human viruses like influenza.
- Territory conflicts – Habituated crows may encroach on other birds’ or animals’ spaces.
- Misplaced dependence – Overreliance on unreliable food sources puts crows at risk when humans change behavior.
Crows who overcome their natural wariness put themselves in danger. Make sure to minimize risks and always put the birds’ wellbeing first. Never intentionally restrict their freedom.
Are crows good pets?
While intelligent and charismatic, crows do not actually make good pets for the average household. Here are some reasons why crows and captivity are not an ideal mix:
- Extremely social – Crows require near-constant interaction and stimulation from their flock.
- Loud vocalizations – Crows are very noisy with harsh calls that grate on human ears.
- Destructive – Crows probe, dismantle, and make messes of their environment out of curiosity.
- Free roamers – Crows refuse to be caged and need full reign to fly indoors and out.
- Wild instincts – Even hand-raised crows maintain their foraging, caching, and territorial behaviors.
- Long lived – Crows may live 15 years or more in captivity.
- Expensive – Properly feeding and housing crows is prohibitively costly.
- Protected – Native crow species are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The bottom line is that crows are not domesticated animals well suited for typical pet ownership. However, befriending wild crows can let you enjoy their companionship on their own terms!
Can you teach crows to speak?
Crows are among the most vocal and communicative birds. But can you actually teach a crow to speak recognizable human words or phrases? The answer appears to be a qualified yes.
Some key points about crows mimicking speech:
- Wild crows rarely mimic speech, but captive crows have demonstrated the ability.
- Their vocal anatomy allows for a vocabulary of a few clear words or sounds.
- Young crows seem to pick up new vocalizations most easily.
- They understand the imitation as communication, not just noise.
- Mimicked words are simplified and may be hard to recognize.
- Crows likely associate certain words with specific meanings.
- Speech practice takes consistent daily effort over years.
- Not all crows can or will talk, even with training.
While intriguing, speech itself is just one facet of language. Crows also make and comprehend conceptual associations, context, inflections, and syntax in their own vocalizations. Teaching a crow to speak a few words can’t replicate their advanced communication abilities overall. But it provides a fascinating window into their intelligence!
How do you get crows to bring you gifts?
Crows delight in giving small gifts like pebbles, bottlecaps, or twigs to the humans they befriend. Here are some tips to encourage gift-giving behavior:
- Regularly share food so they associate you with a reward.
- Provide objects like bells, beads, and bright scraps for them to play with and examine.
- Greet crows calmly and with excitement when they approach.
- Accept gifts politely even if the item is unremarkable to you.
- Praise crows using an enthusiastic, friendly tone and facial expressions.
- Let crows see you adding gifts to a collection spot like a windowsill.
- Avoid handling their treasures, but admire gifts and display them.
- Trade their gifts for treats occasionally so they understand your appreciation.
Crow gift exchanges strengthen social bonds. By showing you value their special deliveries, they’ll be encouraged to keep your unique friendship ritual going!
Befriending wild crows takes time and a deep respect for their autonomy as wild animals. However, forging an emotional bond with one of nature’s most fascinating birds is an unforgettable and life-enriching experience. If you invest care and patience, share food generously, and work to build trust, your new crow friendship will soon take flight! Observe their cues, keep them safe, and approach the journey with wisdom – you may just form a lifelong friendship with a kindred wild spirit.