Crows Emotional Lives

We ask do Crows have emotions? Like humans do they have love, grief, anger? After observing them for several years I believe they do. Lately, I saw a program on PBS about odd couple animals and a segment highlighted an author who wrote a book on Animals and Emotions. That book is “The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and why They Matter” by Marc Bekoff.

The author tells of a story about Magpies (which are relatives of Crows) that he and his friend came upon. Four of them were gathered around one of their own who had been hit by a car and was dead beside the road. One of them stepped forward and pecked him, similar to elephants reactions to death. He then stepped back and another magpie did the same thing. Another flew off and returned with grass, laying that next to his comrade. Another did the same thing. Then they all stood there for a few seconds. One by one they flew away. Was that a farewell to their own? Remind you of human funerals?

What else besides recognizing that they have emotions and attachments to each other explains this behavior?

I have known for many years that crows mate for long periods of times and keep an extended family close to them in a defined territory. Not only did I read this in articles but have observed my own crow families demonstrate this.

It is the time of year where they start to prepare to increase their families. Several years ago I wrote an article about Crow Love. The pair that frequent our back yard were sitting close to each other acting all lovey dovey, preening each other and sitting so close they touch. Here are a few photos of them and an eagle pair.

What do you think? Will you start watching animals and birds in a different light? I hope so.

10 thoughts on “Crows Emotional Lives

  1. Occasionally the crows here all gather in the one tree and caw together – first time I heard this I didn’t know what the HUGE sound was and had to go outside to see. There were around 100 crow in a tree out in the paddock. Someone told me they were mourning a loss?

    1. you are so blessed to live in on a farm. I dream of my retirement to a more rural place like I had in my 20s. But my neighborhood beach isn’t anything to sneeze at.

      Love you… r

  2. Years ago the neighborhood crows had a ‘death watch’ in our back yard. A half dozen or so hung around in the trees keeping the one on the ground. The grounded guy didn’t appear injured, but he wouldn’t eat (terrell’s beef is a crow fave) and died within a few hours. Everyone came down to check the body and off they went to other crow things.

    That aside, we had a few crows come through the house when I was a kid (besides hundreds of grey squirrels. another story) and I -know- crows are quite the emotional bird. One we had had a crush on my dad (spread wings a little bit, dip head, low coo-ing (?)), and another had an anxiety problem. He would groom his feathers very hard, pulling some, stripping the fronds (?) off others. Looked half-plucked alot of the time.

    Their emotional lives are what make crows the fascinating birds that they are imho.

  3. Thank you. I “know” that birds have emotions. The more clever birds, which the Crow family belongs to, DEFINITELY feel.

    However, I like to have moral support, backup on this “knowledge” of mine. You expressed what I feel, and I want to find this book you mentioned.

    🙂 Hugr5

    1. A little late on this, but both the Seattle Public and King County Library systems have this book available. Very popular so you’d have to place a reserve but well worth the wait.

      1. 🙂 I really appreciate the information. I live in the state of Delaware, though. I was thinking of checking our local library to see if this book was available!

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