Driving along a country road, I noticed a group of American Crows (Corvus brachrhynchos) hanging out together in the bare branches of a tree and stopped to snap this photo. They are quite likely family members, mom, dad and the kids. Crows often breed cooperatively. Young crows may stay with their parents and serve as helpers at their parents’ nest when they are yearlings or two-year-olds. This experience may represent a sort of apprenticeship, as young birds watch their parents construct a nest, brood eggs and learn what is appropriate to feed nestlings. At night, crow families get together with other crows in the area at a communal roost where they congregate. If you watch for crows in the evening, near dusk, you may see groups of crows all flying toward the same point, their night time roost. For more on crows, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Crows are corvids, members of the Corvidae family, along with ravens, magpies and jays. Corvids are noted for their often-amazing intelligence. If you have read Aesop’s Fables, you may remember the story of the thirsty crow who found a pitcher containing a small amount of water. She couldn’t reach the water with her beak. She cleverly dropped pebbles into the pitcher until the level of the water had been raised sufficiently to allow her to drink. It turns out Aesop’s fable is no tall tale. A study of rooks conducted at Cambridge University demonstrated that the birds were readily able to figure out how to raise the water level in a cylinder with a floating worm sufficiently to allow them to grab the treat. You can watch a video of the rook at work here.