January 2014 Bird Photo of the Month

First date – I don’t know about this © Milton Heiberg
American Crow (Corvus ossifragus

Crows, like many birds, are more vocal when they begin earnest mating rituals in February and March.  The male American Crow on the right, slightly larger, is the ardent pursuer. This female seems reluctant, doesn’t she?  Being all black, it is very difficult to take good photographs of crows, yet Milton Heiberg, with a Canon EOS 40D f/5.6 at 1/90 msec., Comp. +2.0 and Canon EF500mm f/4L IS USM lens, has excellently captured these two, meaningfully relating to each other.  Note their ragged, worn and faded tails and the holes in the female’s primary wing feathers. Crows molt in the summertime when they shed old feathers to allow new growth, so these tail feathers were likely six-months old when this photo was taken in March.

Though crows are very smart tool users and advanced problem solvers, nonetheless humans hunt crows: permitted in Florida from May 10-January 19 on Saturdays and Sundays, no limit.  The federal bird-banding office found, of 61 Fish Crow bands returned (1934-1997), 79% came from birds that had been shot.

Fish Crows are named not for their fishing expertise, but for living mainly along coastal and river waters eating carrion, crabs, marine invertebrates but primarily a predator of eggs of many bird and turtle species. They are also opportunistic omnivores eating seeds, berries, grapes, acorns, as well as picnic scraps and landfill waste.  They are endemic to the United States living only along the eastern coasts and rivers whereas the American Crow usually occurs coast to coast and in Canada.  Florida has more Fish Crows than anywhere else, because of our extensive coastline. The only reliable way to distinguish a Fish Crow from the American Crow is its more nasal voice.  Ask a Fish Crow, “Are you an American Crow?” They will answer “unh-unh”, not “caw, caw” as the American Crow would answer. So listen carefully!  This photo was taken in the Everglades where one might expect Fish Crows in the plentiful waters surrounding. However, where this photo was taken no Fish Crows have been reported on ebird.org, only American Crows. So this turns out to be an American Crow!  

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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