By Bob Walker
The American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) is a highly intelligent and social member of the Corvid family, easily found year-round anywhere in Los Alamos County, and indeed all across the United States. Crows are well-adapted to sharing habitat with people and will eat almost anything, including insects, small mammals, seeds, fruit, and garbage. They are even known to prey on the nests of other birds, eating eggs or hatchlings.
Crows are prominent subjects of many Native American myths and legends, where they are considered to be omens of good luck. They can identify individual people and have been known to offer gifts in return for food people left out for them.
Because they are closely related to their larger cousin the Common Raven, it can be hard to distinguish Crows from Ravens with only a casual look at one. Crows fly with a steadier wingbeat, while Ravens spend more flying time gliding. If you get a good look at the bird’s beak, you’ll see the Crow’s beak is smaller in relation to its head. If the bird is flying, look at the shape of its tail feathers – Crows’ tails are squarer and Ravens’ are more wedge-shaped. See the comparisons in the composite photo below.
If you are a fan of crows, or want to learn more about bird behavior, check out the book Gifts of the Crow by John Marzluff and Tony Angell.