The Carrion Crow


A large black bird that feeds on the carcasses of beasts

Dr Samuel Johnson


I didn’t think this shot would work. My little Kodak EasyShare was on maximum 5x zoom. But when I looked at the image on screen, I decided it was worth posting. It anyway illustrates an important fact about carrion crows. They are very hard to sneak up on, which is why I couldn’t get any closer and take a better shot.

The next second it was gone, flying off with its guttural ‘kraaar’ call.

Carrion crows are solitary birds unless, that is, they have a mate. This one does have a consort. The pair’s territory includes Windmill Hill, the Linden Field and Townsend Field behind our house; at least this is where I see them foraging together. They are usually a little way apart, rooting  through the grass. They are also notorious egg thieves and snatchers of poultry and pheasant poults, and so are much despised by country folk in general, and game keepers in particular.

When separated, the crows call one to the other. The single ‘kraaar’ that echoes through the trees, or across the fields. It is  a melancholy sound, but also a wake-up call. I find myself instantly responding, scanning the landscape, tuning in to its resonance. What’s going on out there?  Perhaps I have crows in my ancestry.

These birds are very clever. In nest-building season they perch in the tops of trees and watch where the other birds are building their nests.  They also, as their name and Dr Johnson suggests, eat dead animals. Well somebody has to clean up the environment.

You can tell them apart from rooks by their longer, sleeker profile. Rooks are altogether shaggier with a long, greyish bill and a face-patch. Rooks of course hang out in crowds, some of their rookeries being known to have several thousand nests.

But all in all, I like the crows best. They teach me to be watchful.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell