The Diet of the Crow

Pet Food


February 7, 2022

Chances are that you have seen a crow land near you, readily picking apart the scraps of left-behind fast-food that has been sitting on the sidewalk for an indeterminable amount of time. More often than not, this leads people to wonder what kinds of diets crows should have, or what they would eat in environments where food scraps are not as prevalent.

The truth is that crows, being as varied and uncaring in their diets as they are, would eat much the same level of food in the wild, feasting on whatever they can get their beaks on with as little effort as possible.

What Eating Habit Do Crows Have?

When it comes to classifying animal eating habits, there are generally two types of monikers that are given. The first describes the way that the animal chooses to eat its food, whether it is opportunistic, pathologic, or another. The second describes the obligated and preferred food contents, such as animals being obligate carnivores or being fungivores.

Crows are considered to be highly opportunistic omnivores. What this means is that they can ingest both plant and animal matter, without much of an overarching preference for either. It also means that the crow feeds at an opportunistic mindset. If the crow spots an opportunity to pick up food, even if it’s not the most beneficial food, it will take that opportunity.

A crow’s diet varies somewhat by species. Part of this is due to what is generally available where specific species are located. For example, crows located in coastal regions may feast on crabs, which is something that crows located in central Africa cannot do. This also plays into the opportunistic aspect of a crow’s eating habits, as the crow will simply eat whatever is there for it.

What Foods Do Open-Area Crows Usually Eat?

Crow diets are influenced heavily by urban and street environments. The diet of a crow who lives in the city compared to a crow (of the same species) who lives in open land is going to be vastly different. Generally speaking, crows that are located in open areas have a preference for insects and animal protein over grains, nuts, and berries.

Take the American crow as an example. When outside of a city environment, this crow’s preferred foods include insects, larvae, small mammals, eggs, and baby birds. If these foods are not readily available, they will also eat grains, nuts, and fruits until they can obtain their preferred foods. They have also been witnessed eating carrion in varying stages of decay, making them scavengers as well.

The diet of other crow species who live in open areas will include different foods. The Pied crows of Africa prefer to eat seeds, nuts, fruits before opting for eggs, carrion, lizards, mollusks, and the occasional turtle. Northwestern crows tend to opt for a more fish-based diet of crabs, fish, and shellfish before focusing on insects, nuts, and scavenged foods. Cape crows prefer a much more plant-focused diet, including bulbs, fruits, and seeds before looking at small amphibians. Finally, as the name would suggest, fish crows have a diet that is almost exclusively seafood.

What Foods Do City Crows Usually Eat?

When located in city environments where the spectrum of available food is vastly different, it makes sense that the answer to what do crows eat is going to change accordingly. More often than not, a major part of an urban crow’s diet is going to be food scraps. The contents of those food scraps vary from picking food straight from open garbage cans to eating spilled food in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant.

This, though, offers more opportunities for crows who enjoy insects to find a plethora of them. From flies of all different types to beetles and other bugs that may be commonly found in infestations, living in an urban environment increases the prevalence of these bugs. As such, they make up a large portion of the crow’s diet when food scraps are not available.

Another part of a city crow’s diet is food what is fed to the crow. People who enjoy the company of these intelligent avian acquaintances will often feed crows some food of their own. These are often breadcrumbs and other stale bread products, but it can also include pet kibble. People who are attempting to bribe and train crows will generally reward their feathered friends with more treat-like foods, such as eggs and meat scraps.

What Foods Can You Feed Crows?

If you are interested in feeding the crows that are in your area, it is important to remember that even if crows are willing to eat anything that they can, there are going to be some foods that are better than others for them. Also, remember that because crows are intelligent, if you begin feeding them regularly, they will make a habit of visiting you.

One of the best foods that you can feed a crow are simply peanuts, walnuts, and almonds. You should always make sure that you are purchasing the types that do not have any salt, sugar, or other flavoring on them, as the ingredients used to create the flavors are not good for crows, especially in the concentration that they are in for human snacks. Using plain, unseasoned peanuts, walnuts, and almonds is a great way to feed your local crows.

If you have dry pet kibble to spare, this is also a wonderful food to offer. While cats and/or dogs have different nutritional needs than crows do, the kibble they eat generally has a lot of animal protein in it, which crows can benefit from. This is a great way to train crows without having to buy anything new if you already have kibble in your home.

What Foods Should You Avoid Giving to Crows?

Just as there are foods that are more beneficial to crows than others, there are foods that you should not be feeding crows, even if you see crows on the streets eating these foods. These food items include most processed meats and cheeses, foods heavy in salt, sugar, or other seasoning, and white bread.

White bread is commonly fed to crows as it is easy to obtain and it has been a habit for most people. However, white bread contains no nutritional value that a crow can benefit from. Instead, it takes up space in their stomachs, meaning that they will not have enough room for foods that can actually benefit the crow. If you are going to feed crows, it is always a good idea to make sure that you are feeding them beneficial foods.

Chances are that if you accidentally leave a pack of salted nuts in the garbage can and you find a crow feasting on them, nothing will happen. These birds have digestive systems built to handle eating carrion and garbage, so they are a little bit more hardy than standard pet birds. With that being said, the less you feed bad foods to crows, the longer you can have them come by.

The Takeaway

Crows are generally seen eating garbage, food scraps, and carrion. Because of this, most people do not realize that crows actually have a much, much more varied diet. Crows are incredibly opportunistic feeders, even to the detriment of themselves. If an unhealthy food is easier to get than healthy food, the crow will opt for the easy option.

However, when outside of an environment rife with food scraps and garbage, crows will usually eat a variety of animal matter including invertebrates, insects, small mammals, eggs, and seafood. If they do not have easy access to this, they will instead opt for fruits, nuts, and seeds.