Clever Crows

From time to time we see the clever antics of birds and animals featured on television programmes. These birds and animals have usually been trained to do these clever, sometimes cute tricks.

In their natural state birds can be even smarter. The humble crow has long been known here in Australia as being very cunning, often stealing eggs from domestic fowl sheds, much to the annoyance of the owners of the home chooks.

A report from The Times Online service states these interesting things about crows and their cleverness:


  • Crows have been seen stealing rubber from windscreen wipers to line their nests
  • Some drop nuts and clams on to hard surfaces to break their shells
  • Others place nuts in front of the tyres of stopped vehicles and wait for the cars to run them over and crack the shells
  • Some use leaves as a tool to extract insects from trees

    Debbie has left an interesting comment. I decided to copy it into the main body of the text here:

    There is a golf course across the road from my block, when I moved in I thought the local golfers were very poor shots as there were heaps of golf balls on my block, I used to pick them up & give them back to the golf club & thats when I learnt about ‘crow eggs’ – it seems the crows steal the balls thinking they are eggs & drop them from height to break them. They have been known to swoop in & take the ball while the game is in play. Daft buggers!

    Thanks for that Debbie


    15 Responses to “Clever Crows”

    1. Crow Amazed says:

      We watched a crow today land on our mailbox (faux wooden stump) and pull out a letter from amoungst a pile and fly off with it. The envelope was white with a stamp and a yellow address change sticker but nothing out of the ordinary.
      The crow flew next door holding the envelope and then flew to the telephone pole where it started to attempt to “open it?” rip it. It lost it’s grip and the letter fell to the ground.
      Turns out it was junk mail anyway!

    2. Trevor says:

      What an amusing incident to observe. I wonder if we can train these birds to remove only the junk mail from our letter boxes? There could be quite a niche market for these specially trained junk interceptors.

    3. Rick H says:

      I’ve been to Australia four times. I was just discussing how beautiful it was to see cockatiels flying about in flocks in the wild. I had brought up the fact that Australian crows seem to be much louder than their American counterparts. Dont know if that was just the sound dynamics of the area I was in (Kings Cross) of if this held true for all of them. I began looking for pics of of the black & white colored crows I saw while there but dont seem to be able to locate any online. Do you have any on your site or could you mail me a pic or two.


      Rick Hancock
      Seattle, USA

    4. Trevor says:

      Hi there Rick.

      Welcome to my blog – sorry for the delay in replying.

      Not sure about the sound dynamics of crows and ravens in Australia – they all seem loud to me. I haven’t experienced birding in America (yet) so I can’t make comparisons. They are certainly louder than the Common Crow and the House Crow of Asia (in Thailand and Nepal).

      There are no black and white crows or ravens in Australia. I think you must be referring to one of the following species: Pied Currawong, Grey Currawong, White Winged Chough or even perhaps the Australian Magpie. Do a search for those species here on my site to see photos.

    5. D Broker says:

      Crow behavior in the mountains of Virginia ….. flying off with full bars of Irish Spring soap that had been placed around spring plantings as a deer repellent. Repelled the deer but attracted crows! (And this soap has such a strong perfume! How could crows possible eat it?)

      • Claire in Quebec says:

        I have the same problem this year! This is the first reference of this problem I have found on the Internet! I have been using Irish Spring shavings successfully for a few years to keep dear away from hostas and daylilies especially. But this year, I noticed the shavings were all gone the next day! I tried grating the soap with a cheese grater, and these much smaller pieces disappeared too! I finally saw a crow picking up a piece and flying off with it! I then tied larger soap chunks to paint stirrers with cheesecloth and stuck them in the ground. Most survived over 2 days (so far) but one was tipped over and the soap pecked out of the cheesecloth! Besides wrapping the soap in steel wool, I don’t know what else to do!! How did you resolve the problem?

    6. Trevor says:

      How bizarre!

      Then again, I am constantly amazed at stories like this one – birds (and animals) do some really strange things at times.

      They haven’t set up a soap store somewhere have they?

      Seriously though, there must be something in the perfume or the scent or even the shape that attracts them. Have you actually seen them eating it?

