Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

American crow

with 29 comments

Two years ago today on our way down the California coast we stopped at the Marina State Beach and Dunes Preserve. Where the parking lot meets the beach I photographed this obliging American crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos (thanks to Shannon for the identification). Beyond the crow you can barely make out the Pacific surf, which will come into focus next time.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 3, 2018 at 4:45 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

29 Responses

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  1. Autumn and Wintertime in this area crows gather together in large groups, called roosts. Hundreds, Thousands, Hundreds of Thousands. There are none around our house, though sometimes there are never ending streams of crows passing overhead in the early spring.


    November 3, 2018 at 5:43 AM

    • Wow, hundreds of thousands of crows; that’s hard to imagine. I’d say you’re fortunate not to have them right around your house, given the mess that must get left behind. Watching large groups pass by must be quite a sight. It’s good that crows haven’t been driven to extinction, like the passenger pigeons that also used to fly over America in large numbers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2018 at 5:51 AM

  2. I’ve never really thought of a crow looking “fierce,” but this character actually looks pretty intimidating. A very nice portrait of an avian gangster.

    Robert Parker

    November 3, 2018 at 7:24 AM

    • I searched for “avian gangster” and got some hits connected to the Angry Birds phenomenon. Some might consider the creatures in Hitchcock’s “The Birds” to be avian gangsters; they certainly flocked into a menacing gang.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2018 at 9:08 AM

      • Oh my gosh, hadn’t thought of Angry Birds 🙂

        Robert Parker

        November 3, 2018 at 9:28 AM

        • But we’re certain you’re not angry about not having thought of it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 3, 2018 at 10:31 AM

          • ‘the Birds’ was filmed just up north, in Bodega Bay. Alfred Hitchcock lived in Bel Air, but also had a home in Scott’s Valley, here in Santa Cruz County.


            November 3, 2018 at 4:15 PM

            • I remember reading that about Hitchcock.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 3, 2018 at 4:23 PM

              • I probably already told you that a friend in Scott’s Valley still drives his classic Ranchero that he named the ‘Maverick’. We still get a lot of work out of it.


                November 3, 2018 at 6:36 PM

  3. The crows have returned to our area as they do every autumn. Their morning “caw caw CAAAAAW” greets us early – they’re quite a noisy bunch. We did have a pair who raised a single baby in our woodlands one year, which was very interesting to observe. The parents are both very active in teaching the young, and I understand offspring stay with the parents a year or up to two years before they know the ropes!


    November 3, 2018 at 7:57 AM

    • For me this is just a picture, but you have a real familiarity with crows, thanks to your land and that experience of following a pair and their baby crow over an extended period. You’ve learned a lot from your observations.

      This crow in California didn’t give out with the typical CAAAAAW you mentioned, for the simple reason that it made no sound at all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2018 at 9:14 AM

  4. Here is the same crow at Mt. St. Helens in July.

    Jim R

    November 3, 2018 at 8:56 AM

    • When you wrote “the same crow,” I momentarily had a vision of the one in your picture flying down to central California, where I took its picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2018 at 9:16 AM

  5. Win-win~ a beautiful crow AND California surf.


    November 3, 2018 at 8:58 AM

    • And the surf will really come into its own in the next post. It was for the beach that we stopped at this place; the crow just happened to be the first interesting thing I saw after getting out of the car.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2018 at 9:18 AM

      • I was surprised at that. I associate crows and ravens with the forests of Washington, not the beach in California. Must have been vacationing.


        November 4, 2018 at 8:53 AM

        • If you click the Corvus link in the text and look at the map, you’ll see that these crows are found all year long on the entire California coast. I guess they find plenty to eat there, probably some of it left by tourists.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 4, 2018 at 9:59 AM

  6. This is a fine photo of those feet. I’ve never paid much attention to the way their claws wrap around their perch from both directions. That certainly helps to explain their stability on wires, or boat rigging, or branches. It’s only taken seventy-plus years, but I just took a look at my own hand with the fingers curled, thought about the expression “claw-like hand,” and realized that our thumbs function in much the same way as that rear claw despite some structural differences.


    November 3, 2018 at 9:11 AM

    • Ah, so we could say that after seventy-plus years you’ve finally grasped the utility of opposable thumbs in certain animals, particularly primates, and especially the primest of primates, us.

      Here’s an article called “Thumbs are handy digits”: https://www.nsta.org/publications/news/story.aspx?id=49036

      I’d say the claw-like grasp of this crow’s right foot on the metal spike is close to the evolutionary one that birds developed to land and stay on objects in the natural world, especially trees. This crow’s left claw is too big to get any purchase on the rope, which is not a natural object.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2018 at 9:40 AM

  7. I think I’m glad I can’t make out the surf in detail, as that makes me concentrate on the crow.


    November 3, 2018 at 9:29 AM

    • Correct. In portraits, photographers often want the background to be as formless as possible so as not to distract from the subject. One exception is what has been called environmental portraiture, in which subjects are surrounded by things or places associated with them. In any case, tomorrow I’ll have a separate picture that plays up the surf in its own right.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2018 at 10:35 AM

      • Looking forward to tomorrow’s picture!


        November 3, 2018 at 10:50 AM

        • Sure thing. An author has to build up expectations from time to time. The French have a proverb that fits the situation: Chose promise, chose due; something promised, something due.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 3, 2018 at 10:54 AM

  8. Crows are stately creatures .. and smart. I always get excited when I hear several individuals cawing at once—I call it ‘hounding’—as their cacophony helps me home in on owls, hawks, eagles, or bobcats. They don’t like predators in their territory and are seldom disappointing to this out-of-breath girl with field lens or camera!

    PS – thanks for the shout-out, Steve. 😀


    November 3, 2018 at 7:14 PM

    • It’s clear you have much more experience with crows than I do—which is essentially none. I like the use to which you put their cacophony. It reminds me of bluejays dive-bombing squirrels.

      You’re welcome for the shout-out. Thanks again for your identification.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2018 at 9:26 PM

  9. Great portrait. And an interesting link on the American Crow’s lifestyle and habits.


    November 4, 2018 at 2:54 AM

    • You prompted me to go back to the link, whose contents I hadn’t fully read. The last part struck me as especially interesting:

      “Crows sometimes make and use tools. Examples include a captive crow using a cup to carry water over to a bowl of dry mash; shaping a piece of wood and then sticking it into a hole in a fence post in search of food; and breaking off pieces of pine cone to drop on tree climbers near a nest.

      “The oldest recorded wild American Crow was at least 16 years 4 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during a banding operation in New York. A captive crow in New York lived to be 59 years old.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 4, 2018 at 6:33 AM

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