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What Do Crows Eat? 5 Favorite Foods They Prefer

What Do Crows Eat_1

Last Updated: September 21, 2022

Humans and crows tend to have a distant but courteous relationship. Genus Corvus, also known as the crow family, is a large group of various bird species, including ravens, crows, jays, magpies, etc.

They are not all musical, these birds are part of the order Passeriformes, commonly known as songbirds. Crows are intelligent creatures but frightening for some, and you can see them almost everywhere.

What do crows eat? You, like several other birders or naturalists, might wonder. Are they innately scavengers, as many others think? Please keep reading to find out and discover more about this species.

What Do Crows Eat and Their Feeding Habits

Crows are well-famed for their cleverness; they are opportunistic feeders, which is why a crow's diet is highly versatile. A crow eats natural and manufactured food.

But what do crows eat? Due to the number of species belonging to the family, crows generally have a diverse diet. Moreover, crows' preferred foods can vary in their environment, whether in their natural habitat or urban surroundings.

Crows are omnivores and can feed on almost anything edible since they never had a reputation for being picky eaters. You'll notice how crows hunt for food in the wild or in their natural world. While in urban areas, these birds settle for food scraps of human leftovers.

The following are the typical examples of what crows eat:

1. Insects

Insects

The fish crow is among the species you will see scavenging around the shore. In non-coastal areas, you might see it feeding with the American crow.

The fish crow strongly prefers arthropods, like crabs and insects.

Since these creatures eat just about anything, don't be surprised to see an American crow catching a wasp midair. But such an action can lead to the bird's fatal end.

Even the New Caledonian crow utilizes its bill as scissors, trimming twigs into hooks and shredding leaves into brushes so it can catch insects. Such acts prove that the Corvus genus is one of the most skillful in acquiring a food source in the animal kingdom.

These corvids may like different foods, but many crows like eating spiders, lizards, beetles, snails, locusts, crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects.

2. Seeds, Fruits, or Grains

Seeds, Fruits, or Grains

During the day, you may see the crow feeding on waste grains. Together with the grackles, crows benefit from human agriculture, like cracked corn, wheat, oats, and rice. 

These birds sometimes leave their territory to join a massive flock to feed on grains in agricultural fields, especially during their nesting season.

The male crow hunts and brings the meal to the female, who remains in the nest nearly the entire time, especially during inclement weather.

It's also typical for birders to see American crows perching and eating on a bough of fruit in gardens. Such species are adaptable to a vast range of habitats, where you will see them mostly foraging on the ground.

However, American crows are one of the most prominent casualties of the West Nile virus in the 1990s. Consequently, it explains the considerable decline in the American crow population and many species in North America.

Further, high-protein seeds keep these crows energized in winter. Likewise, the birds take berries and seeds from trees, like watermelons, nightshade berries, apples, and cherries.

3. Nuts

Nuts

Japan's urban crows like to hang out at traffic lights, dropping nuts in the middle of the road and waiting for cars to crack them open. Eventually, these clever birds will hop down to feast on the tasty kernel of these nuts.

You can try filling your feeders with unsalted peanuts if you want to attract songbirds like crows; such nuts are more manageable to open.

Many crows find backyards irresistible if they see a feeding table full of pistachios, walnuts, and peanuts. 

Crows typically store nuts for future needs since they can't store meat scraps for longer. Whenever a species has a particular need to ensure its survival, the hippocampal region controls that function. 

You can expect this meal storing behavior from unusually sizable birds like crows and several other species. It's a unique ability allowing them to learn and remember spatial positions or where these birds place certain things.

How long these crows leave stored nuts and seeds and retrieve them for later consumption depends on what species. When no other ravens are in sight, ravens cache their food and retrieve it twenty-four hours later.

4. Other Birds, Bird Eggs, or Small Mammals

Other Birds, Bird Eggs, or Small Mammals

Ravens eat almost every type of carrion they can find, greedily seizing it in most of their meals. The majority of its diet consists of carcasses of mammals. Rabbits, deer, and elk-stranded whales; livestock, especially sheep, comprise the primary diet of ravens. 

These birds even feed on injured deers in winter despite the latter trying to cross frozen lakes.

