A Murder of Crows
Video: The Crow and the Caveman

In the first few minutes from “A Murder of Crows” we learn that crows are always watching, learning, and remembering.

  • Jen Stevenson

    Man, where can I see the rest of this? I’m such a crow nut!

  • Jacki

    I will be watching this for sure!! I Love crows and I know first hand how smart they are. They know my car, my dog and me from feeding them peanuts. And they let me know when they want some too. I have 3 areas I feed them while walking the dog and they check them all out every morning until they find me. And yes they do talk to each other. And they also have a different call when they see me. Its almost like a clucking when they see I have peanuts. They are amazing!!! I LOVE watching them. They do remember for sure!

  • Lynzee

    Wow, really interesting! Makes me wonder what the crows are saying when I hear them cawing at me!? Is it a good caw or a bad caw??? I love birds but admit, have never given much thought to crows! Hope I will be able to watch the show !!!

  • allan

    I know the crow alarm call for seagulls. (Yes, these apex predators go after crows when they can.) It’s one long caw, followed by a short caw, then two more longs. A fledgling gull used to come in to feed with a murder of about 80 birds that I was feeding. The crows gave it a wide berth, but one day it wasn’t quite wide enough. The gull pecked at a crow that got too close – not really meaning it harm, because a gull can kill a crow with one stab of its beak. In a matter of moments, all of the crows were in the air, circling, all repeating the same warning call. The gull was so unnerved that it fled.

  • Daria

    I feel the crows every summer in Maine. One sits outside the door and when I throw out the food to them, he alerts the rest of his group. We definitely have a system worked out. Love them!!!

  • Daria

    TYPO: I feed the crows!!! One crow sits in the tree outside my door and when I throw out the food, he alerts the rest of his group and they all come and eat. It’s wonderful to watch & listen to the call and see the rest come for the food.

  • caroline metzger

    when i was little we rescued a baby crow after the mother crow had been hit by a car…in speigel grove, president hayes estate, fremont ohio. My mother who had grown up on a farm and raised chickens and a nurse, ground up worms in her mortal and pestol, put them in an eyedropper syringe held the baby crow in her hand upsidedown and with her thumb and forefinger urged the baby crow to open his mouth. I think at first he squawked in anger and then he got a squirt of worms, and soon learned to eat that way. we kept him in our expandable accordian style outdoor playpen. he did not fly right off the bat, but followed us all around having bonded with us…especially my mother. Shiney really loved my mother. we taught him how to say hello. we lived but two blocks from speigel grove, so there may have been other crows watching him, i don’t really know. about 4 months later my family was transferred to cleveland ohio, so we gave shiney to our neighbors. he grew to love them, and each morning as the sun rose, he would perch on bobby’s windowsill and say, “Hello, Bobby, and then fly to Linda’s tap on the window and say, “Hello, Linda.” They kept shiney’s wings clipped so he would not hang out on the neighbor’s clothes line, soiling the freshly washed linens.
    About a year after our separation, we went back to fremont for a visit and shiney went nutstalking hello and sort of cooing to my mother and then this back and forth between us and bobby and linda, as if his loyalties were divided. I think at some point shiney’s wings had grown out and he never came back, or maybe bobby and linda’s parents had had enough of Shiney.
    When I saw your fasinating study on pbs, i tried to locate bobby to shoot him an email, only to find that he had died two years ago. That was sad. but the memories of our pet crow are sweet.
    My college roommate is at uw, jan arntz richards, and I just emailed her yesterday. her dad was on the board of the seattle aquarium, or director of.
    When I was a senior in highschool, we gave a friend a pet duck for his birthday. sort of like the crow, the duck bonded with him. If duckie wasn’t secured in his garage, he would follow bruce to school. I am sure the duck wasn’t as smart as my crow. Bruce, the friend and owner of the duck, grew up and is a leading expert on humpback whales…i think.

  • Jack33w

    This was a great show! But there was one scene I found very upsetting. There’s a scene when a hawk is used to catch one crow, in an effort to scare away a lot of pesky crows that had settled on a town. The crow caws a lot as it’s being chased by the hawk, but when the hawk catches it and they fall to the ground the crow is actually screaming as it lies under the hawk’s talons. Screaming. It was incredible.

  • Sally Todd

    Thank you Caroline Metzger for your comment of Oct. 25. I have wanted to know for a long time if there ever was another crow like our Elmer.

  • Sally Todd

    Somehow my comment got submitted before I was finished, soooo:

    I grew up in Mansfield, Ohio where we had a pet crow my brother named Elmer, who became a beloved member of the the family. Caroline Metzger’s Shiney sounds just like Elmer. We enjoyed him for seven years, as he talked, entertained. teased and played jokes. I have resently started writing about Elmer and all his antics for the family, which is bringing back lots of happy memories. I would like to have another Elmer.

  • Erin

    I am quite surprised to find that this show is not available in my area due to copyright restrictions or other such “stuff,” as this show was originally put out on CBC by David Suzuki’s Nature of Things. Why is it that we Canadians cannot watch this on this particular forum? Seems a little odd to me. I do not have satelitte TV as it’s too expensive, and I am not permitted to watch my favorite “channels” online either. Well, keep up the good work for all non-Canadians anyways.

