American Crows are familiar over much of the continent: large, intelligent, all-black birds with hoarse, cawing voices. They are common sights in treetops, fields, and roadsides, and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers. They usually feed on the ground and eat almost anything – typically earthworms, insects and other small animals, seeds, and fruit but also garbage, carrion, and chicks they rob from nests. Their flight style is unique, a patient, methodical flapping that is rarely broken up with glides.
Crows are crafty foragers that sometimes follow adult birds to find where their nests are hidden. They sometimes steal food from other animals. A group of crows was seen distracting a river otter to steal its fish, and another group followed Common Mergansers to catch minnows the ducks were chasing into the shallows. They also sometimes follow songbirds as they arrive from a long migration flight and capture the exhausted birds. Crows also catch fish, eat from outdoor dog dishes, and take fruit from trees.
Raven vs Crow
Ravens are generally larger than crows and have much larger and more curved beaks. Another way to tell the two apart without seeing them up close is by their sounds. The American Crow makes a “Caw” sound, whereas the Common Raven makes a deeper croaking sound. In additiona, Ravens tend to move in pairs whereas their Crow counterparts travel in large flocks. Ravens tend to glide more, whereas crows flap their wings a lot more when flying around. Similar to the Common Raven, American Crows are found across Alberta in both urban and rural areas, and have similar nesting sites atop power poles and tall trees. As well, Crows are very intelligent creatures and are also very adaptable to different and changing environments. Crows are known for eating roadkill, berries, seeds, and even garbage.
American Crows are highly adaptable and will live in any open place that offers a few trees to perch in and a reliable source of food. Regularly uses both natural and human created habitats, including farmland, pasture, landfills, city parks, golf courses, cemeteries, yards, vacant lots, highway turnarounds, feedlots, and the shores of rivers, streams, and marshes. Crows tend to avoid unbroken expanses of forest, but do show up at forest campgrounds and travel into forests along roads and rivers. Avoids deserts.
American Crows eat a vast array of foods, including grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, and many kinds of small animals such as earthworms and mice. They eat many insects, including some crop pests, and also eat aquatic animals such as fish, young turtles, crayfish, mussels, and clams. A frequent nest predator, the American Crow eats the eggs and nestlings of many species including sparrows, robins, jays, terns, loons, and eiders. Also eats carrion and garbage.
American Crows are highly social birds, more often seen in groups than alone. In addition to roosting and foraging in numbers, crows often stay together in year-round family groups that consist of the breeding pair and offspring from the past two years. The whole family cooperates to raise young. Winter roosts of American Crows sometimes number in the hundreds of thousands. Often admired for their intelligence, American Crows can work together, devise solutions to problems, and recognize unusual sources of food. Some people regard this resourcefulness and sociality as an annoyance when it leads to large flocks around dumpsters, landfills, and roosting sites; others are fascinated by it. American Crows work together to harass or drive off predators, a behavior known as mobbing.
American Crows congregate in large numbers in winter to sleep in communal roosts. These roosts can be of a few hundred up to two million crows. Some roosts have been forming in the same general area for well over 100 years. In the last few decades some of these roosts have moved into urban areas where the noise and mess cause conflicts with people.
Credit facts and photos : https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Crow/overview
Black-billed Magpies are familiar and entertaining birds of western North America. They sit on fenceposts and road signs or flap across rangelands, their white wing patches flashing and their very long tails trailing behind them. This large, flashy relative of jays and crows is a social creature, gathering in numbers to feed at carrion. They’re also vocal birds and keep up a regular stream of raucous or querulous calls. Both crows and magpies are resourceful and learn quickly. They are able to mimic the calls of other birds.
Black-billed Magpies live among the meadows, grasslands, and sagebrush plains of the West. Their nesting territories often follow stream courses. Though they like open areas and are not found in dense woods, they stay close to cover for protection from raptors. Magpies don’t avoid human development, often spending time near barnyards, livestock areas, and grain elevators where they have ready access to food.
Like other corvids (members of the jay and crow family), Black-billed Magpies have a wide-ranging diet. They eat wild fruit and grain, as well as grasshoppers and beetles that they find while foraging on the ground (they sometimes find beetles by flipping cow dung). They also kill small mammals such as squirrels and voles, and raid birds’ nests. Carrion is also a main food source, as are the fly maggots found in carrion. Sometimes they steal meat from the kills of coyotes and foxes. Magpies also land atop large animals, such as cows or moose, and pick ticks off them. When they find an abundant food source, magpies will cache food for short periods.
