Paint the Crow Black
By Betty Sodders

In the movies, bad guys always wear black hats. With a similar thought in mind, old “Ma” Nature painted the crow black for this raucous bird is truly a villain, a scoundrel, a varmint of the first order. Totally shiny black from toe to beak, the crow has been branded a voracious pest, an egg sucker, a nest robber, a killer of upland and lowland fledglings as well as a non-friend of any crop planting farmer.

Do not confuse crows with their big brothers, the ravens. Crows average l9 inches in length compared to a raven’s 24 inches. Crows hop; ravens walk. Crows are wing-flappers; ravens prefer to glide. Both are flock-oriented and extremely intelligent. Both live by their wits, possess a complex language and maintain a well-developed social structure.

Crows practice the art of “anting” which consists of squashing ants with their beaks and rubbing this pungent smelling residue into their feathers, either as a grooming aid or to discourage parasites. Should ants be unavailable, the crow will substitute tobacco from a cast-off cigarette butt.

Their grocery list includes tender corn sprouts as well as the milk stage cob. Other menu items are wheat, oats, buckwheat and natural maize.

Crows also dearly love over ripe melons and use their beak as a straw to slurp up the juice once the rind is pierced.

As matters stand, crows are strongly flock oriented. Crow conventions are commonplace, attended by thousands of crow cousins, aunts and uncles. They tend to not travel alone, preferring to utilize the ‘buddy’ system in case back-up assistance is required. Individual crows often serve as sentinels, keeping a sharp eye out for owls, hawks, and yes even man.

Crows do not see well at night and are vulnerable to owl attacks, especially from the Great Horned Owl. Should one of the clan be so persecuted, the following daybreak, the entire flock will seek out the intruder, harassing the owl unmercifully.

By and large, should an individual crow prove untrustworthy, the balance of the flock will serve as judge, jury and executioner either driving the offender out of the rookery or killing it. Crow justice holds little leniency.

Due to its unsavory reputation, the species has been bountied, gunned and poisoned…but never to the point of near extinction; for it seems to prove true, that for each crow killed, two more buddies arrive for the funeral.

Betty lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and is a 28-year veteran of outdoor writing, having spent three decades living with and writing about wild critters. Email her at:

Click Here For Past Feature Stories!!

Feature Story |  Current News |  Photo Gallery |  Advertising |  Subscribe Today |  Outdoor Resources |  Home