The carrion crow is one of eight species of birds in the crow family (corvids) that are commonly found in the UK. It is between 18 and 21 inches in length and has glossy black plumage which has a slight green or purple sheen. The eyes, beak and legs are black. Young carrion crows have a duller, dark brown plumage and blue eyes.
Carrion crows produce a loud and distinctive “caw” sound that is usually repeated three or four times in a row.
They can be very destructive to crops and, in urban environments, have been known to attack cars and tear off windscreen wipers. Carrion crows will also pull putty from around windows while they are attacking their own reflection.
A common juvenile behaviour is for the birds to collect stones and drop these from height onto shiny, reflective surfaces such as water courses and more commonly, within urban areas, onto glass roofs and canopies.
Carrion crows ordinarily choose to nest in the forks of tall trees, but the ledges of old buildings and pylons are popular choices as well. They can, on occasion, build their nests close to the ground. The nests are large, bulky and formed from twigs with an inner lining of hair.
Their breeding period begins in April with each mating pair typically producing a single batch of between 4 and 7 eggs. They are then incubated for 18-20 days and become mature in about a month.
Carrion crows do not migrate and tend to be fairly sedentary once a nest has been established. They are solitary birds, though they will occasionally seek out other birds from the crow family to eat with in the winter. They are known to be one of the most intelligent animals.
As the name would suggest, carrion crows are scavengers by nature and will eat almost anything, including the eggs of other birds. This behaviour often makes them unwelcome in the gardens of avid bird-watchers.