Observation Logs, Alberta, Canada. The American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos.
Alberta Crow Observation Logs
Updated: June 20, 2001.
This section includes reports of various observers from the Province of Alberta.
40 miles east of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: May 15, 2001
Location_Description: My area has summer residences in an aspen forest setting, situated by a large lake. I have enjoyed the presence of a tame male crow named Bert (with mate) for 6 or 7 years. He would come when called, allow me to approach within 4 feet of him, and had no fear of my dogs.
Behavior: In 2000, Bert built a nest in dense growth about 9 ft above ground. Just before his young were to leave the nest, they were killed by a goshawk. The gathering of over 40 angry crows was not able to get down to defend the nest. Bert's behaviour changed immediately (he would not eat or come to calling) and within 2 or 3 weeks he was no longer in our area. In 2001 he has not returned.
Comments: I estimate his age at 7 or 8. Could it be he has not returned as he has died of old age, or have the younger crows driven him away, or has he not returned because of the killing of his fledglings? I access from the public library and have no e-mail, but I hope you will post an answer. (Dee Edwards)
ANSWER: It is difficult to suggest why Bert has not returned. Crows can live much longer than 7 or 8 years, yet in the wild that might be about the average lifespan due to disease, accident, etc. Younger crows generally would not be able to drive away a mature "territory holding crow" unless he/she was sick or otherwise disabled. Quite possibly the answer is that the presence of a determined predator made the location unsuitable for nesting and Bert and his/her mate moved elsewhere to find a more secure location.
Calgary Alberta Canada: May 28, 2001
Location_Description: Calgary is a large urban city with a fairly healthy bird population and our neighborhood is well treed.
Behavior: There is a pair of American crows nesting across the street from our home. As we have had a very dry spring, sources of free standing water is limited. This pair have been using our bird baths as a depository for bread, chicken bones and half eaten hot dogs. While it does make a mess, I assume that they are doing this to soften food for their young but I have observed that they do not return to get the food. I subsequently clean out the bird bath and put in fresh water every day. My question are: is this normal crow behaviour and would they do this in rural areas? Should I cover the baths with chicken wire to prevent them depositing the food?
June 20, 2000.
Location_Description: Children's playground cum picnic area, wide and open some small evergeen and deciduous trees (20' maximum) surrounded by grass playing fields on 2 sides, an elementary school and house on other two sides located.
Behavior: On the concrete surrounding area to the children's playground an American Crow ("crow") was observed attacking a Black-billed Magpie ("magpie"), while a second visibly much larger crow stood on guard some 4 feet away. 9 very noisy magpies were attempting to get the attacking crow off but were successfully chased away by the guard crow. The attacking crow pecked away at the magpie and kept it down with one foot whilst it struggled and called out. This behaviour continued for some 5 minutes.
Suddenly the 9 magpies took to the air, were joined by 2 crows which had been perched in a deciduous tree overlooking the incident area, and the 9 magpies commenced a dive bombing routine on the attacking crow; but once again the guard crow moved in each time and despatched them. The 9 magpies remained in the air circling overhead for a couple of minutes then landed, with the 2 crows returning to their original tree perch. The attacking crow and the guard crow had remained on the ground throughout.
At this time the attacked magpie had rolled over on its side and appeared to be quite still. The attacking crow and guard crow took to the air. One of the 9 magpies pulled at the attacked magpie's tail feathers and pulled it a little, and pecked at its back resulting in the attacked magpie coming to life and then it managed to flutter some 10 - 15 feet (and now was out of my line of view). The 9 magpies collected in a circle and the attacking crow and guard crow returned. I could hear quite a commotion being made by the magpies and can only assume that the attacking crow had started attacking the downed magpie again. After about 3 minutes all went quiet. The attacking crow and guard crow, together with the 2 crows perched in the tree close by left the area, and the 9 magpies followed shortly thereafter. The occasional magpie returned to the attacked magpie over the next 5 minutes, and then there was complete quiet.
At this point I decided to go over and have a closer look expecting to find the attacked magpie dead. The magpie was however still alive, but only just - it was trying to eat some grass and then walked away from me, in a very uncoordinated and wobbly fashion, a few feet before falling over to the ground. It died soon thereafter.
It should be noted that throughout the entire incident the crows were silent except when the 2 which had been perched in the tree took to the air and joined the circling magpies when they caw-cawed - but once they returned to their tree perch they fell silent again. Comments: My attention had been drawn to the window by the very loud calls of the magpies - I did not see the initial activity that led up to the attack by the crow. We have a lot of magpies in the area but very few crows. Yesterday I observed one crow at our bird bath where it deposited half a sandwich, returning some half an hour later to collect its moistened snack - but this is an unusual occurrence. I have never seen a crow's nest in this residential area, but cannot help wondering whether the attack was over a territorial dispute. (Janet Nevett)
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