Gifts From Crows

One of many gifts from crows (screenshot from BBC video: Gift giving crows)

15 February 2019

Four years ago in Seattle, eight year old Gabi Mann consistently fed and interacted with the crows in her backyard. She formed such a tight bond that she could recognize individual crows by sight and gave them names. The crows rewarded her by bringing gifts.

Gabi feeds the crows in her backyard (screenshots from BBC video: Gift giving crows)

Many animals give gifts to members of their own species but crows and other corvids are the only ones known to give gifts to humans. As John Marzluff explains in the video below, crows will do this for people who feed them a lot and pay attention to them, or even rescue them.

When I read about this several years ago in Marzluff’s book Gifts of the Crow, I briefly thought about trying to make friends with crows but decided it would be a difficult relationship. If your friendship with crows is based on food they remember your generosity and bring their friends. Lots of friends. They can be quite demanding and don’t understand when you stop feeding them. Not everyone appreciates this.

Gabi’s story made international news in February 2015 but we don’t hear about it anymore. Six months after the video was filmed two of Gabi’s neighbors sued, demanding $200,000 and a court order prohibiting the Mann family from putting out more than a 1/4 pound of bird food. It took a year to settle the lawsuit. The details were not made public.

Crows remember the faces of those who are mean to them and those who are especially kind. I’m sure that a few special crows remember Gabi.

(video embedded from BBC on YouTube)

56 thoughts on “Gifts From Crows

    1. I live in my van and have a dog. I started feeding the crows dog food now they wake me up every morning knowing when I get up I walk my dog and throw out 3 hand fulls of dog food one morning last week I was outa food and when I walked my dog one crow was dive bombing me and being loud I think hes was mad because he didn’t get his breakfast , his name now is Bratt ? I love crow’s their awesome anmials !

  1. I had a crow as a kid that stayed around until fall when a group of crows came over and lured him away.It was a great experience that made me love birds through out my years. I especially like to follow Canuck and I on Facebook. He is the Ambassador of Vancouver, beating out various celebrities for the position. His antics are endearing and his mate and a young crow have also bonded to Canuck’s human. I would urge all to follow Canuck’s antics on his facebook page Canuck and I to get a glimce of a crow’s life and behaviors.

  2. Crows certainly are amazing. Every day they fly over my house around 4 pm on their way to their roosting spot. It’s like clockwork.
    Yesterday at 4:20 pm in Swissvale I heard such a racket that I ran out out of house on to my front porch to see hundreds of crows in a tight group flying in circles around a large oak tree. Their sound was deafening. After a few minutes I noticed that there was a red tailed hawk in the middle of all the commotion. They were all over him, it was amazing as the chased him from tree to tree . The hawk was surrounded on all sides. They were inches from his back. And relentless as more and more joined in. Hopefully he was able to survive…Poor hawk ! If he got away I’m sure he will never go after a crow again!!!

    1. Hi Rose. I live in Alaska. The crows are everywhere here. In the summer there’s plenty for them to eat. But winters can get pretty bad for them. I started feeding them as much as possible in the winter a few years ago. They now hang out close to my home when the weather is bad. They wake me in the mornings demanding breakfast. If they spot me outside, they start raising all kinds of a ruckus. I’m sure they know a good thing, like food! But anyway, I just wanted to add that here there are also lots of eagles. Sometimes you see the crows dive-bombing them when they come close. An eagle is quite the predatory bird, but no match for the quickness of those crows. They will pester the eagles until they chase them off. It’s hilarious to watch.

  3. I have some new friends too and one day I heard him so I stood in the middle of my sidewalk and I looked up and I said where are you at and he flew over my apartment door to my roof and then flew back to the tree to let me know he knew I was talking to him and ever since then we’ve been friends!

  4. This is too funny. My boyfriend has been leaving nuts outside of our window sill for the crows for the past few days. Yesterday we noticed that the nuts were gone, and in their place was a waffle. This morning, we looked up and saw another waffle on another window sill for a different apartment unit. I think the crows are trying to thank us with waffles! I would love to set up a camera. They come in the morning, between 6:30am and 7am.

