Carrion Crow

carrion crow
小嘴乌鸦 (xiǎozuǐ wūyā)
Corvus corone
50 cm

The bird most people have in mind when they think about crows, the carrion crow has two disjunct populations on the western and eastern ends of Eurasia. The eastern subspecies, orientalis, has a substantial presence in China, breeding in the Tianshan in Xinjiang and thence east across northern China, with the southern limit of its breeding range crossing northern Qinghai and dipping south to northern Sichuan and northeastward to Hebei. In winter, some birds migrate south to southern and southeastern China. A supremely adaptable, intelligent, omnivorous scavenger, the carrion crow is found in the largest urban areas, around stands of trees outside villages and near agricultural land, and in open woodland. Eats wide array of fruits and cereals as well as animal items, both invertebrate and vertebrate (including nestlings and birds’ eggs). Gathers in large roosts, especially in winter, often foraging with large-billed crows. Plumage, feet, eye, and stout bill black, the plumage on the upperparts usually showing a metallic blue gloss, and the base of the upper mandible covered with bristly feathers. Juvenile has looser, sootier (almost brown) plumage. Juvenile distinguished from juvenile rook by smoother slope to crown and by thicker, blunter bill with more decurved culmen. Large-billed crow has an even thicker, dagger-like bill with an even more pronounced arch to its culmen and a more distinctly peaked forehead. Very noisy. Angry, grating “caw-caw-caw-caw” easily recognizable, even by non-birders. — Craig Brelsford


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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