3 Types of Corvids Found in Iowa (Crows, jays)
What kinds of corvids can you find in Iowa?
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 Iowa!
- 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 Iowa in almost every habitat. 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 Iowa.
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. Blue Jay
- Cyanocitta cristata
- Backs are covered in beautiful blue feathers with black bars throughout. The underparts are white.
- Their head is surrounded by a black necklace and has a blue crest on top.
- Males and females look the same.
Some people dislike Blue Jays, but I love their bold personalities. Their high intelligence makes these corvids interesting to observe, not to mention their plumage is stunning.
Blue Jay Range Map
Blue Jays typically visit bird feeders noisily, fitting as much food as possible in their throat sacks, then leaving quickly to eat or store their bounty. My favorite foods to use are whole peanuts, as Blue Jays are one of the only birds that can crack open the shells to access the inside! You can also use sunflower seeds and corn to attract them.
Jays are one of the noisier birds you will hear in Iowa.
The most common vocalization that I hear is their alarm call, which sounds like it’s saying “jeer.”
These corvids are also excellent mimics and frequently imitate hawks. They are so good it’s hard to tell the difference between which bird is present. It’s thought that jays do this to deceive other birds into believing a hawk is present. Not a bad plan if you want to get a bird feeder all to yourself!
#3. Fish Crow
- Corvus ossifragus
- Completely black, including legs, bill, and eyes.
- Slightly smaller than American Crow.
It can be hard to tell Fish Crows apart from American Crows in Iowa.
These two corvids look almost identical! And to make things even more confusing, these two species sometimes spend time together in mixed flocks. 🙂
Fish Crow Range Map
But luckily, once you learn how to identify the calls that Fish Crows make, it can be easy to make a proper identification. Fish Crows make a short, nasally sound that sounds like someone is saying “cah” or “uh.” This noise is quite different from an American Crow’s “caw-caw.” LISTEN BELOW!
Like other corvids, Fish Crows are social, intelligent, and adapt well to life around people. The best places to find them are near bodies of water.
Despite their name, they eat almost anything they can find, including eggs, nestlings, fruit, grains, carrion, marine invertebrates, trash, and human food.
Which of these corvids have you seen before in Iowa?
Leave a comment below!