    1. I live in an area where it’s burning hot outside. So I’ve been leaving a tray of clean water for birds to feed and bath every morning. This went on for about half a year and all sorts of local birds came in on their own schedule, in pairs, and used to drink and have a dip in the water. Recently I noticed the water was getting dirty pretty quickly. First I found a piece of cooked fish floating in the water. Then a big piece of bread. I have had to clean the tray and refill twice a day since last week. This morning, I saw a couple of little birds had landed for a sip and but standing on the water tray looking like what the heck is that? almost like they expected me to clean it. I had just filled it an hour ago. Had a closer look in the tray to find a bid piece of layered chocolate cake floating in the water. Cleaned it again, after 15 mins afterwards a crow landed, saw me and flew away. I thought it was funny and googled why crows do that. Then I came across this website and the comments and realised that what I thought was a nuisance, was actually gifts from the crow.

    2. I have a cute true story of a raven delivering me a message in its beak while I worked on the Exxon Valdez oil spill .

    3. That’s hilarious! I was left a neat little pile of nesting material. At first, I thought a bird dropped it by the feeding station, but when i didn’t remove it, they moved it to a different feeding station. It was for me! I took it in the house and my cats destroyed it. 🙁

  5. I recently started feeding crows/ravens in my backyard. A crow/raven made a sound and I searched for it and I think it was saying hello. I need to ask you where could I find a video to see how crow/raven says hello to confirm It? Also, I believed they left me a gift which was a partial piece of an apple, is it a gift and what does it mean? Please advise and thank you kindly. I am beginning to enjoy watching them eat, flying and landing in my backyard.

    1. Years ago there used to be a crow at the National Aviary who said hello very clearly. He was famous for saying “Who? What? Where? Why?” However I don’t have a video of it & he has since passed away.
      The partial piece of apple may have been left behind when the crow was startled rather than as a gift. If the crows bring bright objects you’ll know for sure that it’s a gift because it’s not something they eat.

  6. I have chickens that I love dearly and they were attacked by a hawk recently. We generally have crows in the trees which I thought frightened hawks? Maybe they weren’t there at the moment. My question is how do I guarantee them to stay there?

    1. Brandi, crows have minds of their own. I don’t know of a way to guarantee they’ll stick around.

  7. Last year after I had begun to feed crows peanuts on the railing of our townhouse deck,
    I received some gifts from them. Twice a shell was left–we don’t live near the sea, although there is a brook and a pond nearby, so maybe these two shells came from there, but only a crow I think would have brought them and placed them where they would know i could see them–right opposite our window by our breakfast table. The most unique “giftt” was a line of four neatly deposited tiny pyramids of sand on top of our black plastic garbage bin. These little pyramids were equadistant from each other and very neat. I think it perhaps was the kind of sand they give their young to aid digestion?!

