Crows caching food

posted in: Crows, Feeding strategy | 3

“I have an observation about crows which was unusual to me. In 2006, I saw flocks of crows surrounding a fisherman at a canal in Pasir Ris, near the Avana Downtown East Resort. The fisherman was using a casting net to catch tilapia in the shallow canal. He threw away many small silver fishes about 2 inches long. I observed a crow with a fish in its beak, flying to a grassy area. Instead of eating the fish, the crow found a patch on the ground and buried the fish, as if to hide it from other crows. It then flew off to get some more. Can someone explain this behaviour? Thanks.”

Crows have been reported to store food when there is more than they can consume (Feher-Elston, 2005). They will hide or cache the excess food in tree crevices or dig a hole in the ground, dropping the food and covering the hole with leaves. They usually remember where they cache it and return later when needed.

Marzluff & Angell (2005) reported smaller corvids collecting hard-shelled pine and hazel seeds, store them in their throat pouch and fly long distances to their caching grounds. This happened during summer and the seeds were retrieved in winter. American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) have been known to cache a variety of animals too large to finish at one time.

So far, caching has been reported for western crows and ravens. There are no reports of caching among local crows. This is the first report, unless someone can point me to an earlier report.

Thong Chow Ngian
October 2008

Feher-Elston, C., 2005. Ravensong: A natural and fabulous history of ravens and crows. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, New York. 208 pp.
2. Marzluff, J. M. & T. Angell, 2005. In the company of crows and ravens. Yale University Press, New Haven & London. 384 pp.


3 Responses

  1. I think caching is common in the animal kingdom. I have witnessed a stray dog keeping a large portion of food in a dug up hole. I fed the dog with my extra food (while trekking in a forest). The last large portion was taken away. I thought that she had enough and she would “ta-pau” it to enjoy somewhere else. But I was wrong, she dug a hole nearby and buried the food with earth and leaves.
    Sorry, nothing to do with avian but should be interesting to know. Cheers.

  2. […] An earlier post on crows caching fish can be seen HERE. […]

  3. […] An earlier post on crows caching fish can be seen HERE. […]


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