Crows are large birds in the genus Corvus, with shiny, black feathers, although some crow species may have additional colors in their plumage. The birds in this genus are famous for their high intelligence and tool use.
Scientists consider crows to be one of the most intelligent animals on the planet. As they grow, they learn and communicate information with other crows. Their ability to learn and teach what they’ve learned to others allows crows to survive and live for several years.
Some crow species can live more than twenty years in the wild. The average lifespan of American Crows is between seven and eight years, while the Carrion Crow has the shortest average lifespan of five years. Captive crows tend to live longer than wild crows.
How Long Do Captive Crows Live?
Because crows are intelligent animals, many people keep them as pets and train them. When crows are pets, they live longer on average than wild crows because they have easy access to food, shelter from the elements, and no predator pressure.
Captive crows can live long, happy lives for many years. On average, captive crows can live 17 to 20 years before they die. Recently, a crow that lived at a children’s zoo in Saginaw, Michigan, lived for 26 years before it died in 2020.
How Long Do Wild Crows Live?
Wild crows have a much harder life than captive crows. They must avoid many dangers, find food, and live to reproduce year after year. Because of these challenges, they have developed ways to increase their chance of success living cooperatively with their offspring.
Most wild crows do not live past their first year. Once wild crows survive their first year, they usually live for several more years. Most crows live an average of 7 or 8 years, although that average varies between species.
Crows work cooperatively in large family groups that help more offspring survive to adulthood. The parents raise their nestlings with the help of offspring they produced in previous years. These family groups may have as many as fifteen older siblings.
Young adult siblings will find food and defend the territory for their younger siblings. The number of older siblings varies, but older mated pairs typically have more offspring that stay close for a few years before they leave to find their own mate.
What Kills Crows?
Many crows each year succumb to predation, disease, and hunting. Several animals will eat crow eggs and nestlings, including snakes, owls, hawks, eagles, raccoons, and bears. They will eat whatever they can find in a crow’s nest, no matter how high the birds build it.
Adult crows have fewer predators, but large birds of prey will take down a crow for food. The biggest predator of crows is humans. Crows can be a pest in agricultural fields, and many farmers will shoot crows to keep them out of their grain fields.
West Nile Virus kills many birds and spreads quickly within flocks. Crows, like many birds, typically die within a week after being infected. Crows can contract the virus from scavenging the carcass of infected birds. Unlike West Nile, Avian Influenza does not affect crows much.
Extreme weather also kills crows, especially young crows. They may die of starvation, cold, or heat as nestlings or juveniles before they have enough feathers or knowledge to protect themselves.
Humans sometimes hunt crows, particularly if they think crows are destroying their fields or gardens. Farmers view crows as pests and will often hunt them if other deterrents, such as scarecrows, do not scare them away.
What Happens When a Crow Dies?
Crows have a unique ritual when they find a dead crow. While they do not mourn their dead, they sometimes investigate a corpse they find on the ground. When a crow finds a dead body, it will call out to other crows in the area to gather around the body.
This large group of crows, called a murder, will call loudly, creating a racket that can last fifteen or twenty minutes. Some individuals will poke at the body, looking at it closely. Other individuals may try to mate with the dead crow.
What Is the Oldest Crow?
Different crow species have different longevities and depend on their environment and the availability of food to reach the maximum age possible. Captive crows often survive far longer than wild crows because their environment is safe and their food source is constant.
Captive birds are not at risk of contracting many diseases that plague and kill wild birds. In addition, as birds age in captivity, they do not have to continue avoiding predation like old wild birds. A captive crow in New York City lived 59 years before it died in 2006.
Old wild crows are intelligent and clever enough to survive against the odds. The oldest wild American Crow on record lived for almost 30 years, while the oldest Carrion Crow on record was 19.2 years old before it died.