Don’t worry, I won’t get all creepy on you, I just thought* I’d write a #FunFactoids post about crows…
1. A group of crows is called “a murder”
(Ah, the title makes so much sense now!)
Since you’ve probably heard about a murder of crows, I’ll hit you with some other strange groups-of-animal names. Have you ever encountered a cauldron of bats? Or a tower of giraffes? You better get your business straight when you run into a business of ferrets, and pray you never run into a mob of kangaroos. That conspiracy of lemurs is most definitely going to conspire against you, and I hope your not afraid of storms because there is a thunder of hippopotamuses on its way. Okay, I am getting carried away, you can probably just click here and read through the list yourself so I can get back to this murder…
2. How to recognize a crow: if you see a black bird and it’s larger than a pigeon, it’s a crow. Well, it might be a raven. This is not helpful.
Recognizing birds can be tricky. Not all black, menacing birds are crows, though there are some tricks you can use to recognize one. Crows are black (duh). If the bird you’ve spotted** is smaller than a pigeon, you are probably not looking at a crow but at a blackbird (Turdus merula), though only if you’re in Eurasia.
To tell a crow from a raven, check if they have any murderous friends with them; ravens typically travel in pairs while crows like to be in large groups. Their tail also has a slightly different shape (wedge vs fan respectively). The best clue – probably – is to listen: the raven will often be heard reciting Edgar Allen Poe Poems.
In all seriousness, the names crow and raven are actually arbitrary, not very scientific, and region-specific. In America, the common raven (Corvus corax) refers to a pretty large bird that sounds super croaky, travels with only one other friend, and looks like it’s a familiar to some witch. The smaller black bird, and the topic of this blog, would be the Americal Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and they like other tunes…
3. Crows are songbirds
Depending on your taste of music – maybe you do enjoy the raw voice of a heavy smoker – it might not seem obvious that birds of the Corvus genus are part of the Passeri suborder, also known as songbirds. I learned today that the classification “songbird” is not based on the quality of a bird’s tune, but on their anatomy. Songbirds have a syrinx – or song box – which is a specific bony organ in the windpipe of a bird and causes vibrations when air passes through, causing vocalization. Not all songbirds actually sing, let alone sing melodically. In any case, crows are wonderful singers (ahem).
4. Crows are very social animals and have a strong sense of family
Young crows have often been seen helping take care of their younger siblings, by defending the nest from predators or finding food for their lil’ bros and sisters. In addition, crows show some pretty strange behavior when a crow dies, congregating in masses (or as one might say, in murders) around the dead animal but never touching it, seemingly holding some kind of funeral.
They also like grouping together for other reasons, like throwing crow parties (I’ve heard they’re #lit) or just to hang out and laugh about how weird humans are.
5. Crows are super smart, perhaps smarter than you***
Some types of crows have brains that are proportionally bigger than human brains: their brain accounts for ~ 2.7% of a crow’s overall weight, compared to ~1.9% brain-to-body mass in humans. Though (proportional) brain size is not directly an indication of intelligence, there are several examples of how crows are pretty nifty.
For example, crows are known to build tools to help them get to their food, including making prods, poles, scoops, and hooks out of leaves and twigs. Researchers actually think that the crow’s beak has evolved to its shape (sharper and straighter than one would expect for their diet) to better hold and use tools.
Crows have also been seen taking advantage of passing cars to crack open nuts, and they don’t even jaywalk in the process*****. They wait for a red light, place the nut on the road, get out of the way by the time the light turns green and go get the nut during the next red light.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, crows can remember the faces of people that have annoyed them in the past. They even tell their murder-friends, and all gang up to caw at their enemies. They definitely hold a grudge and pass it on to the next generations. Better give them the respect they deserve, or you’ll never be safe.
And so, that concludes the oh-so-original-list-format blog on crow factoids. By the way, she (I) wrote “murder” exactly 10 times.
Webcomics shown here are from falseknees.com who does these really quirky comics about various birds.
Factoids loosely based on this article, Wikipedia, and sort of random google searches – lazy referencing 101.
*This thought has nothing to do with recently having watched The Vile Village, an episode of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which takes place in VFD – Village of Fowl Devotees. Basically, a village of weirdos that have a weird devotion to crows. No, the inspiration for this post should be credited to A., who is giving me a ton of ideas of stuff to blog about, almost annoyingly so.
** Out of context this sentence fragment sounds like a 1950s guide for approaching a lady.
*** I in no way am implying that you, my dear reader, or not smart! Also, thank you for being super awesome and reading my blog and please keep reading and I’m sorry if I have offended you in any way and you personally are definitely a lot smarter than a dumb little crow!****
**** No offense meant to crows. In case any of them are reading. (Footnote-within-a-footnote, how Prachett of me).
***** Eeeey, check out that bird joke. It’s especially good because jays are part of the Corvus/crow family!
I apologize for the out of hand footnotes.