What kinds of corvids can you find in Arizona?
Corvids, which include crows and jays, are a family of birds known to be some of the SMARTEST birds that have ever been studied. For example, certain corvid species have demonstrated self-awareness in mirror tests and the ability to use tools while foraging for food. Both of these skills are INCREDIBLY rare in the wild kingdom.
And believe it or not, their brain-to-body mass ratio is about the same as great apes and whales and is only slightly lower than humans!
Today, you will learn about the types of corvids found in Arizona!
- If you’re interested, you may be able to see some of the species listed below at my bird-feeding station right now! I have a LIVE high-definition camera watching my feeders 24/7. 🙂
#1. American Crow
- Corvus brachyrhynchos
- A large bird that is entirely black with an iridescent sheen.
- Long black bill, black legs, and black feet.
American Crows are adaptable birds and are common in parts of Arizona. The places they can be found include woodlands, fields, rivers, marshes, farms, parks, landfills, golf courses, cemeteries, and neighborhoods.
American Crow Range Map
While they don’t come to feeders as often as other birds, a few foods attract them consistently. The crows in my backyard LOVE peanuts, whether in the shell or out. Whole-kernel corn and suet also seem to be consumed readily.
These corvids are one of the smartest birds in Arizona.
For example, they can use tools, solve problems, and recognize human faces. It seems that crows even do things just for fun! Seriously, if you search the internet, it’s easy to find videos of them using round objects to sled down roofs.
American Crows have a large vocabulary. Listen for any number of caws, rattles, cackles, and clicks. The most common sound is a “caw-caw.” (Listen below)
#2. Common Raven
- Corvus corax
- Large bird that is completely black, including its eyes and bill.
- The bill is hefty and thick.
- In flight, look for their wedge-shaped tail.
Ravens are one of the SMARTEST birds in Arizona!
For example, one study has shown that these corvids are drawn to gunshots during hunting season to investigate the carcass but ignore other loud noises that don’t lead to food, such as air horns or car alarms.
Their intelligence makes them efficient predators, and it’s common for ravens to team up to get food, such as stealing eggs from nests or attacking larger prey like newly born lambs.
Common Raven Range Map
Since they are so smart and adaptable, Common Ravens are found in many habitats in Arizona. Look for them living near the edges of towns, especially in landfills that supply an endless amount of food. But ravens also have no problem living far away from civilization.
Common Ravens are impressive vocalists that make many different types of calls, from harsh grating calls to shrill alarm sounds. But the most common sound you will hear in the wild is a gurgling croak that rises in pitch.
Interestingly, they can mimic the sounds of many other bird species and even humans if raised in captivity.
#3. Steller’s Jay
- Cyanocitta stelleri
- Larger bird with a black head, rounded wings, and a long tail.
- A tall black crest on the crown of the head helps identify them.
- Both sexes are half black and half blue on their wings, belly, and tail.
You will find this bold corvid in evergreen forests in Arizona. Steller’s Jays often visit parks, campgrounds, and picnic areas.
Steller’s Jay Range Map
This jay species is very intelligent, bold, and noisy. You can attract them to your feeders by providing peanuts, larger seeds, and suet.
Steller’s Jays are often nest robbers. They have even been known to attack or kill small adult birds like nuthatches or juncos.
Males and sometimes females have calls that sound like “shaack, shaack, shaack,” shooka, shooka.” Listen below.
#4. Clark’s Nutcracker
- Nucifraga columbiana
- Medium-sized grey bird with a long, dagger-like black bill and black wings.
- While in flight, you can see bright white tail feathers, along with white feathers at the end of their wings.
It’s fairly easy to spot one of these corvids in Arizona as long as you head to the correct habitat. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, as Clark’s Nutcrackers live in coniferous forests in the mountains!
Their long beak is used to rip into pinecones to remove the seeds, which are mostly taken away to store and consume later. It’s estimated that Clark’s Nutcrackers stash away thousands of seeds each summer, which provides them food through winter. Amazingly, these intelligent birds remember where most pine seeds are hidden!
Clark’s Nutcracker Range Map
In fact, they hide so much food they are able to breed as early as January or February and rely ONLY on their cached food supply. As you can imagine, it is incredibly cold high up in the mountains during this time of year, so nothing is growing yet.
#5. Pinyon Jay
- Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus
- Medium-sized jay with a long sharp bill. Looks sort of like a blue crow.
- Both sexes are several shades of blue and are duller on the belly.
Pinyon Jays are a very noisy corvid in Arizona!
These crestless jays are found in pinyon-juniper woodlands, sagebrush, and pine trees in mountainous regions. This omnivorous species primarily eats pinyon-pine seeds but occasionally eats small animals, snakes, and lizards.
Pinyon Jay Range Map
Pinyon Jays can form large flocks, up to 500 birds that stay together while breeding and foraging year-round. These intelligent birds will come to your bird feeders for a short visit to enjoy some cracked corn, peanuts, sunflower seeds, or suet.
Pinyon Jays make an assortment of calls. Some are incredibly crow-like. Listen below.
#6. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay
- Aphelocoma woodhouseii
- Long bird with a long tail and stout bill.
- Both sexes are light blue and gray on top, have a grayish belly, and a white throat.
You will find these mostly blue corvids in Utah in woodlands of pine and juniper or dry shrublands.
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays are known to stand on the backs of mule deer. They do this to help the mule deer by picking off ticks and parasites and eating them. The mule deer don’t mind and will stand still and put their ears up to assist in their efforts.
Woodhouse Scrub-Jay Range Map
To attract this species to your backyard feeders, you must provide sunflower seeds and peanuts. And if you have thick shrubbery or small trees, you may even be lucky enough to have a pair nest in your yard!
Males and females both sing light, pleasant songs lasting up to five minutes. Listen below.
#7. Mexican Jay
- Aphelocoma wollweberi
Mexican Jays primarily live in Mexico, but their range spreads northward into Arizona. These corvids prefer open forests with many oak trees, mostly because they love eating acorns!
In fact, one study estimated that a single bird could store up to 7,000 acorns in just a year! And to help them consume this many, Mexican Jays have even evolved a specialized lower jaw that helps them absorb the impact of stabbing so many acorns.
Mexican Jay Range Map
Mexican Jays live in close family groups of 5 – 25 birds. Individuals rarely leave the family they were born into, potentially staying in the same territory and group their whole lives. All of the birds share responsibilities, such as feeding the babies and watching out for predators.
#8. Chihuahuan Raven
- Corvus cryptoleucus
The best place to find these black corvids in Arizona is in open, hot, dry areas. These habitats are less appealing for American Crows and Common Ravens but perfect for the Chihuahuan Raven!
Chihuahuan Raven Range Map
They are sometimes called “White-necked Ravens” due to the fact that there are white feathers at the base of their neck. However, you must look closely because these white feathers are difficult to see. You must often wait for the wind to perfectly blow their feathers to get the chance to see them.
Chihuahuan Ravens have a “caw” that sounds similar to an American Crow but is lower in pitch and slightly longer.
Which of these corvids have you seen before in Arizona?
Leave a comment below!