Dear Readers, I peered out from my office window yesterday to see this young crow sitting on a gutter and trying to work out if there was anything tasty to eat. What a little sweetheart! I love the way that that beak looks too big for the bird’s head, and that the head and body are still fluffy while the wings have nice sleek feathers.
Crows breed every year in a large tree somewhere in the County Roads here in East Finchley, and this year magpies bred in my whitebeam tree. Crows and magpies are not best friends, although the magpies usually seem to come off best, and the noise of their conflict can be quite alarming. Still, everyone seems to have reared babies to at least this stage, and while the parents of this fledgling are still around, it seems to be quite self-sufficient. Young crows often stay close to their parents for up to 3 years and may help to provision and take care of next year’s chicks. In some cases, they will even return when they’re older than that to help out if they aren’t breeding themselves.
Cooperative breeding is an interesting phenomenon, seen in 40% of crow species but only 9% of bird species overall. I suspect it’s something to do with food availability – crows are big birds that need a lot of food, especially when growing up, so the more eyes there are to spot opportunities and to find novel food sources, the better. We know how intelligent and adaptable crows are, so when they’re working together they’re pretty much unstoppable. So it seems that although this young crow now looks independent, s/he’ll be hanging out with her family for several years to come, and will in turn benefit when s/he reaches breeding age.
I am very fond of crows. They are so curious and intelligent, and they repay careful observation with a whole range of interesting behaviours. They’re certainly something that reminds me that while I’m huddled over my computer there’s a whole other world out there.