  • Larry Donaldson

    As any woodsman knows there are two birds that are the Northeast’s warning system….the crow…..and the blue jay. They not only communicate among their flock but can pass on their knowledge….warnings…etc. to not only other flocks but other animals also.
    If you watch the flock closely you will observe military prescission as they assemble. The scouts arrive first and usually land on the highest perches. They cover the four points of the compass and sometimes more depending on the human population. Then the main flock arrives. You can hear designated crows calling out to the scouts and the scouts answering them. If one does not answer one or two from the main flock go to investigate why and woe the lazy crow. If through the scout ’s neglect that crow is relieved of his duties and returns after a series of calls from the scouts location. Upon the Scout and his escort(s) another of the main flock flies out to take up the other scouts position.
    Usually though the silence may be caused by the approach of humans or a large flock of starlings or grackles.
    If they are present, or an owl, the scout will sound another call and the flock assembles around the scouts location giving alarm and warning calls. The same goes for any bird of prey such as a hawk or eagle. When near a roost any of the birds of prey flying or riding the wind overhead causes them to go into a frenzy! Again….on;y desiginated crows take flight to dive bomb the intruder and escort ( more like drive away) the intruder away.
    If you are close to a roost or if young ones are learning the trade and you approach and pass through that area the alarm is raised first and then some remain hidden and watch what you are up to. They remain silent and will follow you very discreetly until they determine you are not a threat. You will hear others of the flock call out to them and in this case if silence follows it seems the main flock is told by that silence that you are still in the area. Once you leave one of the scouts, at a discreet distance will caw the all-clear and the activity resumes.
    Bluejays act very similar but usually fly away if approached scouts included.
    Being a professional soldier at one time I cannot help myself in wondering if mankind ( in militay manuvers or in insurgent warfare tactics) take notes of the behavior of birds of many kinds.
    If overnight or for a day in the woods I have learned to watch and listen. For example, on a hike I thought I was the only one who was on a certain trail. The crow area I passed through had already sounded the alarm as later a flock of jays did also. Furthwer on and yet within earshot I heard the crows go into alarm mode. I stopped and listened. Yep! A few minutes later the jays also did! I knew that others were walking the trail and after about 1/2 hour sure enough three hikers approached me. The same can be said if you establish a camp in a remote area. If a bear, hawk, eagle or who or whatever is approaching the alarm is raised. One should then pay attention to his woodland surroundings. The same applies for just casual conversation among the flock. If suddenly silent something they deem as a threat is out there. If silence lasts for a few minutes and then a mass flight occurs silently someone or animal is approaching. This is especially true if after a few seconds of flight the crows begin cawing the alarm.
    My only problem is that I do not speak “Kaw-Kaw” as my grandmothers ancestors called them. I don’t know the difference between a caw for human, hawk, eagle, or bear. But I do know to pay attention to their calls.

  • Debi Parsons

    I have always loved crows and knew they were smart. I have seen this show before and was amazed to know that they are the smartest birds. When I lived in SoCal I had a murder living on my block and enjoyed having them wake me up every morning with their cawing and bickering with each other. I would go outside with my cup of coffee and watch them. It was like sitting in a packed biker bar.

  • Donna Sabo

    Is the place that a group of crows find for bedding down for the night called a “rookery”? Sometimes at our home in Kansas by a lake….multitudes would fly by in search of their roosting area for the night.
    Are you calling them a “murder” to mean like a “flock”?

  • Lori

    I’ve never been able to observe an individual crow, or group of crows long enough to know what they can learn, but you can tell the are intelligent. You never see just one, they are very social. One day as I was eating in my car, in a parking lot in a section with very few cars I saw several crows a distance away, they seemed to be looking for food. I threw a couple of saltine crackers out the window out of curiosity, and a couple of minutes later, one of the crows came over and picked one up. I thought he would take that one and leave. but he then stacked it on top of the other one, squaring it with the other and picking up both and flying off. It didn’t surprise me, but it was cool to see– another bird would either just pick up one saltine, or break it in pieces, and IF it could pick up two, the bird wouldn’t work at squaring it up, making it easier to pick up both saltines. That’s intelligence.

  • Marsha

    This program reminded me of something I observed in Dallas, Tx. in 1995. The behavior was so shocking, especially when I realized that it was intentional. My office had a wall of windows that was in an isolated area of the building surrounded by trees. I began to notice that pigeons were crashing into the window every day. I began watching and realized that a black bird (crow?) was chasing the pigeon into the window. The stunned pigeon would fall to the ground and the crow would kill it. Then several crows would come and feed on the pigeon. This happened every day for period of time.

    Is this behavior typical?

  • Nadia Wilson

    I am very disappointed that because of ‘right restrictions’ I cannot view on my computer some of the wonderful episodes from Nature and Nova that I missed on PBS.

    PBS accepts financial contrtibutions from Canadians, but why does it not allow us to re-watch some of the wonderful programs that it broadcasts?

    So sad,


Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 THIRTEEN Productions LLC. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.