    1. I searched for something similar online and this was the only post I found. My family and I (mostly me though) have been feeding a family of 5 crows. One of the 5 is a bird whom I call “Broken Wing”. Last year he (or she) was alone without a flock and couldn’t fly. I tried capturing it to bring to a rehab, but it got away. I fed it every day, and it spent its day between our back yard and 4 of our neighbors’ backyards (2 on each side of us, and all our yard back up to a quiet road). A couple of times, I saw a hawk swoop in at it, but it looked to be menacing it more than it trying to kill it (the crows swoop in at the hawks here often). It hopped and could fly a few feet up when in danger and then flutter down, but nothing more than that. I tied branches together so that it was able to climb a small oak, which connected to the huge oak trees we all have in our back yards here. He climbed up high when it was time for him to sleep. I have no idea how he got down, but there he was, ever day. I lost track of him for several months at the beginning of the year, until I saw him again, this time with a family of 4 crows. He is the 5th, and he usually stays up when I’m feeding the others and is now able to fly easily, although his wing still distinguishly flops down. He flies down towards the middle or end of the feeding. About 2 years ago, we threw bird pellets all out once, spread out, for all the birds, but that’s when we saw too many crows (our area is a bird sanctuary, and we feed pellets and seeds, according to what each bird eats. The pellets we buy is a high quality food that we also feed to our conure. It’s $4 a lb – it was $2.50 before biden – but it’s still needed because it’s good for them). So instead of throwing it all at once, I go out and throw each pellet to each bird, and they come about 10ft away and pick up each piece that I individually throw at each bird and store it in their crop until they go dump it into the bird bath and wet it before eating them.. which is what our bird does too (the squirrels here usually bulldoze through the birds, but one squirrel has learned to come up and wait for his bird pellets, which I throw to him too, and he loves to eat). Since I only feed the 5 birds (not including the seeds I throw out all at once for the doves, cardinals, and other smaller birds) no other crows come to eat. In fact, there is another small flock of crows that tries to fly into our backyard and try take over, and the 2 flocks scream and dive bomb each other. Sometimes I need to go outside because they’re so loud. Thankfully though, they have stopped yelling (and stomping on the roof, directly over our bedroom) for me early every morning since I think they’ve learned that I’m not a morning person! However, I’ve found little open clam shells in my back yard, mostly near my back door. At least 20… maybe 30 of them. I think they bring 1 or 2 every morning. I’ve also found 2 pine cones. We live over 10 miles from the beach, and we have no pines trees in our yard (although there are some 2 blocks away). I know they’re trying to show their affection. If it was 1 or even 2 clam sells, I’d just logically assume that birds dropped them as they were flying by, but the amount of shells left by our backdoor cannot be dismissed. These crows are definitely leaving them on purpose.

  8. Thanks for all the stories you all shared. About a month ago I had a crow stop by I named him Pete. Now 4 – 5 times a day he stops by to eat and say hi. It seems when I call his name he shows up in a few minutes. He’s even bringing his lady friend to meet us.

  9. There’s a crow around our house who noticed me last spring, through our living room window doing my makeup with a two-sided mirror… Then he started showing up daily, watching me through the window as I got done up for work every day! I always sit in the same spot outside, and when I garden I tend to leave piles around the yard- little did I know, the crow thought I was leaving him nesting materials, lol! We finally gave him a name- Danny. Occasionally I’ll leave a peanut on the hood of the truck for him, which he takes once I e gone inside… Today, I woke up to a gift from him beside my chair in the yard- a Large, round, sparkly piece from an old chandelier on some rusted wire. I knew it must have been from him! Lol funny how similar it is to my mirror that he always sees me with in the morning! Now I’m not sure if I’m supposed to bring it inside, display it by my chair or? Thoughts?

    1. I would do an experiment. Create a simple primitive piece of hanging art starting with your piece of chandelier (perhaps hanging it in a wire coat hanger or a branch. When the crow watches you do your make-up let it see you appreciate the gift by touching it and making it move around and sparkle. See if it thinks you like shine dangly things and gets more specific with future gifts. Leave it one treat (to avoid a whole murder of crows from visiting.

  10. Once I was sitting in my office looking outside from window I saw a crow sitting on the boundary wall sitting with a black stone I wondered what it should be I just threw a pencil towards him crow just flew I went there and pick up that stone later I come to know it was a SHALIGRAM I brought it home and from that day my good luck starts ……

  11. A raven was killed in a fight with a hawk. I took the raven and buried him with my most prized lost pets. Just under my front window. A few days later, the family of ravens it belonged to sent an emissary to my front window that woke me by its calling. I went to look, my dogs scared the raven from the front yard, but it had been cawing at me to come and get the gift they left me. A rabbit’s haunch that looked like it had been cut away clean and presented to me. It was calling me for a good amount of time before I responded. I’ve always felt close to them, but this was a true life event.

