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American Crow Diet & Hunting Techniques

One would be hard pressed to name all of the different types of food that American Crows consume. The diet of these omnivorous birds runs the gamut —  small birds, bird eggs and nestlings, tadpoles, frogs and toads, snakes, turtles, small mammals, fish, insects, clams, nuts, fruits and carrion.

Crows use a number of techniques in obtaining their food. They find most of it as they’re walking on the ground, occasionally they probe just under its surface.  You often see them lifting and flipping leaves, cow pies, sticks and small stones to see what creatures live beneath them.  Crows have also been known to stand belly-deep in water as they hunt for fish. In addition, they sometimes hunt from a perch, pouncing on prey they see, and catch flying insects and small birds on the wing. Crows have even been observed using “tools” such as pieces of wood to probe for insects.

If their prey is large, crows will place it under one or both feet and tear pieces off with their bill (see pictured American Crow with road-killed Eastern Chipmunk it retrieved).

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19 responses

  1. Kit

    Huh. I didn’t think anything ate toads!

    March 30, 2020 at 11:12 am

  2. Betsy stewart

    They sure love my compost donations

    March 30, 2020 at 11:15 am

    • Tamson

      Mine, too!

      March 30, 2020 at 11:24 am

  3. I had no idea they ate so much stuff.


    March 30, 2020 at 11:15 am

    • Cecelia Blair

      Once early one in my food sharing with them, I left out some apple pieces. I also was daily filling warm water in a dish to drink, as it was winter and very cold. They loved the warm water. But the apple pieces–one crow threw one (disdainly, I believe) in the water dish and another one just tossed the next piece off in the snow as far as it could throw. That was the last time I insulted them with apples.

      March 30, 2020 at 8:18 pm

  4. Alice

    That’s quite a variety of food! We have several around here, I hope they stay, I love their cawing. One time I heard their ‘alarm call,’ looked outside & saw a Red Fox walk through the backyard.Bird story: Last Friday, my daughter & grand daughter & I were walking near here. When we came to the open field, a huge bird was circling & came so close & low, that we could see the beautiful, shiny brown feather pattern on the back of the Turkey Vulture.

    March 30, 2020 at 11:31 am

  5. Cecelia Blair

    I feed a family of crows in the backyard–meat scraps, sometimes a little cheese, and when I have nothing, I make a peanut butter sandwich and break it up. These are much appreciated, and when not forthcoming, one of the crows may swoop past the window, if I am upstairs, or march around in front of the kitchen window if I am there.

    When in San Francisco, I fed some crows many blocks away, and the next morning had one marching around outside outside the window behind which I sat. In other words, if you feed them, they will quickly find out where you live!

    Still they are always cagey and careful, and do not like to be approached or even watched when taking their meal. A lifted camera through the window may disperse them. And one is always in a lookout position off the ground, on guard.

    I love them for all of this–admire them greatly!

    March 30, 2020 at 11:32 am

  6. I have a threesome of crows I have been feeding roadkill, chicken carcasses and other scraps. One of the three has an injured leg, I think it must have broken its leg at some point and it healed with the leg crooked. This crow cannot hold the food with one leg in order to tear the meat off with its beak. So one of the other two crows will hold the meat with their leg and that way the crow with the injured leg can feed. I love my crows here. Nice to see this post!

    March 30, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    • Alice

      That’s a really awesome story of helping a buddy. They are so smart!

      March 30, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    • Fascinating!!!

      March 30, 2020 at 1:44 pm

  7. John Jose

    This morning I watched a crow flying with a stick to what I assume is a nesting sight on a hillside overlooking downtown Montpelier.

    March 30, 2020 at 1:35 pm

  8. Dean

    Great photo! Interesting eye color – crows usually have dark eyes – is this blue a result of the light when you took the photo?

    March 30, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    • The eye color in this photo was not accurate!

      March 30, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    • Dean Greenberg

      Thanks Mary for your response. I thought maybe tis crow was visiting the cormorant’s ophthalmologist.
      P.S. Sure going to miss you when you are on the other side of the state. Hopefully your blog will continue.

      March 31, 2020 at 12:01 pm

  9. Suzanne Whiting

    No need to send it. I received it this am. I have been a follower of Mary Holland for years. I took two courses with her as an advisor in the field work we did. Her column comes to me three times a week..she is quite a character and very knowledgable. fyi- our iphone is 603 667-0598 which is the same as our flip phone was. Gloomy day. Maybe some snow tonight. I want sunshine!!!

    Sent from my iPad


    March 30, 2020 at 3:59 pm

  10. Krista Willett

    I wonder what the crows think of all the people all of a sudden acting differently. A lady that I clean for has been watching, over there last month, squirrels nip Maple branches and then come by and lick the dripping sap. Is this common?


    On Mon, Mar 30, 2020, 10:52 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: ” One would be hard pressed to name all of the > different types of food that American Crows consume. The diet of these > omnivorous birds runs the gamut — small birds, bird eggs and nestlings, > tadpoles, frogs and toads, snakes, turtles, small mammals, fi” >

    March 31, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    • Hi Krista, Perhaps not common, but it happens often enough that it’s a well known phenomenon. Great fun to see!

      April 3, 2020 at 10:48 am

  11. Very Interesting! I love our local crows! I know we have a few individual families that live and/or visit around here! They have their little gangs I call them and they call out to each other sometimes it seems to me like competing clicks! They truly are something! They like the peanuts in the bird food mix the best!

    April 1, 2020 at 2:41 am

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