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Zoology/Keeping crows


Followup To
Question -
Hi Walter,
I live in the United Kingdom and am interested in owning a crow as a pet. Could you tell me where I would be able to obtain one, advice on diet/grooming, and any useful advice on the cognitive/psychological processes of birds in relation to learning tasks.
Answer -
Hi Jonny:
Crows are among my favorite birds. I had a buddy when I was a kid who had a pet crow.  He found it injured and was able to tame it to a point. When I was about 12 I found an injured Blue Jay that I kept as a pet and fed. When it was able to fly again it would perch on my shoulder and wouls eek me when I came outside. Jays and crows are in the same Family.
As intelligence goes,ravens, crows. and jays are the smartest of all birds. They are very observant and cautious. They have great communicative skills with each other.  They are also thieves and nest robbers. It is very difficult to alter their instintive behavior patterns. Consequently you can make them companions but never a pet. Like cats they will do what they do whether you like it or not.
 Did you know they can count to five?  How we know is another story involving a scientific study that I can explain to you if you are interested. Let me know.
 Back to your question.  Personally I believe that wild animals do not make good pets.  But if you are determined I think you would have to get a very young one just out of a nestor an injured one that cannot fly Perhaps a pet shelter would have an injured one. I am unaware of the laws in England regarding keeping wild animals. Where I live in the state of Ohio you need a permit to keep them.
  As to the rest of your question:  They are great learners.  The are omnivores feeding mainly on grain, especially corn but will feed on road kill.  As for cognition They are probaly more cognative than most birds as they are dispised by many people and must be very alert to survive.
 Incidentally they are being decimated her in the states due to a virus called the West Nile which attacks crows and jays.
 I did now crows were common in Europe.  I thought Ravens were the only members of the Corvidae there.
  Let me know if you have any success.

Thanks for the reply, the intelligence of these animals appeals to me a great deal. I am aware of wild behaviour in the orient where birds of this family leave walnuts in the road for cars to crack. I've also seen some video footage where crows hook items from the bottom of tubes with bent pieces of wire- very impressive.

" Did you know they can count to five? How we know is another story involving a scientific study that I can explain to you if you are interested. Let me know."
I would be interested in more info on this subject, thanks.

" Consequently you can make them companions but never a pet. Like cats they will do what they do whether you like it or not."
One of the reasons I want a crow is that I lost my 3yr old cat several years ago. He was highly trained, intelligent( grasped the mechanics of hinges and other basic human technologies), and very vocal. He had such a wide range of intonation that it was close to a language, and could make himself understood to strangers in a couple of hours, who were attentive enough to appreciate it...

...Anyway! My point is that although some types of animal will primarily do what they want, that behaviour can be modified once they realise you have what they want namely food, shelter and affection.  

I have made enquiries regarding the legality, and will be contacting animal sanctuaries soon. Should all else fail I do know people who are willing to aquire nestlings for me- but that means waiting 'til April. Naturally I have some qualms about taking birds from nests, but the animal will still be free and its standard of life drastically improved (or at least its chances of survival).
I look forward to hearing from you again,

The crow counting study was conducted at Ohiio State Univ many years ago.  Researches built a shed in the middle of a field and left a lot of corn between the woods and the shed.  When the crows got used to feeding in the field they sent men carrying guns from the woods to the shed.  the crows of course fled to the woods when the hunters came.   Three hunters would go into the shed and two would go back to the woods.  The crows knew there was still one in the shed.  When he left they returned to the corn.  Next 4 hunters went into the shed and the crows retreated.  When 3 left the crows still did not return. 5 hunters were used with the same results. Until 5 left the shed the birds still stayed in the woods.  Finally 6 hunters went into the shed and if 5 left the shed the crows thought that they had all left.  In fact they sent up to ten hunters out but if the crows saw 5 return they thought thaye all returned.  Conclusion: Crows can only count to five.  It should be mentioned that the hunters had to go in single file so they could be counted.  If the birds are confused they will not go into the field.

 As to nest robbing you might to get a crow egg and hatch it. As you might know birds imprint and the first thing they see after hatching will be perceived as their mother.  This is a characteristic in chickens and migratory waterfowl.
  Good luck in finding your bird.


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Walter Hintz


I can answer questions about both vertebrate and invertebrate zoology. I am an expert in animal behavior, especially birds.


I have taught for over 50 years. I teach college biology courses and I have led tours to the Galapagos Islands and the Belize rain forest

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