    1. In the Qur’an, it was the crows that taught Adam and his family to bury the dead in the ground.

  12. I’ve been leaving food out for the crows for about 8 months – like others here I hear them crowing from a tree in my yard in the morning and have thought they were calling to me for their breakfast. The other day I put out some peanut butter granola pieces in the usual spot in my backyard…about an hour later I went out and they had left one piece on my doorstep. This was the first time they had done this…I wasn’t sure if they were thanking me or telling me this was their favorite and I should get more 🙂

    1. Its funny you mention this because I had similar experience. My son & I had been working outside for a few hours trying to assemble a jeep topper. When we took a break, I threw some old scrap bread out on the porch for the crows. I had been throwing the same old bread for them for 3 days in a row. I did see them swooping in to eat. The next morning I went to get into my jeep & saw two tiny pieces dropped in the middle of my Jeep’s hood. I thought it odd for them to do that.
      They do prefer eating out front instead of the back porch. They usually leave the whitest of white rocks for me *white as paper* and tiny. Once they left me a tiny Easter Egg shell, a tiny glittery berry that looked like it was from a Christmas ornament, and a prefect triangle piece of wood that was so light, it felt as if it was weightless. I’m not trying to be greedy but the white rocks are quite common now & I wish they would change it up a bit again! Hehe.
      Ps
      I ran out of bread & left almonds & strawberries cut up. They didn’t like that. I have even left out uncooked rice before… they do eat that but it will sit over night so I’m unsure if it is crows or some other animals eating it.

  13. I’ve been feeding my backyard squirrels near the door to my deck mostly to keep the crows away as they are more fearful of being that close to the door and I want to encourage the squirrels. Lately the crows have been walking around near the door and getting some of the nuts I have placed out for the squirrels. Imagine my surprise when I went out the door and found a silver chain necklace,tangled a bit, lying on the door mat. It is stamped 925 Italy. No one had been in my backyard but me squirrels and crows. I’m sure the squirrels didn’t leave it. I’ll be a little more nicer to the crows now.

    1. Started feeding crows. Now I have at least 50 in my yard to eat what I put out. The squirrel eats right beside them. But they also eat the bird seed put out for the smaller birds. How can I stop them from going into the feeders?

    2. Diana, I’m not sure whether you are asking about stopping squirrels or crows. If squirrels, you could try a squirrel-proof feeder … which will work for a while until the squirrels figure it out.

    3. Comment for Diana Kriener:
      My neighbour constructed a wire grid cage in which to feed smaller birds. The diameter of the grid openings are approximately 3/4 of an inch, maybe a bit smaller. The top and bottom of the cage is approximately two foot square, while the sides are approximately three feet long (2’x3′), creating a rectangular box.

      One side is hinged with wire running through the top grid openings*, and the sides and bottom have several small caribiner-style clips to hold it shut.

      The cage is affixed to the top of a pole, and has wooden dowels criss-crossed inside. Feeders and suet balls etc are hung from the top section of the cage.

      Larger birds like crows can’t gain access and while we don’t have squirrels on the Isle of Man where I live, I’m sure the cage would also keep them out. It also makes the feeder cat-proof.

      *wire is also used to fix the other sides together, you could say they’re sewn together with wire.

      This is an inexpensive, homemade solution that works very well. Hope this helps, and good luck!

  14. I take care of a 97 year old man who has named his favorite crow Homer. Homer stops by everyday for his food. When I started helping to feed Homer, I got a couple of gifts on my car. Bread and a walnut.

    1. I did it I really did do it , all my life I’ve tried to make contact with a wild bird . I was getting oats for my horse , a Little Rock dove actually let me reach out and take it in my hand . It did not flap or try to escape my grasp and was calm and unhurt , healthy looking when I gently opened my hand it hesitated a moment then gracefully flew away and I think it was a God thing . A raven once landed on the hood of my pickup truck as I watched it as I was dining inside Long John Silvers restaurant in Valdez , Alaska when I was working on the Exxon Valdez oil spill . As I watched that raven hop around on the hood it looked at my badly rock dinged windshield it flew away and came right back with a broken piece of glass in it beak and dropped it on my truck hood . I prayed ??God I’ve read in my bible what raven birds have done are you sending a message to me that I need to replace my windshield ? Well sure nuff when I drove back to Fairbanks , Ak later that fall a Alaska state trooper stopped me and gave me a warning I needed to replace my rock dinged windshield if I stayed much longer in Fairbanks before I went back to my cabin in Wiseman, Alaska for the winter. When I told that trooper a raven had delivered a message to me to replace my windshield that trooper didn’t know if I was truthful or not and kinda looked me over carefully . If I’m lying I’m dying that is the Gods truth . Sincerely : Orbin Smith , KL7XP

  15. Am I the only one who finds the noise the crows make to be absolutely obnoxious? It starts at o’dark 30 in the morning, where it seems they’re having some morning meeting! Then, they attack garbage bags, cans,and the like. They go away and come back around 4pm for another meeting. I don’t want to feed them! I want them to go away!

