Random bird post: Northwestern Crow

Northwestern Crow harasses a Bald Eagle just above our backyard in North Vancouver, BC (Canada), May 2012

You might be forgiven for thinking this blog will be about the Bald Eagle pictured above, but I will probably talk about this majestic raptor at another time (if and when I can capture better photos than what I currently have). Instead, I would like to spend a bit of time discussing the Northwestern Crow (Latin: Corvus caurinus; en français: Corneille d’Alaska).

As you can see, the much smaller crow is very intent on driving out the eagle from “its” air space: in this case, the eagle did leave the area above our back yard rather quickly after having endured several diving attacks. Few birds are so relentless with the eagles, with the possible exception of blackbirds.

Northwestern Crow, photo taken in December 2011 at Jericho Beach, Vancouver, BC (Canada)

These crows live in a very thin band of land on the northern part of the North American Pacific Coast (on the northern tip of Washington State, all of British Columbia and the southern half of Alaska). It is quite difficult to tell apart from its slightly larger, slightly deeper voiced and very closely related “American” cousin – only our close proximity to the ocean ensures that we can identify it with any certainty. It should also be added that, wheras the American Crow is omnivorous, its Northwestern’s cousin eats mainly fish and crustaceans.

Northwestern Crow, photo taken in February 2012 at Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC (Canada)

The two species are so closely related that the American Ornithologists’ Union suggests the two species are in fact identical (or conspecific), but this issue has still not been completely settled (source: Grace Bell, “Northwestern Crow: Remarks,” taken from the Royal BC Museum’s website). I suppose we will only know for sure if and when some genetic testing is done on the two populations of birds. In the meantime, I shall continue to count it as a species on my life list!

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3 thoughts on “Random bird post: Northwestern Crow

  1. I am quite familiar with the appearance of the American crow, as I have been feeding a crow with a damaged wing (and more recently, a damaged foot) for several years – Gumpy is a great fellow, is married to Giselle, and has several family members who also come around – 3 new grandkids this year in fact! So, by your picture alone, I’d say there are some differences – slight, but noticeable. (Found your blog via my former St. F.X. roomie, Jackie) Lovely photos!

  2. Thank you so much for your comment… Very interesting story, especially since you are a friend of my friend Jacqueline! Yes, the two species (if that is what they are) are not quite the same, especially the beak, it seems to me. But it would seem that American Crow west of the Rockies are smaller in size than their eastern counterparts, which is why there does seem to be a continuing dispute on this issue!

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