(and advanced applications of crow vocal reproduction)
American crow vocalizations can be some of the easiest of all bird sounds to produce, but I’ve recently discovered that there are actually people out there who don’t know how to make a crow call.
So I’ve created this page to clear up this tragic issue and inspire people with all the knowledge you might need to caw like a crow anytime you so choose.
Then, later on this page we’ll dive into some advanced uses of your human generated crow call.
So let’s get started…
Firstly, there are two simple steps to crow calling excellence.
The following video is a demonstration of how to make the sound like a pro.
Now that you know how to caw like crow, there are also some more advanced applications that you can try out with your new-found crow calling abilities.
Long-Range Communication System
When you’re out in the woods, crow calls travel really far.
Using your own crow calling system can be a good alternative to yelling out human words as a way to communicate over long distances.
You can even decide ahead of time to ascribe different meanings to the various numbers of crow calls that you give.
1 caw means ‘Where are you?’
2 caws mean, ‘There’s something interesting over here’
3 caws mean, ‘Let’s meet at the trail Junction’
In the programs I did with Wilderness Awareness School we would use the crow call as a mechanism for gathering everyone together when it was time to meet up.
It was a great way to help people tune their ears & bring everyone together all at the same time.
Group Learning Activities
It can be a really fun and instructive exercise to get together with a group of people and spend some time vocally simulating the different types of behaviors that can be observed in groups of crows.
For example, you could practice exchanging companion calls down a line of people over very long distances, or work on accurately mimicking the various alarm calls made in different situations.
This is a great way to help people really start to understand bird language as it applies to crows in a very simple and intuitive manner.
It’s guaranteed that if you can reproduce the acoustic effects displayed by crows when mobbing an owl you will absolutely be able to recognize the sound when you hear it for real out in the field.
I also alluded in the video to the use of human generated crow calls to trick people into thinking there’s a crow in the area.
It can be fun to hide in the bushes and then give a call when someone walks by to see if they notice anything strange.
It’s usually better to do this with people you know, and who have a sense of humor.
Get out there and make some crow calls!
I’m sure there are more uses we can come up with for why a person might want to know how to make a crow call, but now at least you have everything you need to begin cawing with vigor and excellence.
Hi, thanks for all your info. I’ve been feeding a family of crows for a few months. They are rural crows, and very skittish! There seems to be one crow in particular whom is the first to come and last to leave. Sometimes I think he is telling his buddies, “it’s ok come on, here is food!” Yesterday, I was very excited at hearing for first time, cooing and clicks. It was also a very soft caw, thru it. It’s as if he was tired. Anyway, I hear stories of crows taking peanuts out of peoples hands. I wish mine could get to that point! Do you think rural crows are more skittish around people? Mine are rural, and they seem very skittish. Thankyou, Joni
Brian Mertins says
Yes, you will likely find that rural crows are more skittish than city crows. It also depends on the typical attitudes of local people towards crows.
Some people just really don’t like crows and will actively chase them away or do other types of aggression, so if you’re in a place like that, crows will generally be much less trusting of humans.
Thank you for posting so much excellent free information and insights here. You are very generous. I was on the Internet looking for information about what my local crows are saying and I can see that’s a topic that fascinates you also.
Are there ways to recognize individual crows besides just size difference? Once they loose their pink juvenile lips it’s hard to tell. Are the crows with “fluffier” heads the younger ones? From interaction with their parents I can see which are the juveniles, but I was curious if anything besides their behavior could tell me specifically if they are young, old, male, or female.
I am VERY lucky a crow couple raised their young high in a bay laurel bush in my yard in Seattle, WA. I’m wondering if the crows hanging out in my yard in November are likely the same family. Now that it’s autumn Seattle area crows have begun their morning and evening commutes to mass roosting areas. They begin flying to evening roost an hour or two before dark. Would they generally be back to their daytime territories shortly after dawn?
I like how you focus on practical bird language and everyday behaviors. Brian, thank you very much for sharing your insights and discoveries!
Also, do crows feel some obligation to call other crows if the amount of food they see available is greater than what the family of 1-4 can eat themselves? My landlords disapprove of me encouraging crows to linger by putting out many sized basins of drinking water and throwing peanuts (with and without shell) from my window to feed the crows.
I hope to just attract 1-4 crows, but if more come and they caw loudly my neighbors and landlords disapprove. I pick up the empty peanut shells when they are done to attract less attention from humans prejudiced against crows and their sounds.
Is there any amount of peanuts that would exceed what is healthy for crows to eat? Because they seem to alert at least a dozen crows no single crow eats that much. Also eventually the squirrels and Stellar’s jays often show up.
Brian, thanks again for all your research and time spent learning the wisdom of nature.
Janine in Seattle
Brian Mertins says
I wouldn’t be concerned about the crows overeating in any unhealthy way but it is possible to increase crow populations by making extra food available.
Cities in general already have a huge amount of food for crows, which is a big part of why their populations are so high in cities.
This can have unwanted effects on more vulnerable animals like songbirds experiencing nest predation from crows, or from humans who don’t like the noise.
If you find you’re attracting too many crows, the simplest solution is to put out less food. They will still come around, though it may be less often and for shorter periods.
I hope that helps!
Brian Mertins says
Sometimes individual crows will have little quirks in their appearance that makes them stand out, but generally it is going to be behavior cues that help you keep track of who is who.
As for the roost timing, yes the pattern will generally reverse in the morning so you can expect to see the crows returning shortly after dawn. However there might be some variation in terms of the exact timing. It could depend on things like weather or any number of different factors. The best thing is to keep an eye on the sky during those early hours and note what time you start seeing them.