    7. Paulette says:

      We have a family of crows that have moved in very recently and it is destroying our sleep. Not just ours but our neighbours. We now have our own early morning alarm from 5:50 am our new friends start cawing. It is getting beyond a joke. Is this due to mating? Can we anticipate that they will move on in the near future or are we stuck with them?
      What can we do? Do we befriend them (I have heard they are very intelligent) or scare them off?
      We were out the front and the 2 of the waddled from the footpath around into our yard it was rather amusing, it was like they were welcomed to come and visit, but the morning wake up calls are not amusing!!
      Your advice if any would be fantastic.

    8. Trevor says:

      Welcome to my birding blog, Paulette. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment – even if it was a comment resulting from frustration.

      We had a similar experience with Little Ravens last year. They kept banging on our bedroom window at 5:30am. They have very solid beaks – not only was it annoying – I was worried about the glass breaking. (Not to mention loss of sleep). You can read about that experience here:

      It is possibly related to breeding. Or they might just think that it is time for you to get up. You could try chasing them away – but that could turn into a game. Besides – that means getting out of bed. Not sure what the solution is. The problem might well go away after breeding season is over in a month or two.

    9. Cain says:

      Ha! very interesting to come across this discussion, bit of a laugh too. for our American friend, Magpies are incredibly cheeky and sociable and I’ve no doubt you’ve encountered them smugly checking you for potental food or amusement.

      Paulette – I’ve both a family of magpies and crows living around my house, they’ve picked me as a perfect dupe and we get along quite well, the most bother they now cause is when the two families fight each other(it’s like shakespear but noisier). Though the crows were quite annoying when they first moved in (same bloody early alarm) All I can suggest is that it’s better to be friendly than otherwise. Crows are refreshingly frank about their selfishness and I essentially bribe mine, giving them scraps of meat and sharing my lunch (if I dont they’ll sneak up and nick the sandwich out of my hands)Whenever I’ve heard of someone trying to scare away crows it never really works, they may keep their distance, but only when your on the lawn waving a rake and ranting in insomniatic delirium. They still nick my chooks eggs, but not many and by I simply go out and give the magpies some salami whenever the crows play up. If there is one thing crows respond to it’s salami. After they learnt I was an easy source of deliciously processed protein my rake-waving disaproval of their antics started to take effect. not sure if it was the rake or the witholding of salami but they soon started spending the mornings (relatively)quietly surveying the house waiting for lunch.

      I’m afraid you’re probably stuck with them for some time, they’re long lived birds and rather stubborn. However much like a flying mafia its easiest to just pay them off.
      Best of luck.

    10. diane says:

      Has anyone heard of birds stealing ear defenders left on the lawn?

    11. Trevor says:

      Some birds are notorious for “borrowing” objects left lying around by humans. The Bowerbird species of Australia are the chief offenders here. They will collect all sorts of colourful objects to decorate the bower in order to attract a mate. These objects can be clothes pegs, pieces of plastic, bottle tops, bit off toys, broken pieces of glass etc.

      Other species will collect all sorts of objects to add to the nest, or just out of curiosity. An examination of any old nest is sure to turn up something surprising.

      Having said all the above, no – I haven’t heard of a bird stealing ear defenders before. I’d say they’d make a very attractive addition to the decor of any bird’s nest. But wouldn’t they be rather large and hard to carry off? Could it have been a dog who was the culprit?

    12. Debbie says:

      I have a demented crow! I am happy to be woken at 5.30am by the calls of the birds & I have lots of them, but I just can’t handle the ‘demented one’ & thankfully there is only one. This crow has a problem with anything shiny, be it my windows or the metal of the chimney. The other birds don’t particualy like him/her either. This bird fly’s into my windows / chimney at full force to the extent that it hits so hard that it poops on my verandah & will continually hit the window until it stuns itself or I go out & chase it away or the willy wag tails chase it away. I would use the old rabbit trap & egg trick if I believed that I wouldnt harm anything else. Does anyone have a suggestion, he/she drives me insane!

      On a lighter side, there is a golf course across the road from my block, when I moved in I thought the local golfers were very poor shots as there were heaps of golf balls on my block, I used to pick them up & give them back to the golf club & thats when I learnt about ‘crow eggs’ – it seems the crows steal the balls thinking they are eggs & drop them from height to break them. They have been known to swoop in & take the ball while the game is in play. Daft buggers!

    13. Trevor says:

      Hi there Debbie. Thanks for stopping by and relating your experiences. They certainly can be annoying – see my comment #9 above.

      And they can be very clever – there must a few frustrated, angry, puzzled golfers near your place.

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