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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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 Will Reshape the Range of the Fish Crow

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Fish Crow

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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