Crow Behavior Mystery

While down at the beach checking out the shorebirds, I happened to catch an odd sort of interaction between several crows. I was able to get three different ~1minute video clips and posted to youtube the one with the best light and sound, but the behavior in all three was essentially the same. The quiet mrow-ow sorts of sounds that occasionally are heard come from the crows, while the chittering is from the flock of shorebirds behind me. (Incidentally, I’ve been noticing that meowing call a lot more lately than I remember from before. Probably the most likely explanation is that I didn’t pay enough attention previously, but sometimes I wonder if they’re using it more than they used to.)

I have not seen anything quite like this, and have no idea what is going on here, but pretty much all the crows in the immediate vicinity seemed to be participating at some point (though they not all got involved in every dip). It sometimes seemed like they might be pairing off, other times maybe several were facing one in the middle. A couple of times I had the impression one bird might be leading things, but I can’t tell for sure.

While I do not know what’s going on for the crows, it’s fun to imagine that it’s some sort of social dance and/or ceremonial encounter.

I would be interested to hear if anyone else has observed this behavior (and in what context) and/or thoughts on what it might mean to/for the crows.

3 thoughts on “Crow Behavior Mystery”

  1. Hi Matt,

    I , too, have wondered what the crows are talking about when they coo, click, or do that ducking of heads dance and croon. Here in Seward I often see this “duck,puff, and coo” dance involving 2 or 3 crows. I do not recall ever seeing more than 3 participate at the same time. I see it year round so I do not think it is related to mating which is what I first thought; plus these crows mate for life. The way they puff up making the individuals appear larger leads me to wonder if it has something to do with establishing social standing, however, I have never seen it done in conjunction with any aggressive behavior. There is only one individual I can identify that is female and in 7 years I have never seen her engage in that behavior. I also do not think I have ever seen a juvenile participate. To summarize, I am clueless as to what the function of the interaction is 😀 !

    There is another ‘dance’ in which one or two individuals will click several times rapidly , duck the head, and coo as the indivdiual straightens up again. There is no ‘puffing up ‘. The coo begins with a low pitch and rises by almost an octave – or at least 5-6 notes. Sometimes I try to mimic the click and coo while doing the ‘duck’ and a crow will respond in kind. I have had ‘conversations’ that lasted several minutes with myself and a crow taking turns clicking, ducking and cooing. Pretty funny sight I’m sure. I can not imitate the clicking sound, but the crows seem to understand that I am trying lol.

    Unlike the loud caw-caw we all know and few love, I have read that the soft calls are intrafamilial . That holds true to my observations of our crow community. I hear these soft calls at some point nearly every time I am around the crows and suspect you just did not notice them as much before because the sounds are so quiet.

    I will be thrilled if someone figures out how to speak crow and can explain the dances!

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