Animal of the Month
July 2019

Name: Corvids

Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Corvoidea
Family: Corvidae
Number of Genera: 26
Number of Species: Over 120

Size: 9 to 26 inches long.
Weight: 0.09 to 3 pounds.

Most species are black or blue; some are black and white or iridescent purple. Tropical species are colorful.
Behavior: Migratory, travels in large schools.
Preferred Habitat: Most live in open forests, scrublands or grasslands.
Range: Found across the world except for southern South America, the Polar Regions and several islands.
Diet: Invertebrates, seeds, berries, carrion, small mammals and nestlings.


Status: Most species are Least Concern or Near-threatened. Some are classed as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. At least one is Extinct in the Wild.

What do crows, ravens, jays and magpies have in common? They're all corvids! The family of Corvidae is a group of birds that contains 26 genera and over 120 species. These intelligent birds are found on every continent on Earth as well as a few islands, the exceptions being Antarctica and southern South America.

Corvids are a diverse breed of bird. These birds include famous animals like crows, ravens, jays and magpies. Lesser-known corvids include choughs, treepies, piapiacs, and others. Corvids can be found in almost any sort of climate and most species do not migrate. Corvids are social birds and often form large groups, some of which are built around complex social structures. The diet of corvids vary from species-to-species, though it can be generally said that most corvids like to eat seeds, fruits, small mammals, nestlings, invertebrates and carrion. Some species actively hunt for other birds. Some corvid species, namely crows, ravens and jays, have learned to eat human food found in places such as campgrounds. Remember: it may be fun to feed wild animals, but doing so actually hurts their natural instincts to find food. Never feed human food to wild corvids, or any animals for that matter!

More than their resilience, corvids are known for being uncommonly intelligent. Traditionally, farmers used a tall man built of sticks and straw called a scarecrow to, as the name suggests, scare crows away from crops. Ironically, it was not long before crows figured out the ruse and began to use scarecrows as a perch! Studies have shown that corvid brain-to-body ratio is about the same as great apes and cetaceans, being slightly less than that of humans! Corvids have consistently been found to outperform mammals in experiments requiring animals to use clues to find food. They have also been shown to possess powerful memories and reasoning abilities; for example, a crow in England was found placing nuts in the street so cars could crack them open for him! Other corvids have been shown to work together to find food; even to the point of lifting garbage can lids for one-another! Some corvid species have been documented playing games by balancing or passing sticks. They've even been observed playing games that resemble follow-the-leader and king of the mountain!

Like all birds, corvids build nests and lay eggs. The bond between parents is strong, and some corvids will even mate for life. Males and females work together to build nests out of twigs on ledges or in trees. Sometimes other individuals will help the breeding pair build the nest. The female will lay 3-10 eggs and will brood them for 6-10 weeks depending on the species. Both parents help to feed the young after they hatch.

Most corvid species have stable populations. In fact, some species of corvid have actually increased due to human development! This is because animals like crows have learned to find extra food at places like campgrounds. Some species of corvids however are becoming increasingly threatened. The White-winged magpie, found in Southeast Asia, is endangered, and the Andaman treepie is considered vulnerable. The Hawaiian crow (corvus hawaiiensis) is currently extinct in the wild, but the species is being bred in captivity and reintroduction programs are underway. Other species are also threatened; the main threats being invasive species and habitat loss. Despite this, there is cause for optimism. Between the corvids' fascinating wit and the organizations fighting to protect them, it is safe to say that the future for threatened corvid species is bright.

To learn more about these inquisitive birds, check out these awesome sites:

Ranker.com: "16 Unnerving Facts About Corvids Most People Don't Know"-Here is more information on the remarkable intelligence of corvids!

Science Friday, "Bringing Back an Endangered Crow"-Here is a radio seg-ment about the plight, and future, of the Hawaiian crow (transcript included).


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