I witnessed a similar event in Shelburne, in March, 2013. I heard the loud
vocalizing, looked out the window and saw two crows on the ground in our
garden, one usually on its back and the other aggressively pecking at it.
There were at least 10 crows making a racket and moving about in the
surrounding trees. One would occasionally fly down, strike a few blows
with its bill and return to the trees. After 15 or 20 minutes of this, it
looked like their feet were interlocked, but they continued to fight. They
eventually separated, and I was surprised to see them both fly into the
nearby trees (I was sure I'd just witnessed a real "murder"), and a few
minutes later they left, still vocalizing loudly.
In the snow there was a bit of blood and a few feathers, but less than I
expected from the apparent violence.
I was so immobilized that I never thought to get a camera.
Thanks for the information, Maeve. Let us know if you find more.
Chip Wright, Shelburne
On Sun, Feb 21, 2016 at 2:49 PM, Maeve Kim <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Scott Sainsbury suggested consulting Cornell’s crow expert, Kevin McGowan.
> His website http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/ might provide some
> explanation for the crow fight I saw yesterday:
> Crows are very social species and live in large extended family groups.
> That does not mean, however, that they are friendly with all other crows.
> Just as we humans are social and love our families and friends, we also
> have been known to fight and kill each other on occasion. Birds may fight
> for a number of reasons, such as defending territory boundaries, protecting
> their mate (or sexual access to them), or defending some other resource.
> Crow fights within a family are usually short and involve only a few pecks.
> (Crows, in my experience, actually seem to have very few intra-family
> squabbles compared to some bird species.) Fights between members of
> different families, however, can be protracted and deadly. I frequently see
> crows locked together tumbling out of trees in the spring. Although I have
> never witnessed an actual killing, I would not be at all surprised to see
> crows kill another crow from outside the family group that was trespassing.
> Another possible explanation of extreme violence is that the attacked crow
> was already injured. Injured, sick, or oddly acting birds are often
> attacked by their own species. Crows are no exception. One explanation for
> this behavior is that having an injured individual around is dangerous to
> others in that it might attract predators. Not only that, but a vulnerable
> crow could teach a predator to hunt for crows, which might endanger other
> crows. With this line of reasoning, crows would be best served by getting
> rid of an odd ball. I do not know if crows would eat another crow they
> killed. They might, but I rather expect they would not.
> This doesn’t totally explain why the fight seemed vicious but didn’t
> appear to end in injury (I wrote Kevin and will share his response), but
> it’s an interesting look into the lives of these fascinating birds.
> Maeve Kim, Jericho Center