Whether through myth, ancient folklore, or legend, crows have a long and sometimes sinister association with humans. Inquisitive, clever, and charmingly curious, crows are one of the rare bird species not only to recognize humans but form relationships with them (1).
Crow’s lives are intertwined with ours in many ways, and their unfortunate association with the macabre belies their friendly and curious nature. The curiosity is mutual; however, it’s only natural then that our efforts would eventually befriend our feathered friends.
How to befriend crows is a question commonly asked by those with a burgeoning curiosity for the corvid creatures. Learn what it takes to not only attract these clever birds into your life but how to make friends with crows.
How to befriend crows?
One of the best ways to animals’ hearts (or survival instincts) is to feed them. With many species, it can become an ethical question of whether you are helping them or not, but it doesn’t make sense to paint every species with the same brush.
Each population faces unique challenges, and so there is no one right answer (2). Ask yourself if the birds are at risk, if the food is appropriate, and whether feeding them will change or harm their behavior before proceeding.
Is feeding crows illegal?
That depends. In many jurisdictions, it is expressly forbidden to intentionally feed or leave food out for wild animals, creating a nuisance. Check with your local ordinance before making any decisions. But once you are sure, try a variety of offerings to find one they like.
Dried pet food is among their favorite, but crows have also been known to like peanuts, eggs, food scraps, and other nuts. Just make sure it’s healthy (3). Over time, your offerings will build trust with the crows and could be the beginning of your crow human friendship. How to befriend a crow can be as easy as following a few simple steps to entice these inquisitive and interesting birds.
Step 1. Find out what they like and dislike
What do crows like to eat, you might ask. This might require some trial and error on your part. Whatever you feed your crows, make sure it is healthy. Like us, crows like junk food, but also like us, there are good and bad foods to feed crows (4). These curious corvids can be surprisingly fickle, and their behavior will indicate their preference for your offerings.
Step 2. Create a quiet environment
Crows can be cautious and aloof and will not readily come to humans. To befriend crows, you must create an environment where they will not only feel safe but comfortable visiting. Crows will seek out a quieter environment where food is readily available.
Since they are known to prefer open spaces, make your backyard more suitable for crows by keeping it free of debris and any noisemakers (i.e., cars, vehicles, etc.) far enough away not to startle them. Remove any threats to create a safe environment.
Step 3. Offer their favorite treats
Opportunistic omnivores, crows will sample from a variety of food sources before settling on one they like. As omnivores, they will eat almost anything, but make sure you are offering them healthy options.
Crows’ favorite foods are small pellet dog or cat food, eggs, unsalted peanuts, other nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and even chicken and other meats. Be careful, though, because crows can be fussy, and once they are spoiled on a particular food, they will demand it regularly.
Step 4. Establish a feeding routine
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of getting a crow to trust you is to be reliable. One way to do this is to feed on a regular schedule. Establishing a feeding schedule makes your behavior predictable, and the crows know when to expect you (5). Establishing this rhythm helps the relationship gel and builds trust.
Step 5. Add a bird bath
All birds need water, and crows are no different. Make your yard more enticing by providing them a place to not only cool off, but bathe, get a drink, and even wash food (6). When choosing a birdbath, consider the crow’s substantial size when choosing. Given their stature, a deeper basin will be needed as well as a sturdy ledge for their talons to grip.
Step 6. Be patient and test different foods if needed
In your quest for corvid friendship, you’ll need to pack your patience for these inquisitive creatures. Crows are analytical by nature and it may take some time for them to assess and approach. Once they feel comfortable, crows will investigate almost any food you set out for them.
If you’ve left something out all day and there are no takers, it’s likely they aren’t fond of that particular food and you’ll need to try with something else. Crows will eagerly descend on their favorite treats, so test out different options to see what to feed crows in your area.
Step 7. Keep your distance
Smart, curious, and inquisitive, crows are still wild animals, and it’s important to remember that when trying to befriend them. Your goal is to admire these interesting birds from afar rather than tame them or have them develop an unnatural dependence on you. Observe them from a healthy distance to keep the boundaries safe for us and them alike.
What do crows eat?
Once how to feed crows has been established, it is important to figure out what your crows will eat. Like us, crows will readily devour junk food, but it’s not fair to them, and perhaps ethically dubious, to indulge in this practice. Crows are omnivorous scavengers and will feed on a wide variety of foods. They are remarkably adaptable, and their diets have been known to consist of everything from nuts, seeds, fruits, and berries, to caterpillars, grubs, roadkill, and snakes.
Also, like us, crows have favorites and will show a penchant for their preferred foods. Start with foods they are known to love and go from there. Eggs, unsalted peanuts, cat or dog food, corn, and chicken are all tried and true favorites of many crow enthusiasts. If you don’t have a dedicated feeding station or area set up, you can begin by scattering cracked corn and small pellet dog or cat food on the ground.
Although crows will eat grubs and insects, they may be harder to come by. Mealworm is also an excellent alternative and is easily found along with other bird seeds in stores. Kitchen scraps, eggs, and bread are also all foods crows have been known to enjoy. Crows will investigate just about anything you have on offer for them, though, so it may take some time of trial and error to see what particular foods your crows fancy.
How to get crows to trust me?
For centuries, crows have played the bad guys in human folklore and legends, so it’s no wonder they regard humans with a guarded curiosity and a general distrust. How to get crows to like you has been a question many have been trying to answer for a long time.
Crows and humans have had an arguably symbiotic relationship with us for a while, and crow researchers have found many instances of cultural coevolution between us. Even though our histories are closely intertwined, crows are still wild animals and can be skittish and aloof even in the best of circumstances. Given their long cultural associations with death and the macabre, it’s little wonder these impressively smart birds have a natural distrust of humans. Researchers have even found their formidable intelligence.
They can remember names, pets, people and hold grudges (7). To gain their trust, you’ll need attention, predictability, and more than a little patience. Establish a predictable feeding routine and observe their behavior from a safe distance. And be sure to keep pets inside, so they don’t scare off the crows. Once the crows know when and what to expect from you (and vice versa), you are a long way to laying the groundwork for a dependable relationship with your crows.
Can I keep a crow as a pet?
Although astoundingly smart and high on the list of bird brainiacs, do crows make good pets? The short answer is no, but perhaps a more important question is, can you have a crow as a pet? In the US, crows are listed on the Department of the Interior’s Federal Register of Migratory Birds and therefore are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (8).
This makes them illegal to possess, or any part of them, but for many reasons, crows do not make good pets. And justifiably right – they require specialized custom care as well as constant entertainment and interaction. Researchers and rehabilitators often compare them to small children who require constant attention.
The question of can crows be pets is easily answered by both practical and moral reasons that prohibit their ownership. Even in extenuating circumstances like injury or harm, you should never take in a crow, and it is always illegal to keep a native crow (in the US at least). Besides the neverending work it would take to care for, maintain, and nurture a crow, crows belong in their natural habitat, and however happy you may be, your crow would not be living its best life.