The black crow, a bird often considered to be a pest


The black crow is a unique bird due to its completely black color. Often considered to bring bad luck, like other species of the family to which this bird belongs, the carrion crow deserves attention: it is far from being limited to the status of pest.

The Carrion Crow: the intelligence of Corvidae

Corvids are a category of birds that includes the largest species of passerines. In this family, there are many birds with black plumage, such as various crows or the yellow-billed Chough. But the black crow is undoubtedly an exception because it is the only bird to be entirely black, including beak, eye and legs.

This family includes birds known to be very intelligent. Researchers explain this characteristic by the fact that juveniles spend a lot of time with parents, which promotes transmission and learning.

They can thus make tools, recognize themselves in a mirror, and imagine what their peers think. Like all corvids, the carrion crow stores its food and hides it by burying it. A crow is able to travel several kilometers to find a discreet hiding place, out of sight of its congeners. If she hasn’t been careful enough and suspects she has been seen, she can dig up her supplies to move them to a safer hiding place. Crows have even been observed digging up carcasses buried by dogs. Finally, Corvidae are birds that tame quite easily.

Distinguish the black crow from the rook

The carrion crow has a long, pointed beak, the body of which is about fifty centimeters long. Its wingspan approaches one meter. The black crow shares these elements with the rook crow to which it is very close: they are moreover quite easily confused. But, if we have the leisure to observe these two birds up close, we can see that:

  • The adult rook (this is not the case in juveniles) does not have feathers at the base of the beak while the black crow has it,
  • The black crow’s beak is arched, while that of the rook is straight,
  • The crown of the rook is more pointed than that of the black crow,
  • The plumage of the black crow shows blue-green reflections, while that of the crow shows purple-red reflections.

The black crow is not appreciated for its song

The Corvids make hear not what one could call a song but a cry. The black crow is no exception to this rule. His vocalizations are generally considered unpleasant by the human ear. It emits rolled cries, which one can transcribe “rrrraarhh”, most often of low key and in series. These sound manifestations vary according to the context and the individuals. In case of danger, the cries are higher.

Where can you meet the black crow?

The black crow is present everywhere in France. It will be found more in open areas of agricultural plains and heathlands, and in urban areas. It is more absent in the Alps. Its numbers are numerous but poorly estimated because the number of pairs of black crows in France oscillates between 1 and 3 million.

The diverse diet of the black crow

Black crows are omnivorous and their menus consist as much of plants such as cereal seeds, roots and fruits, as of insects and earthworms, small birds and small rodents. They can also feed on corpses. In town, they are interested in human waste. But it is clear that this source of food is not balanced because, in urban areas, we regularly observe black crows with partially white plumage, a sign of nutritional deficiencies.

The reproduction of the black crow

Black crows live in monogamous pairs for years, sometimes a lifetime. Young of the year and birds without territory gather together, sometimes joined by pairs to spend the winter. These are the groups that evolve in the city.

We have not found an explanation for the Latin name of the black crow, Corvus corone. “Corone” is a Latin word which means crown. We hypothesize that this is related to the fact that black crows nest at the top of large deciduous trees, the nest then being like a crown for the tree.

The couple’s two crows help build the nest when spring begins. It’s a voluminous nest that can be observed from time to time at the top of a pylon. Birds are not very selective and use leaves, hair, wool, papers, scraps of rags, or plastic objects. The pairs take care to isolate themselves from each other: there are only about fifteen nests per hectare at most. Parents will not hesitate to eat their neighbors’ eggs and baby birds if they are too close.

Then 3 to 5 green or light blue eggs are laid in April-May and incubated for 18 to 21 days. After hatching, the young stay in the nest for 30 to 35 days.

Is Carrion Crow Really Harmful?

Outside of breeding season, black crows tend to congregate for food. They can then cause damage in the fields and orchards invested. In addition, they consume eggs from nesting birds and can capture backyard chicks. It is these behaviors that have contributed to the bad reputation of these birds.

However, we see that neighboring countries do not look as hard on these birds as France. British farmers believe that the damage to crops is offset by the number of pests and small rodents they capture. In Switzerland, only people reporting significant damage ask, not to kill them, but only to put in place effective scaring methods. In Belgium, crows are protected, except local and limited exemption.

Of Practices can limit the damage that black crows create on grain crops, such as sowing immediately after tillage and buried deep enough. Maintaining hedges near crops promotes the presence of raptors that keep corvids at bay.

By feeding on dead animals, the black crow contributes to the maintenance of nature. Animals are in fact regularly killed during the mowing of the harvest. Black crows spot them and quickly make them disappear, preventing the contamination of cut grass, the future feed of cattle, by pathogens. They also clean roads and highways. Finally, they feed on the parasites present on cows and sheep, limiting their proliferation.