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Thursday, July 22, 2004

ANIMAL TRACKER

Carrion crow


* Japanese name: Hashibosogarasu
* Scientific name: Corvus corone
* Description: Crows are large birds, growing up to 50 cm long with a wingspan of 104 cm. They have entirely black plumage and black eyes.
Two species are common in Japan, the carrion crow and the jungle crow, and it's difficult to tell them apart. One way is to watch them when they are calling. The jungle crow has a clearer call than the harsh "kaarr" of the carrion crow, and the jungle crow bows its head and bobs its tail when doing so. Carrion crows just bob their heads.
* Where to find them: Across a wide range of habitats -- wherever there are trees, cliffs or buildings to nest on. Nests are built with whatever is available, from sticks and wires to garbage. Crows are found year round, almost everywhere, from the center of Tokyo's Shibuya to the seashore and the mountainside. Birds in city centers or in altitudes above 1,000 meters are likely to be jungle crows. Those in rural areas are likely to be carrion crows.
* Food: Crows are omnivorous, eating carrion, insects, worms, seeds, fruit, other birds and their eggs, and, notoriously, garbage. In Tokyo, crows tear open garbage bags in the early morning, spreading garbage. The extra food they get only helps them to breed more successfully, making the crow problem worse. Worryingly, a crow caught in Osaka Prefecture was found to have the virulent bird flu virus.
* Special features: Intelligence. Although widely despised by many people (from poultry farmers who fear the spread of bird flu to city folk who are afraid of being attacked), crows are among the most intelligent of all birds. They have even been seen waiting for traffic lights to change at pedestrian crossings in Tokyo. When it is safe to walk, the crows place walnuts on the road, and let cars crush the shells. Fearless of hawks (who they will mob) and humans (who they may attack), crows have highly flexible behaviors, one of the hallmarks of intelligence. For example, they watch where other birds are building their nests so they can steal their eggs later, and can even fashion tools out of sticks and pieces of wire. They live up to 19 years.



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