  16. I have been feeding the crows since last fall as they keep the hawks away from trying to attack the wild bunnies. We have also put a good sized water dish on our balcony for all the birds to enjoy. One of the many crows peeks in our French doors around 3:00 pm everyday to see if he is going to be the recipient of some almonds and wheat bread—I named him Mr. Crow. A few weeks ago I noticed sticks beginning to appear in the water dish…I am now receiving sticks daily from Mr. Crow! Today I received two; one in the a.m. and one late this afternoon and is about 18” in length. He is also getting a little friendly and not flying away while I put his food on the balcony. Mr. Crow and his buddies are great fun!

  17. I just installed a fountain on my patio and a blackbird has been hanging out there, taking long drinks from it. Yesterday it left a piece of orange on the fountain. Today it left two chicken bones. What the heck. BTW, it’s not a grackle; we don’t have them here in Northern California.

  18. I wonder if my story was stolen I wrote about a true story about a Raven , it was never posted , I’ll be watching to see

  19. I have a mating pair of crows that eat with my chickens every morning and they have started bringing me back carcass of rats and gophers that they catch….

  20. A small blue and red fabric covered juggling ball was lost in our backyard about 5 days ago. We looked and looked for it in the ivy and everywhere with no luck. This afternoon, about an hour ago, there it was, right on an open area of the yard, plain as day. I’m thinking it must have been dropped by one of our resident crows. I often say ‘hello Mr, Crow’ when I see them outside. I love it! *A hole looked to have been pecked in one side, where some millet stuffing was coming out – probably not too tasty, since it was about 40 years old.

  21. Husband and I had a very large tree with masses of crows that stayed there and often we rescued baby birds for them and they would gift us with shiny papers dropped right as our feet as they would fly over us

  22. I have 3 beautiful crow’s that I have been feeding for years. Every year they come back to my garden and this year with their babies who are so adorable. I know they never forget a kindness. What happened I was feeding the birds a a flock of pigeons swarmed my garden I started yelling for them to leave all of a sudden my 3 beautiful crow’s heard my distress and came to my rescue whatever they did they chased the pigeons away. It was such an unbelievable experience. Their loyalty to me was so heartwarming now the babies know me . I think they are so beautiful.

  23. I am visited by a mother crow and her three (huge!) babies. She will pick up any stale bread etc that I may put out and dunk it in the bird bath until it is soft and then feed the babies. In the recent hot spell they like to stand in the bird bath to drink and then sit on the shed roof to watch me fill it up with fresh water. We have had numerous gifts left, in the birdbath, such as pennies, treasury tags and small pieces of coloured plastic. We feel very fortunate!

  24. I have a squirrel that has a pet crow. I never see one w/o the other.
    We have many crow friends. We feed the crows every morning on our way to get the newspaper at the mail box. The crows come swooping into the trees as soon as the door opens. When we go out to work in the yard, we get greeted with claws. Our crows keep the sheershind hawk away from out song birds. Our crows let the whole neighborhood know when a hawk is present.
    In the winter, we always put out fresh water for my crows and other birds.
    My crows like to soften food in the bird bath. Then they fly away with it. Crows are so fascinating to study. They can be very funny. I think they are comedians ?
    This morning the squirrel’s crow was purring like a cat. The purring was a first time I had observed such a sound. Any idea the meaning of the purring?

  25. We have a Red tailed Hawk hunting to feed young in the neighborhood near Toronto. The Crow sends alarm cries and all other birds are still until Hawk finds a chipmunk or other thing to feed on. The ‘All Clear’ is a definite cry that seems Universal even in USA I have observed.

