Kevin's crow study,

an overview.


I have been studying crows (both American and Fish) in the Ithaca area since the summer of 1988, and marking birds since 1989 (color bands only in '89). Before that I spent two years in Tampa, Florida casually studying Fish Crows while I finished my Ph.D. dissertation on Florida Scrub-Jays. I am trying to gather data on social behavior and reproductive biology on both these poorly-studied species. Originally I wanted to understand why American Crows have a complex system of helpers and Fish Crows do not. In order to begin to answer that question I had to have data on life history parameters such as reproductive success, survival, movements and associations. Little information was available in the technical literature, and what was there appeared conflicting. In order to gather such data I needed to have some way to know individual crows as individuals, hence the tags and bands. In the process of gathering those data I have become interested in a number of other aspects of their lives. Because the birds are so long-lived and delay breeding for up to 5 or 6 years (so far), only now am I getting sufficient sample sizes to be able to say anything about attainment of breeding success and dispersal.

The main objectives of the study have been to obtain data on:

For brief answers to these questions, see my project summary to the US Dept. of Agriculture. See also my list of publications and list of presented papers, and my Crow FAQ page. Also check out the article about my work published in the Spring 1998 issue of The Living Bird <>, or the one published in the 18 May 1999 issue of The Christian Science Monitor <>.

Currently I am interested in studying the behavioral strategies that individual crows use to obtain breeding status, and exploring the depths of the intricate social bonds that crows maintain. (Every year I find new complexitites. If I had stopped the study five years ago I could have said I understood what was going on, but I'm not so sure anymore.) For a somewhat dated overview of family lives, see my 1996 publication in Cornell Plantations 51 (1): 1-4.

Other projects I am working on include collaborating on a study of sibling-sibling interactions as significant factors affecting social skills and eventual survival and reproductive success, causes of congenital bone disease in nestlings, and the causes and consequences of brood reduction.


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Last updated 12-Apr-05