Crows are smart and playful birds, but do crows make good pets? For most people, the answer is no. Why? It’s because living with humans makes this bird bored. Crows need lots of living space and mental stimulation. Without room to fly around and enjoy exciting activities, crows get bored and destructive. That’s why their high intelligence isn’t well-suited for life in captivity.
Let’s discover more about why crows don’t make good pets, how they are different than typical pet birds, and how we know that crows are so brainy. We’ll also suggest some other birds that make better pets.
Do Crows Make Good Pets?
Crows don’t make good pets because they get bored and unhappy when confined. Crows love to explore, solve problems, and learn how things work. A crow stuck in a cage will probably plot its way back out.
Crows aren’t good pets because they’re happier living in the company of other birds. Crows practice communal sleeping in groups called roosts, and they typically mate for life.
Did you know that capturing crows is illegal in the United States? Keeping crows as pets is against the law because the United States protects native and endangered migratory birds.
Why Is it Illegal to Keep Crows as Pet Birds?
Keeping a crow as a pet in the United States is illegal, as stated in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA). According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the MBTA “prohibits the take (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) of protected migratory bird species without proper authorization by the Department of Interior U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.”
However, the MBTA allows capturing, transporting, and temporarily housing an orphaned, sick, or injured crow. Only people over 18 years old with at least 100 hours of crow rehabilitation experience can do so with a permit. The crows must be released after 180 days in captivity unless granted a 30-day extension for further care.
Even if the MBTA didn’t protect crows in America, crows in captivity are a problem because they need to migrate. For example, many western crows migrate to warmer climates to breed and enjoy more food sources during the winter months.
According to Cornell University, migratory crows spend the winter months in areas where temperatures average about 0 degrees Fahrenheit. For instance, crows from Canada and the northern states of the U.S. often migrate to the lower plains of Nebraska and Kansas or further down into Oklahoma.
How Are Crows Different From Pet Birds?
Crows differ in at least three ways from common pet birds. First, many crows are migratory and not common to have a pet crow, but common pet birds like parakeets are sedentary. Parakeets don’t need to fly thousands of miles to breed and escape cold weather. In this way, parakeets make better pet birds than crows.
Second, a pet crow can make loud cawing sounds that are hard to ignore. Many common pet birds like the cockatoo have softer, melodious chirp sounds that make these birds easier to live with as pets.
Finally, the crow is a large bird with a massive wingspan. According to the Nature Mapping Foundation, the American crow’s wingspan averages 2.8 to 3.3 feet. By comparison, the canary – a popular pet bird – has an average wingspan of 8-9 inches. So, as you can guess, it’s much easier to house a pet canary than making room for a pet crow.
Can You Make Friends with Crows?
One thing crows and suitable pet birds have in common is becoming “friends” with humans. You don’t need to have a pet crow to enjoy being cautiously friendly with one in your neighborhood.
Two ways to befriend pet crow include:
- Sit quietly whenever a crow comes near so that you don’t scare it away.
- Offer it food and experiment to see which foods it likes best.
Try to visit a pet crow in the same place and near the same time each day, so it becomes comfortable with the routine. Don’t force the friendship. Instead, give it time to trust that you will keep a safe distance and won’t cause it harm.
Check with local laws and wildlife organizations for more information before feeding or approaching a crow and other wild birds. In particular, it might be illegal to feed or own a pet crow in some areas.
How Do We Know Crows Are Intelligent?
For centuries, crows have been observed and admired for their intelligence. We know crows are inventive because they prove it with their problem-solving skills. For example, a crow will add pebbles to a slim water container until the water level is high enough to drink it.
Crows are smart because they use different sounds or calls to warn other crows of various dangers. Like, their warning call for a sneaky cat differs from their warning call that humans are approaching.
Experiments with crows have proven they can recognize human faces, use tools, and even paint with a paintbrush. There’s no question that crows are clever, but they’re still better off as wild birds than as pets.
So, if you can’t have a crow, which birds make great pets? Keep reading to see our list of some of the best birds to bring home to stay.
Which Birds Make the Best Pets?
Crows don’t make good pets and it’s important to only have a pet crow if you know exactly how to care for it and know the laws in your area. There are many other birds that do make great pet birds. See our list below of much easier birds to care for and raise as companions.
- Budgerigar (“budgie”)
- Green-cheeked Conure
Consult with local pet shops and animal organizations for more information on how to help these pet birds have healthy, happy lives with you and your family.
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