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Jack Reinhardt Discusses His Observations of Crow Behavior at UHeights

Inspired by University of Washington Professor John Marzluff's experiments and research into crow behavior, I have been undertaking an informal project in repetitious crow feeding at University Heights (DV #1). Since 08/02/22, I have fed crows raw sunflower seeds (DV #2) on a week-daily basis.

In that time frame, some crows have become expectant of seeds-- flying to, landing nearby, then glancing with a crooked head, when I am completing tasks on campus grounds, waiting for their seeds. The seed-expectant crows are in the minority, most crows swoop in for their seeds post-facto, rather than before.Up to two dozen crows have gathered for feedings. Whereas there is never more than two or three crows glaring at me expectantly for seeds. Additionally, crows will bicker over food, call other crows over to food, and are generally social with each other and other birds.

These processes have been documented daily with photographs. Trust between myself and some crows has been slowly built, but they are always cautious and on-guard.

General Findings:

  • Crows, while not fearful of me personally (generally speaking), become more frightened when carrying large objects such as tools, garbage bags, and buckets.

  • Sudden movements such as dramatic over-hand tosses of seeds startle them far more than subtle, under-hand tosses.

  • Crows are often extremely apprehensive about approaching food when making eye contact. I often have to turn away before crows go to their food.

  • Crows are intelligent and social. They know the food they want. They enjoy sneaking bread from the community pantry and from what is around, but crucially, will eat around the crust, leaving a "hollowed-out" (so to speak) loaf of bread on the grounds. Additionally they work with other birds such as seagulls, in retrieving food from packaging and various disposal bins.

Beyond Corvids:

  • UHeights campus is regularly visited by aforementioned crows, seagulls, Anna's hummingbirds, and to a lesser extent, pigeons.

  • Despite heavy construction nearby and on-site, delicate hummingbirds nonetheless frequent the block. Whereas other common birds in the area such as sparrows and chickadees visit UHeights campus far more seldomly.

I will continue feeding crows with the intention of building trust, and observing. These are merely observations after one quarter of the project.

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