[CT Birds] Fish Crows Up Close and Personal

james.bair at snet.net james.bair at snet.net
Thu Dec 10 19:58:11 EST 2009

Dear Don,

You wrote:

On Monday, 12/7, I stopped at Birdseye St. boat launch and  found  a flock 
of about 8 Fish Crows.  They let me get within 6  feet of them in the 
rolling blind (car).  Even though they made no sound  while i was there they were 
unmistakable because of their size and shape.   These birds appear no bigger 
than a rock dove, and in comparison to the small  group of American Crows 
that frequents my yard, really look tiny.  Though I  knew they were smaller, 
I never realized the magnitude of the difference.   Also, the bodies are 
much more compact.  The size difference listed in the  field guides does not 
suggest the actual difference in  appearance.
It is hard for the guides to really say much other than the relative size and vocalizations. But if you are used to seeing one type and see a number of the other, you know there is something different. The first Tundra Swan I ever saw did not have the yellow bill streak, but I sure knew it was something different from all the Mute Swans I had seen in CT for years.

About a mile from my house is a roost of mixed crows. Some Fish Crows are easy to pick out. They look almost like blackbirds, that skinny and with thin bills. Some of the American Crows are easy to pick out, too--thick bills, bigger, shaggy throats, almost like a small Raven. But the majority are somewhere in between. Still, if you have the right habitat, a skinny crow with a thin bill and about the length of a Rock Dove, you can make a pretty safe call. But there is enough individual variation--and not many pose the way those crows did for you--that a lot are just "Crows" until they call.

Jim Bair

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