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Strange behaviour from crows

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Old Wednesday 30th January 2019, 16:36   #1
MisterJay
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Strange behaviour from crows

Hi guys, first time poster. I'd like to apologise firstly, my bird knowledge is very small but I'm really interested in wildlife in general and I came across behaviour today I've never seen before.

I live in Dundee, Scotland and in the area where I live I see what I believe to be carrion crows on a daily basis, for over 10 years now. Looking at images on the internet they could be ravens but the description matches carrion crows best so I think they are the latter.

I see them everyday either alone in gardens up and down the street or sometimes in groups of 2, but never any more than that. Today on my way back from the shop i saw about 30 of them perched on trees and rooftops surrounding one garden, where there was a dead crow along with 3 living crows surrounding the dead crow very closely. The whole group were cawing like mad, I've never heard them so loud nor seen them in a group anywhere near as large as this in all my time living here.

I stopped to observe about 20ft away and after a few seconds the group flew off and seagulls started circling the area. I'm wondering what was happening before I walked by, was this crow likely killed by the rest of the group of were they paying respects to the dead crow?

Thanks for the help.
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Old Wednesday 30th January 2019, 20:47   #2
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Welcome to Birdforum!

It could be either; this is a fairly rare, but well-recorded, behaviour for Carrion Crows, with large groups gathering for sometimes what almost looks like a judicial execution, and sometimes around a crow that has died from some other cause. Also (a bit more often) just for a social gathering (no dead crow involved!), perhaps for mate selection in early spring.
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Old Wednesday 30th January 2019, 21:07   #3
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Hi guys - I also want to report some strange behavior - from a hawk. I was visiting Oxford last weekend, and walking along eating a ciabatta. All of a sudden, a hawk (I believe a Goshawk) swooped down and tried to grab my ciabatta. Fortunately, I was not injured.
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Old Wednesday 30th January 2019, 21:55   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nutcracker View Post
Welcome to Birdforum!

It could be either; this is a fairly rare, but well-recorded, behaviour for Carrion Crows, with large groups gathering for sometimes what almost looks like a judicial execution, and sometimes around a crow that has died from some other cause. Also (a bit more often) just for a social gathering (no dead crow involved!), perhaps for mate selection in early spring.
Thankyou!

I also found this fact about crows in an article which fits the situation;

Quote:
3. WHEN A CROW DIES, ITS NEIGHBORS MAY THROW A FUNERAL.
The sight of a dead crow tends to attract a mob of a hundred or more live ones. During this ritual, the live crows almost never touch the dead one, which rules scavenging out as a motive. Why do they do this? Some studies suggest that the mass gathering is part of a survival strategy: The birds are learning about threats and seem hesitant to revisit any spot where they've encountered a dead crow, even if food is plentiful there.
From MentalFloss.com

I've never seen/heard of anything like it before, so it's kinda cool i've witnessed some rare ritual!
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Old Wednesday 30th January 2019, 22:02   #5
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Originally Posted by pompeywill View Post
Hi guys - I also want to report some strange behavior - from a hawk. I was visiting Oxford last weekend, and walking along eating a ciabatta. All of a sudden, a hawk (I believe a Goshawk) swooped down and tried to grab my ciabatta. Fortunately, I was not injured.
Sounds a bit fishy to me ... definitely not a panini?

If it was a hawk maybe an escaped falconers bird.
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Old Tuesday 5th February 2019, 21:53   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nutcracker View Post
Welcome to Birdforum!

It could be either; this is a fairly rare, but well-recorded, behaviour for Carrion Crows, with large groups gathering for sometimes what almost looks like a judicial execution, and sometimes around a crow that has died from some other cause. Also (a bit more often) just for a social gathering (no dead crow involved!), perhaps for mate selection in early spring.
There is a theory (by Richard Wrangham, a primatologist) that judicial executions of most aggressive humans was how Homo sapiens "domesticated" itself - we have a very low (compared to most other mammals) level of intra-species violence.
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Old Tuesday 5th February 2019, 23:45   #7
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Originally Posted by Nutcracker View Post
. . .It could be either; this is a fairly rare, but well-recorded, behaviour for Carrion Crows, with large groups gathering for sometimes what almost looks like a judicial execution, and sometimes around a crow that has died from some other cause. Also (a bit more often) just for a social gathering (no dead crow involved!), perhaps for mate selection in early spring.
Interestingly enough, California Scrub-jays* are said to have similar “funerals” for their dead though doubts have been expressed by some ornithologists as to the correctness of the interpretation. I’ve certainly noticed nothing of the kind among the flock of resident jays in my backyard here in Reno but then the only dead specimen I’ve seen in the vicinity was in the claws of a Cooper’s Hawk plucking its kill in a tree in the front yard which the jays don’t normally frequent.
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Last edited by fugl : Wednesday 6th February 2019 at 00:43. Reason: Typos
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