What are the crows saying?

‘Cah! Cah! Cah! Cah!’ (And yes, I’m familiar with the crows that are being killed in Boston.) This is the call when I toss some unsalted peanuts in the shell or other goodies into the yard. (Crows make marvelous garbage disposals.) One (perhaps there’s only one or two in the trees) will call out, and I’m guessing it’s letting the rest of the flock know there’s good eats. Usually one a brave one or two will come down while I’m sitting on the patio, followed by some more when those see I’m not eating the first ones. But sometimes they’ll sit in the trees and launch into the Cah Cah Chorus. It doesn’t seem to be useful for them to signal there’s food, since they’re already there and can see it.

Also, what does the ‘rooooook!’ sound they make mean?

I don’t speak crow very well but I suspect if you see them on perched on telephone wires, they are making long distance caws.

This may help you understand the basics of their language though.

What gets me is they are the biggest birds in the yard by orders of magnitude and yet they are so skittish and easily scared off.

It amuses me that they are so easily frighted back into the trees by Mangey the Squirrel. I’m trying to get them to understand I’m not a threat, so I don’t throw the goodies out very far. The ones that are still parsing the message, but are braver than others, will sort of sidle up to the food so they can take off in a safe direction immediately.

Morgenstern: Thanks for the link. It didn’t really answer my question, but it was interesting nonetheless.

My experience is the opposite. They will sort of look at me sidewise, as if sizing me up, and then take off only after I make a sudden movement or get too close.

I fancy you are only using the expression “orders of magnitude” as some vague sort of emphatic device as using it in the correct manner would indicate that all the other birds weigh mere fractions of an ounce assuming even a large crow.

Oh Goodie!

We get to go from Pondering about Cat Speak to pondering Crow speak!

I’ll go with “Let rest of murder know” for the CAW-CAW noise bellowed.

The “Rook” is calling out to its cousin.

She’s not far off the mark, actually. A large American Crow can weigh up to 620 grams, a Northern Mockingbird is up to 58 grams, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher about 5 to 7 grams. So a crow can easily be two orders of magnitude heavier - that is, one hundred times the weight - than other common backyard birds, even without considering hummingbirds. A number of common birds weigh less than an ounce (28 grams).

They are counting.

“Winter is coming.”

There are several youtube vids on crow sound language. Iirc, cahcahcah meant: I’m keeping watch and no danger is in sight.

"Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

OK I know that crows and ravens are different, but I couldn’t help making the connection

They’re Caw-cusing, of course. Or maybe caw-cussing. That’s my collective noun for crows. Everyone likes to point out that a group of crows is called a Murder. It’s cute, but impractical. I like to refer to them as a Caucus of Crows. One morning outside I could hear a particularly noisy crow-fest going on, and I was told that a hawk had just nailed one of their members. They were all screaming bloody murder, outraged over this horrific attack. Over an hour later, a mile away at the park I took my dog to, they were still screaming at each other. Won’t someone think of the crow children?

They’re carefully weighing their chances of overwhelming you and feeding your bloated carcass to their young. So far the Noes have carried the cawcuss*. But the Ayes are gaining votes each time a few more arrive in the trees nearby.

[sub]With special thanks to Backwater Under Duck for a great new pun word.[/sub]


Well, according to Wikipedia:

Someone once told me (or I heard somewhere) that something like 99% percent of all the pretty birdsong we hear in the wild is either - this is my turf, stay the fuck out; or, hey ladies (or gentlemen), let’s fuck.

So it’s just birds all yelling at each other about their territory or mating.

Except it’s been documented that crows do have different calls that seem to mean different things, and they will call differently to their family groups than outside the group. Crows are the primates of the bird world, so don’t underestimate their mental abilities.

Here’s another one.

Imagine the sound a ratchet wrench makes. Lower the pitch to the crows’ range. It starts out at a lower pitch, rises, and then has a short lowering of the pitch at the end – sort of like a boatswain’s whistle, only with the ‘ratchet’ sound instead of a whistle and at a lower register.

Well played Sir. :wink: