Popular media hasn’t been kind to crows. Movies portray them as sinister beings, wiping out crops and coating the skies (think Hitchcock’s “The Birds”). Even a group of crows is called a murder! Yet, there’s more to these black birds than what meets the eye.
Crows belong to the Corvid family, with their closest relatives being ravens and magpies. Corvids aren’t the prettiest birds of the bunch, but they’re very social and intelligent—even befriending humans. Here, one can learn about how they can get into a crow’s good graces.
MIT Technology Review notes that crows can recognize faces, understand the concept of time, and even see value in items. There’s even a corner on TikTok where people show off their feathery friends for clout. But how does one befriend a crow?
Here are some things to know:
Have Reasonable Expectations
While crows can form loyal bonds with humans, it’s not at the same level as a cat or dog. That’s because people have spent thousands of years domesticating these creatures and training them to be companions. Crows don’t have that luxury. They’re relatively new to the human-animal interaction game. Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had when befriending a crow. Just don’t expect one to perch on the couch and watch TV.
Don’t Get Too Close
Just like with people, crows have their own distinct personalities. Some have no problem perching on a passersby’s shoulder and going along for the ride. Others are more aggressive by pecking, swooping, and squawking.
As with any wild animal, it’s best to keep one’s distance. Per Mayo Clinic, if one isn’t careful, they could accidentally inhale a crow’s droppings and develop histoplasmosis––a nasty airborne illness. They could also get scratched by a crow’s claws and get an infection.
Repetition and Patience Are Key
One can’t establish a meaningful “friendship” with a crow within a few minutes. It requires weeks of repeating similar behaviors that crows can identify. For instance, if a crow craves sunflowers seeds, one could put out a dish every day at 2 pm for a few weeks. This will train the crow to expect a treat during that period. Eventually, it’ll tell the rest of the flock, and then the party really starts.
Steps for Befriending a Crow
Ready to be the most popular person on the block? Here’s an easy way to befriend a crow and its friends:
Identify a Place Where Crows Gather
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife notes that crows generally roost in trees measuring 15 to 60 feet above the ground. They’re fond of coniferous and deciduous trees, like pines and spruces. It’s worth noting that crows are more active in some seasons than others.
Cornell University notes that crows are “primarily a fall and winter thing.” Once breeding season rolls around in spring, these birds are more concerned with raising chicks than making friends with humans. Ideally, one already has crows around their domicile. However, one may have to routinely go to a nearby park to find the ideal flock.
Learn What Food Crows Like
To really get a crow’s attention, one should offer high-value treats. These are foodstuffs that a crow likely can’t find on its own. For instance, a wild crow will routinely eat seeds and fruit. Yet, some crow lovers report that these birds “go wild” for ground beef and scrambled eggs. These high-value treats are more likely to get a crow’s attention and leave it wanting more.
Start Routinely Putting Food Out
Once one identifies where crows congregate (and the food they like), one should set a schedule and follow it. Crows generally feed early in the morning and again in the afternoon. One should assemble a plate of high-value food, along with a dish of water (crows love to dunk their food).
Then, they should lay out the spread and keep their distance as the crows feed. Eventually, the crows will recognize that the person isn’t a threat, empowering them to come closer and stop by frequently.
Continue This Routine
If all goes according to plan, one could befriend a crow in a matter of weeks. The two big things to remember are patience and repetition. There’s no rushing a friendship––especially when it involves a wild animal.
How Do I Get a Crow to Bring Me Stuff?
Stuart Dahlquist, a crow enthusiast, made headlines in 2019 when he announced something exciting: after years of feeding crows, one had brought him a gift for his generosity. It was a pull tab with a pine sprig threaded through the holes. A homemade gift! What was Dahlquist’s secret? Is he a natural-born crow whisperer?
Not quite. Audubon notes that while crows are among the Einsteins of the Animal Kingdom, offering gifts as a sign of appreciation is rare. Still, it’s not unheard of. One could potentially exchange birdseed for gifts by, as noted, regularly feeding, and interacting with crows. Eventually, the crows could feel compelled to leave something behind––although this isn’t guaranteed.
Safety Is Important
While crows are incredibly intelligent, they can also be incredibly vindictive––and there’s no telling how one can get on a crow’s “bad side.” Per National Public Radio (NPR), crows can hold grudges, scold passersby, and even divebomb those who come too close to their young.
That’s why it’s so important to keep one’s distance from a crow, even if they’ve fed it for years. Nobody wants to deal with the pain and uncertainty that comes from a peck or scratch. It’s always best to play it safe and remain aware of one’s surroundings.