Ubiquitous, overlooked and implicated in superstition, the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) might be Northfield’s most fascinating organism.
American Crows range across the wildest and most urbanized settings on the continent. Crows are a resident species at Carleton, meaning that they can be found here at any time of year. One of southern Minnesota’s two representatives of the family Corvidae (Corvids), along with the Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), crows demonstrate unique intelligence and sociability.
Crows are incredibly intelligent. They can utilize essentially any available food source and can make and use tools (see: allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Crow/overview). Crows can recognize individual human faces and are able to learn the face of a dangerous person from other crows in their community (per nytimes.com/2008/08/26/science/26crow.html). They have varied and complex vocalizations that can be most surprising and wonderful to hear.
Social structures among crows also amaze. Large families cooperate and go about their business as a group. This is more than most species can say! During winter, large numbers of crows will roost together in cohorts that can contain millions (see: All About Birds). This type of congregating, albeit on a smaller scale, can be seen at Carleton. If you hang out around the Weitz on a winter evening, look and listen for crows gathering. If you’re lucky, they may be present in boisterous groups numbering in the dozens.
American Crows epitomize Carleton. Studious, resourceful, unique and awesome, these quirky corvids deserve positive attention. If you find yourself analyzing the enthralling antics of a Carleton crow, you may not be the only one doing the studying!