Pied Crow – Corvus albus
I’ve always had a thing for crows. I can’t really say that I like them; they are a bit odd after all. And then they carry a certain enigma being associated with all things dead or dangerous depending on the angle you look from. And then there was this movie series when I was a teenager, The Crow starring Mark Dacascos … I think that sealed it for me – crows are just strange. (Even the movie, The Crow, has had its fair share of strange occurrences and accidents).
The Pied Crow is a fairly common bird in Namibia but I grew up with them foraging at the school. Nowhere else can they find more interesting bits of food than on a school playground. They are mostly associated with human settlements, but ironically the one in the picture was seen at a waterhole in the Etosha National Park. The male and female are similar in looks. The House Crow is much smaller and has a grey (not a white) breast and neck-band. The White breast of the Pied Crow is rather unmistaken. They usually forage in pairs, but flocks of approx. 300 have been recorded in non-breeding season.
Crows are omnivorous but they seem to prefer plant material including seeds, fruit and roots, and nectar. (The ones at the school must have had a sweet tooth then!) They will also eat invertebrates, such as termite alates, and vertebrates, including lizards, small mammals, bats, snakes, birds, nestlings, eggs and fish. (Ah, so they will eat anything!) And they also don’t say no to carrion. (Maybe the real reason why these birds truly freak me a bit!)
My Roberts describe their call as a loud harsh kraah, and a snoring khrrr…. I’m not so sure about this. To me, they sound rather deathly… something that should only be heard at a funeral.
One good characteristic, Pied Crows are monogamous. And then, what makes them very interesting is their nests of sticks and twigs build by both partners in an isolated tree or pole. Why is this so fascinating? Because you will hardly ever find only sticks and twigs in a crow’s nest. They love all things odd for their nests from jewellery to washing pegs. They have an incubation period of 18 – 19 days and a nestling period of about 35 – 43 days.
All-in-all the crow is not a horrendously bad bird… it’s actually quite a character. Just a pity it is associated with the dark!