  26. I managed to rescue a baby crow who had fallen from his nest. It had been a very hot day and the HEAT WAVE was over 46.3 degrees. Obviously the nest was exposed to the scorching sun & the poor baby had got out to escape the heat & fallen to the hard floor below.
    I rescued him & that is the day I realized How beautiful & how gentle these crows are. I immediately fell in love with the little fella. After given the First Aid & good food he became the sweetest crow around. He was a real darling.

  27. Can crows eat meat? I mean I know they are predators but I saw someone throwing fat from the meat to them.

    1. Crows are omnivores and do eat meat, but only what they like. Many birds eat suet which is equal parts animal fat + birdseed.

  28. I don’t feed my neighborhood crows, but I think we’re friends. They definitely know me, as I am constantly out bird watching and counting birds and taking their pictures for eBird. And at first, they would fly off whenever I tried to take pictures, like they were uncomfortable with me looking at them. However, now they act like they don’t even care that I’m there and will get in the tree right next to my balcony, and sometimes I swear they even pose for me. At this point, I thought they probably just deemed me “benign.” But then….last June, a neighborhood crow parent couple called for their fledgling kids who then plopped in the tree right next to my apartment balcony. Parents were across the street nuzzling each other and calmly watching them the whole time, while totally seeing me. They also clearly did not mind that I was taking a keen interest in their children, as I was leaning over my balcony taking photos of them, as I wanted close up to show their bright blue eyes. At one point the parents even left while I was there paparazzi-ing their kids! Again, I don’t feed them, but I’m always around, but just observing. So considering they left their kids with me, I think we’re friends, or at a minimum, maybe could call it a trust-ship. But I was able to do this without any food. We’re not super close, and they don’t come hang out on my balcony, and certainly do not bring me gifts, but I definitely feel like we’re cool with each other. Are there others who have been able to form friendships with crows without food being put into the equation?

  29. I have had several experiences with different crows. Once I looked outside to see a cat stalking a baby crow who had fallen from it’s nest and couldn’t fly yet. Then an adult crow landed close by & started carrying on trying to get the cat’s attention, but the cat was not deterred. Then another crow landed. I thought what great parents this baby crow has. But then another crow, and another. All making more & more noise and flapping their wings. By this time I had walked over close to the scene scolding the cat. The cat finally ran away. Concerned for the baby I approached it thinking I would try to put it up higher in a tree where it would be less visible to predators. The group of crows became silent. No fussing, just silently watched me pick up their baby and place it in the tree. They flew off bringing food to the baby.

    Another time there was a huge murder of crows which were quietly roosting in a tree near my house. It was dawn and barely light. They had started their morning occasional greeting to each other. Suddenly they all started a deafening ruckus as if something was terribly wrong. And then just as suddenly they became silent and a big earthquake shook the ground. It was as if they had felt some subtle tremor leading up to the quake.

    Another time Inwas working upstairs in my study when a I heard a huge ruckus above the tree by my office window. I ran outside to see a murder of crows circling around my big pine just outside my study window. Some were diving toward an area in the tree. There was a falcon hanging tight to the wing of a crow. The crow was alive, but helplessly dangling by it’s wing held fast by the falcon’s talons. I ran inside and got a broom and climbed out my window onto a piece of roof obive my 1st floor and the crows flying overhead stoooedndive bombing and got quieter as Inseung my broom and frightened the falcon away. Luckily the captured crow was released and landed safely on a branch. I didn’t knowing it was ok, but it perched on the branch for awhile. The crows circled a short while longer. And then only a handful remained behind flying around the tree with an occasional comforting (I assume, based on what I’ve learned about crows’ social order.) the recovering crow. Eventually the crow flew off with his buddies. The next few days, as I heard a murder fly by Inwould go outside and wave and caw at them. The majority of the murder would keep on flying, but 6or 7 would land in trees near me and caw in response to my cawing.

    Several months later and still happening today, there was a lone crow who frequented near my house. Cawing back & forth with me. Yesterday I saw a second crow hanging out near my house. Unsure at this point if there’s any relationship between these crows and the rescue. But I hope to develop some kind of rapport with them.

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