Ravens can kill many diminutive mammals and birds if carrion is scarce, using their bill to prey on sick, wounded, or young individuals to death. You will sometimes encounter American crows hunting a flock of sparrows, even in suburban areas. 

It's also typical for a crow to steal foods from different animals, like distracting the otter and snatching away its prey. The bird sometimes waits for the arrival of smaller birds exhausted from a long migration to eat them. Crows will not hesitate to eat plover eggs and chicks. 

Like other species of crows, dead carrion is an easy meal for the magpies. This species is notorious for raiding other birds' nests and sometimes stealing juveniles or even adults of smaller species. Similarly, fish crows prey on small fish, nesting birds, and turtle eggs.

But as aggressive as the Corvus genus may seem in their search for food sources, they can also prey on some animals. Dogs, cats, snakes, hawks, and other predators eat crows. Although at times, the growing competition in food supplies ends in more and more dead crows.

5. Dog Or Cat Pellets

Dog Or Cat Pellets

New birders might find it uncanny to see a dog backing away from its dish because of crows. But the more experienced bird lovers are already accustomed to seeing these crows stuff their throat pouches with dog food.

These pellets are some of the crows' favorite treats.

If you have a favorite crow constantly visiting your feeders, ensure that you soak dry pellets in water first to avoid choking the bird. But pay attention as doing such will also attract dogs, cats, and other animals that may feed on the helpless, unsuspecting crow.

Many experts will not encourage people to feed crows; it is illegal in some states. It's best to check the local government in your area for any ordinance forbidding crow feeding before proceeding.

If it's okay to do so where you are, and these crows are comfortable visiting your backyard, please do not feed these creatures anything toxic.

Birdhub Talk: Crows are known for being hardy birds -- they're strong, robust, and resilient! However, you also want to know how long these avians live. We wrote an article dealing specifically with this topic -- How Long Do Crows Live?


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Frequently Asked Questions

What do young crows eat?

A study about a crow's diet shows that crows dwelling in urban settlements tend to overfeed baby crows with junk food. Such a meal is more accessible for these crows than maintaining a more nutritious diet.

Some adult crows feed baby crows by regurgitating foods and offering them water. During the first few weeks, parent crows regurgitate food once every half an hour for their young. Young crows will start having their share of shredded insects and mammals once they are fledglings.

What is the favorite meal of a crow?

Whenever you place something out for the crows, they will ignore it if it doesn't suit their taste. A crow can favor some food over others, as its preferred meal depends on the crow species. You can try feeding them to observe a crow's most favored meal. 

You will likely notice that most crows like ground foraging for the most accessible food. An American crow enjoys grains, insects, worms, and fruits, a pied crow prefers lizards, and a Northwestern crow likes fishes, seeds, and garbage.

Do American crows eat dog food or cat food?

Some might find it surprising, but crows are fond of pet food. Most humans are thankful for these birds' hygienic service, feeding on dead animals, and trash bins. But what most people are unaware of is that crows also like feeding on cat or dog bowls.

An adult crow knows better to soak these dog or cat pellets in water first because if not, they will choke eating them dry. So now you know it's not unusual to see American crows eating your dry cat food as much as they do with your leftover spaghetti.

What food should you not feed crows?

If you're into bird feeding in your backyard, then you can feed crows almost anything except toxic foods. For starters, crows cannot ingest any alcoholic beverages or even chocolates.

Some fruit seeds may contain cyanide which is also toxic for these birds -- apricots, apples, peaches, and pears are examples. Ingesting processed food or anything too salty may result in a crow's kidney failure, while avocado can damage its heart.


Conclusion

Crows are undoubtedly cunning creatures, but when it comes to what crows eat, the list can be pretty long. The varying food preferences depend on the species of crows in question.

But due to their omnivorous nature, these crows eat small amphibians, reptiles, fishes, grains, fruits, and more. Some birders even encounter crows stealing food from other birds.

Nevertheless, if you want to feed crows intentionally, you must also keep in mind the kind of food not to give them. I'm pretty sure none of us would like to kill a crow on purpose, even if it can annoy several people sometimes.

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