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 - Carl Bergstrom

Carl Bergstrom

Information flow in biology and society.

How to befriend crows

For the holiday, a post about how to befriend crows.

Befriending crows is a wonderful thing.

I have many crow friends at home and at work. They bring joy at unexpected moments and can rescue a miserable day even without shaking down the dust of snow that Robert Frost described.

This post is an updated version of a thread I posted at the bird site in July 2019. #birding #birdwatching #birds #urbanbirding #crows #corvids #crow #corvid #crowfriends

If you live in an urban or suburban area where crows are around it's not too hard to befriend them. Rural crows are harder but not impossible.

First and foremost they like food. Peanuts in the shell are a favorite treat but most anything works; crows are omnivorous. It's probably not good for them, but they adore cheetos.

The photo below is not a good shot but the only one I have of my beloved Tatterwing demonstrating next-level peanut technique: five at a time by spearing. No other crow figured this out.

If you feed them regularly, they will come to recognize you. They're remarkably good at recognizing faces, gaits, and even the sound of a particular car's engine.

In the rain wearing a new jacket with the hood up? They recognize me.

After a year away from the office due to COVID policies, I thought my office friends would have forgotten me. No. They spotted me within a few yards of the parking garage.

Try to be consistent. Make sure you have food for them each time you see them. Crows are so smart that this isn't essential. But it's a general principle in animal training which is, in a sense, what you are doing. Though as you'll discover, it's more like them training you.

Personally, I like to talk to them. I have no idea whether this helps or not. But I treat each one with dignity, greet them when I see them, explain what I'm doing as I'm getting out a treat, ask them how their days have been, that sort of thing.

For the crows that live near my house, I have a call as well. It's simple. I go outside and shout "Hello, crows!"

I'd do that every time before feeding them, especially if they were nearby to see me feeding.

After a few months, they started doing something new. When I called them, even if they were blocks away, they started talking back with loud food calls. Now I can go outside, call once, and then listen to them calling back to me as they fly in from all around the neighborhood.

Below, a frequent visitor who goes around the house until she can see me through the window, and then endeavors to get my attention.

The crows at work almost always spot me before I spot them. I think they recognize my gait because they can find me in a new jacket with the hood up against the Seattle rain. They have a particular flight pattern, a low swoop braking right in of me, to get my attention.

Sometimes their wingtips brush my arm as they come by. This took a while; at first I would feed them any time I saw them, even up high on a light pole. Now I wait for them to swoop me.

My avatar here is one of those work crows.

Sometimes after an unpleasant work meeting or something they find me as, tired and grumpy, I'm leaving my building. They never fail to make me laugh, and to turn around my mood.

I've never received trinkets from crows, but they've still given me more than I've given them.

Then there are fledglings! If crows trust you, they will introduce you to their young ones.

Nothing is better.


Crows are also loyal and brave.

Please do not piss them off because they hold grudges — and share these grudges with their brethren.

Which brings me to a warning.

Tempting as it can be, under no circumstances should you use the instructions I’ve provided here to assemble your own personal arm of crows to carry out acts of unspeakable evil—or even to wage justified campaigns of retribution against your enemies.

Crows are wise birds, and they will catch own quickly. Once your crow army realizes that your seeming friendship is merely an instrumental ploy to harness their power to your own ends, may God help you—for I cannot.

So that's pretty much it. It's relatively easy to befriend crows, and it's endlessly rewarding. I hope that a few of you are able to make crow friends of your own, and I look forward to hearing about your adventures with them.

—Carl Bergstrom, Seattle WA, 12/24/2022

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