Fish Crows: Fast Food Junkies!

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Fish Crow Eating French Fries
Fish Crow Eating French Fries

In our suburban Maryland yard, a pair of Fish Crows has nested each spring/early summer for the past few years. Many of the other birds are not that crazy about the Fish Crows. I understand they sometimes will eat the eggs and nestlings of other birds. So I do understand the animosity.

But even so, I must admit that I really like the Fish Crows. They are some of my favorite birds in the yard. They are smart and social and will sometimes interact with me (when food is involved) so I enjoy them and encourage them in the yard.

Something the Fish Crow Put in the Birdbath. Bread? Pizza? Who Knows?
Something the Fish Crow Put in the Birdbath. Bread? Pizza? Who Knows?

Fish Crows & Birdbaths

One of the quirkiest things that I see the Fish Crows do involves my birdbaths. I’ve currently got five of one type of another. Each year the Fish Crows pick one to be their special food soaking spot. In spring and early summer, you can never be quite sure what you will encounter in and around that birdbath, but the pair in my yard does seem to eat a lot of fast food!

A Chicken Bone Next to the Birdbath
A Chicken Bone Next to the Birdbath
Shredded Chicken (I think) Floating in the Birdbath
Shredded Chicken (I think) Floating in the Birdbath

There is a Burger King and a Dominoes Pizza about a quarter mile or so from our neighborhood. Other restaurants are just a little further off. I suspect the Fish Crows head over there to choose their food. Some items I’ve found floating include: bread, pizza, cheese, chicken meat and chicken bones and most recently, french fries.

(Note: Cornell Lab’s Bird Academy has a cool online class about crows called, Anything But Common; The Hidden Life of the American Crow. One section of the class that looks at the diet of suburban crows vs rural crows and how what they eat affects their young. Really interesting!)

Bread Floating in the Birdbath
Bread Floating in the Birdbath
French Fries in the Birdbath
French Fries in the Birdbath

They usually bring the food to the birdbath, typically picking the deepest birdbath available, dropping the food into the water. They’ll take a few sips of water and leave. A while later, they will come back and eat the food. Or they take it with them, heading to the back corner of the yard.

Fish Crow Soaking French Fries in the Birdbath
Fish Crow Soaking French Fries in the Birdbath

Sometimes they will only take some of it, coming back multiple times, apparently testing its doneness each time. Because this behavior happens during nesting season, my guess is that they are softening things up for their own nestlings.

Fish Crow on Bird Feeder Pole
Fish Crow on Bird Feeder Pole

Feeding Fish Crows

Fish Crows also like peanuts in the shell and suet. Fish Crows are too big to manage the feeders. But sometimes one will sit on top of the back yard shepherd’s hook pole where the suet feeders hang. It will make the nasal “Uh Uh” call. If I’m around, I will say “Uh Uh” back. Then, moving slowly, I put a few peanuts or a chunk of suet cake on the back step bench and retreat inside the house. 

Chunks of Suet on the Back Bench
Chunks of Suet on the Back Bench

The first few times I did this, the Fish Crow thought about it for a while, perched on a few different spots to scope things out from different angles. Then she swooped in to pick up the treat and flew back to the back corner of the yard. Over time, the Fish Crow(s) got more comfortable with my weird behavior and would usually fly over almost as soon as I shut the door. 

Fish Crow Scoping Out the Scene
Fish Crow Scoping Out the Scene

These Fish Crows are not greedy about it like Blue Jays, who will often amusingly try to stuff multiple peanuts into their beaks at a time. The Fish Crows, even with their bigger beaks, take one peanut or one chunk of suet. That usually satisfies them. I’ll leave a few more on the bench, but usually it’ll be the Blue Jays that finish them off.

The other day I saw four Fish Crows up in the trees in the back yard which I suspect means that the pair’s young crows have fledged. So the birdbaths will probably now be a bit cleaner . . . until next spring’s Fish Crow nesting begins again.

Do you have crows in your yard? What do you see them doing?

Nancie

Learn More About Crows:

All About Birds’ Fish Crow Page

Anything But Common: The Hidden Life of The American Crow (A Cornell Bird Academy Online Course.)

Learn More About Maryland Birds

See my post on Central Maryland Backyard Birds.


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