On the wing, Black-billed Magpies make long, sweeping flights with white flashes of their wing patches and long, trailing tails. They perch at the tops of trees, which is a means of visually establishing their territory, the equivalent of other bird species’ songs. Magpies walk with a swaggering strut. They sometimes gather in flocks, even seemingly living communally, and will band together to mob a raptor. In groups, males establish dominance through a stretch display: raising the bill in the air and flashing their white eyelids. They also show aggression with their wings, flickering or quivering them to display the white wing patches; and tails spreading, quivering, or flicking their elongated tail feathers. During courtship they also use a tail-spreading display. Black-billed Magpies mate for life. The female initiates the pair bond by begging for food from the male, which begins courtship feeding. During breeding, the male stands guard near the female to reduce the chance she’ll mate with another male (which does occur). One of the most notable Black-billed Magpie behaviors is the so-called “funeral”—when one magpie discovers a dead magpie, it begins calling loudly to attract other magpies. The gathering of raucously calling magpies (up to 40 birds have been observed) may last for 10 to 15 minutes before the birds disperse and fly off silently.
The big, black-necked Canada Goose with its signature white chinstrap mark is a familiar and widespread bird of fields and parks. Thousands of “honkers” migrate north and south each year, filling the sky with long V-formations. But as lawns have proliferated, more and more of these grassland-adapted birds are staying put in urban and suburban areas year-round, where some people regard them as pests.
Some migratory populations of the Canada Goose are not going as far south in the winter as they used to. This northward range shift has been attributed to changes in farm practices that makes waste grain more available in fall and winter, as well as changes in hunting pressure and changes in weather.
Canada Geese live in a great many habitats near water, grassy fields, and grain fields. Canada Geese are particularly drawn to lawns for two reasons: they can digest grass, and when they are feeding with their young, manicured lawns give them a wide, unobstructed view of any approaching predators. So they are especially abundant in parks, airports, golf courses, and other areas with expansive lawns.
In spring and summer, geese concentrate their feeding on grasses and sedges, including skunk cabbage leaves and eelgrass. During fall and winter, they rely more on berries and seeds, including agricultural grains, and seem especially fond of blueberries. They’re very efficient at removing kernels from dry corn cobs. Two subspecies have adapted to urban environments and graze on domesticated grasses year round.
Canada Geese eat grain from fields, graze on grass, and dabble in shallow water by tipping forward and extending their necks underwater. During much of the year they associate in large flocks, and many of these birds may be related to one another. They mate for life with very low “divorce rates,” and pairs remain together throughout the year. Geese mate “assortatively,” larger birds choosing larger mates and smaller ones choosing smaller mates; in a given pair, the male is usually larger than the female. Most Canada Geese do not breed until their fourth year; less than 10 percent breed as yearlings, and most pair bonds are unstable until birds are at least two or three years old. Extra-pair copulations have been documented.
During spring, pairs break out from flocks and begin defending territories. Spacing of these pairs is variable and depends on availability of nest sites and population density; where population is large, even after a great many fights birds may end up nesting in view of one another, and some populations are semi-colonial.
Canada Goose threat displays may involve head pumping, bill opened with tongue raised, hissing, honking, and vibrating neck feathers. When an intruding goose doesn’t retreat, geese may grab each other by breast or throat and hit each other with their wings. Fighting may result in injuries.
Female selects nest site, builds nest, and incubates eggs. She may brood goslings in cold, wet, or windy weather and while they’re sleeping for first week after hatching. Male guards the nest while female incubates.
Soon after they hatch, goslings begin pecking at small objects, and spend most of their time sleeping and feeding. They remain with their parents constantly, though sometimes “gang broods” form, especially in more southern latitudes. These can include at least two broods, and sometimes five or more, that travel, feed, and loaf together, accompanied by at least one adult.
Young often remain with their parents for their entire first year, especially in the larger subspecies. As summer wanes birds become more social; they may gather in large numbers at food sources; where food is limited and patchy, may compete with displays and fights.
In winter, Geese can remain in northern areas with some open water and food resources even where temperatures are extremely cold. Geese breeding in the northernmost reaches of their range tend to migrate long distances to winter in the more southerly parts of the range, whereas geese breeding in southern Canada and the conterminous United States migrate shorter distances or not at all. Individuals tend to return to the same migratory stopover and wintering areas year after year. Spring migration may be difficult for observers to track because of over-wintering birds and movements between nighttime resting areas and feeding areas, but the bulk of spring migratory movements tend to move north behind the retreating snow line, where the temperature is averaging 35 degrees.
Migrating flocks generally include loose aggregations of family groups and individuals, in both spring and fall. Flights usually begin at dusk, but may begin anytime of day, and birds fly both night and day. They move in a V formation, with experienced individuals taking turns leading the flock.