CROWS: Nesting

Do you ever wonder why the lookout post at the top of a ship is called the “crow’s nest”? Unlike most common birds that build nests 10 to 20 feet off the ground, crows build their nests near the tops of tall trees. Crow’s nests are often 50, 80, even 120 feet off the ground. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is Pulse of the Planet, presented by The American Museum of Natural History.

It’s nesting season now for crows, but studying these birds in their nests requires agile tree climbing skills and nerves of steel.

“One of the reasons I think that crows haven’t been studied as, as well as other birds is that they’re not only intelligent and difficult to capture but their nests can be fairly inaccessible as well.”

Professor Kevin McGowan is an Associate Curator of birds and mammals at Cornell University. His research on the common American crow often takes him to the very tops of very trees where he can study nests and band babies. What professor McGowan has found is that the common crow is far from ordinary. In fact, crows are among the very few birds whose older offspring stay around the nest and help their parents raising babies. Extended families of crows even cooperate for the general welfare of the crow community. And that includes banding together to ward off intruders – even those with good intentions.

“The crows don’t like it when I go to the nest. They will yell and mob. They will dive down at me. Almost never do they actually touch me, but everybody gets involved yelling. In fact the whole neighborhood can get involved yelling. And I’ve had groups of, oh, seventy five, eighty birds flying over top yelling at me while I’m climbing up into the nest.”

“Well I certainly have a feeling for them as a species. Although I have to say, even though I’ve been working on them for nine years, every time I go out and watch them I see something new.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.

CROWS: Nesting

A Cornell scientist climbs trees to get at his favorite subject -- the crow.
Air Date:11/12/1997
Scientist:
Transcript:

Do you ever wonder why the lookout post at the top of a ship is called the "crow's nest"? Unlike most common birds that build nests 10 to 20 feet off the ground, crows build their nests near the tops of tall trees. Crow's nests are often 50, 80, even 120 feet off the ground. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is Pulse of the Planet, presented by The American Museum of Natural History.

It's nesting season now for crows, but studying these birds in their nests requires agile tree climbing skills and nerves of steel.

"One of the reasons I think that crows haven't been studied as, as well as other birds is that they're not only intelligent and difficult to capture but their nests can be fairly inaccessible as well."

Professor Kevin McGowan is an Associate Curator of birds and mammals at Cornell University. His research on the common American crow often takes him to the very tops of very trees where he can study nests and band babies. What professor McGowan has found is that the common crow is far from ordinary. In fact, crows are among the very few birds whose older offspring stay around the nest and help their parents raising babies. Extended families of crows even cooperate for the general welfare of the crow community. And that includes banding together to ward off intruders - even those with good intentions.

"The crows don't like it when I go to the nest. They will yell and mob. They will dive down at me. Almost never do they actually touch me, but everybody gets involved yelling. In fact the whole neighborhood can get involved yelling. And I've had groups of, oh, seventy five, eighty birds flying over top yelling at me while I'm climbing up into the nest."

"Well I certainly have a feeling for them as a species. Although I have to say, even though I've been working on them for nine years, every time I go out and watch them I see something new."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I'm Jim Metzner.