Photo: RW Sinclair/Flickr Creative Commons

Fish Crow

Corvus ossifragus

Like a smaller edition of the American Crow, but with a more nasal voice, and typically found near water, the Fish Crow is very common in parts of the southeast. On the coast, it hunts in salt marshes and tidal flats, and scavenges on the beach. Inland, it ranges through swamps and along rivers. In recent decades it has extended its range farther and farther inland in some areas, especially on the Atlantic coastal plain and far up the Mississippi Valley.
Conservation status Probably increasing as it expands its range farther north and inland.
Family Crows, Magpies, Jays
Habitat Tidewater, river valleys, swamps, woodland, farmland. Overlaps in habitat with American Crow, but more likely to be near water, especially along coast, where it forages on beaches, marshes, and estuaries. Inland from coast, usually follows the drainages of large rivers, although it may feed in woods or fields a few miles from the water.
Like a smaller edition of the American Crow, but with a more nasal voice, and typically found near water, the Fish Crow is very common in parts of the southeast. On the coast, it hunts in salt marshes and tidal flats, and scavenges on the beach. Inland, it ranges through swamps and along rivers. In recent decades it has extended its range farther and farther inland in some areas, especially on the Atlantic coastal plain and far up the Mississippi Valley.
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  • adult
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Feeding Behavior

Usually forages in flocks. Does most foraging by walking, especially on shores or in very shallow water, also in fields; sometimes forages in trees. May carry mollusks up into the air, then drop them on rocks to break the shells. In colonies of herons and other waterbirds, if adults are frightened from their nests, Fish Crows may destroy many eggs.


Eggs

4-5. Dull blue-green to gray-green, blotched with brown and gray. Incubation is by female, possibly assisted by male, about 16-18 days. Young: Both parents probably bring food to nestlings. Age when young leave the nest not well known, probably 3-4 weeks.


Young

Both parents probably bring food to nestlings. Age when young leave the nest not well known, probably 3-4 weeks.

Diet

Omnivorous. May feed on practically anything it can find, including carrion, crabs, shrimp, crayfish, a wide variety of insects, berries, seeds, nuts, bird eggs, turtle eggs, and garbage.


Nesting

Often a few pairs nest in a loose colony. Courtship may involve male and female flying close together in gliding display flight. Nest site is in upright fork of tree or shrub. May be very low in coastal growth of pines, cedars, or quite high in deciduous trees in inland swamps; nest height may be 5-70' above ground or even higher. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is a bulky platform of sticks and strips of bark, lined with softer materials such as grass, rootlets, hair, feathers, paper, pine needles, even manure.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Mostly permanent resident. Withdraws from some inland parts of range in winter.

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Migration

Mostly permanent resident. Withdraws from some inland parts of range in winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Two calls, both distinct from the American Crow's familiar caw: a nasal kwok and a nasal, two-noted ah-ah. In breeding season, young American Crows have a similar kwok call.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Crows, Magpies, Jays Perching Birds

Fish Crow

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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